A new trend will emerge at fashion week in Toronto next week, and it won't be on the catwalk. For those watching the runway shows, dress codes are loosening. Some may go barefoot to Bustle. They may even check out Pavoni in their pyjamas.
That's because, for the first time, YouTube is launching a channel offering live online broadcasts of the Canadian fashion event. But the channel, which will be announced when the channel goes live on Wednesday, is not just a way for the masses to get into the shows. It's also a marketing exercise for Maybelline, which is sponsoring Toronto's fashion week for the first time.
The makeup manufacturer is looking to leverage that sponsorship with a digital presence that is aligned with its brand positioning: bringing fashion to the masses.
"Maybelline is an accessible brand – but fashion week has typically been a very industry-focused event," said Katie Green, brand communications manager for Maybelline New York in Canada. "Now, with the change in social media, things are becoming more accessible."
It's also part of a larger strategy on the part of Maybelline's parent company, L'Oréal SA, which is looking to do more to expand its presence in digital marketing.
Last month, during a conference call to discuss the company's annual earnings for 2011, L'Oréal's managing director of strategic marketing, Marc Menesguen, identified both digital marketing and e-commerce as priorities for the year ahead, referring to a "digital revolution" in the beauty sphere.
In 2011, L'Oréal increased its overall digital advertising spending by 45 per cent. It now accounts for 8 per cent of the company's total gross media spending.
"We've seen that a growing number of consumers seek information on the Web before buying their beauty products," Mr. Menesguen said. "… We know that the next billion consumers to be won over will be young and digital natives."
As one of the top markets for L'Oréal around the world, Canada is further ahead on this digital push, said Marie-Josée Lamothe, chief marketing officer for L'Oréal Canada.
"The transformation to digital, we feel that our consumers are already there – two years ago, in all fairness," she said. "Our consumers were ahead of the industry in the way they were consuming media and communicating with each other."
The YouTube channel will be similar to one that launched at last year's fashion week in New York. Maybelline's success with that experiment led it to renew its New York channel and expand to the Canadian market. (Google Inc., which owns YouTube, is hoping to expand the live streaming to fashion week events elsewhere in the world.) It will broadcast 20 of the fashion shows live online to anyone willing to sit through a Maybelline ad, and will also feature behind-the-scenes interviews with designers and other extras. Maybelline will include beauty videos it has produced as well, such as makeup and fashion tips, to help further increase brand awareness.
These types of branded channels are a growing marketing trend for YouTube too, which is expanding its sales beyond banner ads and preroll videos.
"Originally people were using YouTube to advertise, and now they're looking to use it to increase brand engagement," said Renée Bulgin, media solutions lead at Google Canada.
It's also a way for Maybelline to stand out as a first-time sponsor in Toronto (where the naming rights for the overall event this year are held by World MasterCard) – and to ensure its investment in event sponsorship does not get lost amid the clamour of fashion week.