Lilly, You Tease

Lilly Pulitzer fans, raise your hands.

Now tell me what you thought about the Target collaboration, beginning to end.

Since I am not a Lilly Pulitzer super fan, I did not experience the Target collaboration first-hand, that is I didn’t stay up all night nor did I stand anxiously in line before opening hour at a location to put my hands on one of these highly coveted pieces. I did, though, follow the collaboration from a marketing perspective through the tremendous publicity it has received from the day it was announced to the day it was released and beyond.

First of all, who doesn’t love Target collaborations? (Believe me when I say that Lilly also managed to prove that there are people who don’t, but more about this later.) I appreciate Target’s initiative to make high-end designer products available to a wider audience through lower prices. I think it is an amazing way to gain brand awareness, both for the retailer giant and the brands it collaborates with.

As Phil Wahba of Fortune put it: “Designer collaborations like the Pulitzer line are important to Target, not because they add much to its $73 billion-a-year in sales — they barely make a dent in it — but because they are essential for the discount, mass merchandiser to be able to maintain its “cheap/chic” cachet, and thereby attract affluent and middle-customers along with lower-income shoppers, and give them a reason to go visit Target instead of Walmart for everyday stuff.”

Very well said. But when Target announced its collaboration with long-time American resort wear favorite Lilly Pulitzer in January, reactions were coming from all directions, both hot and cold. If you make any kind of effort to follow the happenings in retail world, you couldn’t not hear about the uproar of Pulitzer fans. Many criticized the upcoming collaboration, expressing deep disappointment with the fact that now “anyone” will be able to wear the dresses they had to spend upwards of $200 on.

Of course there were many others who couldn’t wait to shop the 250-piece collection, which involved clothing as well as home goods. So much so, that when the day of the launch came on Sunday, Target’s website crashed and racks in stores were empty by 8:10 am. How is that for anticipation? The company has produced sell-out collaborations before, but none of this scale.

While there many (many many) unhappy customers who waited long hours to be able to shop the collection but failed to acquire a single piece, from a marketing standpoint Target once again proved that it is the king of designer collaborations. “There’s no such thing as bad press,” goes the saying, which was especially true on Sunday. Adweek published a great article where people interviewed stress the amount of publicity Lilly Pulitzer is receiving through this event. Moreover, due to the limited amount of goods, the brand wasn’t diluted. That’s what I call genius!


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