Wren’s “First Kiss” Shocks and Converts

Last week, a black and white film of a bunch of strangers kissing made me want to buy a dress. Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock, chances are someone in your social network shared the link to “First Kiss,” the 3½ minute film by Tatia Pilieva. The video was part of a marketing campaign to promote the Fall 2014 collection for Wren Studio, a New York-based clothing line founded in 2007, and became a viral rage, acquiring over 65 million views within 10 days.

Some critics, like B.J. Mendelson in this Inc. article, call the video a miss, since it did so little to overtly brand the company. I argue that while the branding was pretty nonexistent save a quick “WREN Presents” screen at the beginning, it strategically piqued interest, built awareness and ultimately drove traffic back to the Wren website (albeit subtly). But ultimately, a group of attractive people of all sexual orientations being open, candid and vulnerable (all while wearing stylish mid-range clothing) was all the branding I needed to try to buy the dress at 1:08. After wondering what Wren was, and why they made this sweet video, a little search on Google led me straight to their website and eventually to the dress I loved. Wren converted me—a member of its intended audience.

As we enter a time when clothing sites like ModCloth and ASOS are competing against the traditional mall mainstay brands (and taking the lead), maybe it’s an advantage to refrain from shoving a carefully curated “image” at a shopper who might like to think of herself as being a little less “corporate.” Luxury brands being the notable exception, some clothing brands (or consumer brands in general) may be better served to evoke images and videos that reflect values (like love, vulnerability, and kindness) and elicit emotions, like “First Kiss” succeeds in doing. We’ve learned that understanding your customer, beyond traditional value criteria like recency, frequency and amount, can help drive action across all of those metrics. And understanding requires the data that you can’t always capture during a single transaction.

In reality, we’re constantly barraged by content online. Every week, there’s a new video, a new top twenty list, a new something that begins filling up our News Feeds and trending on Twitter. As marketers are forced to become more creative with content, we recognize that anything that captures our collective attention for more than fifteen minutes and merits a write-up in The New York Times is doing something to generate awareness, if not directly impact sales. And as the Times notes, Wren’s CEO Melissa Coker, said the company’s online store saw a “significant bump” in sales since the video began making its rounds, while the accompanying song, Soko’s “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow,” sold 10,000 copies in North America on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.

And, in case you were wondering, the dress I tried to buy is sold out in all sizes besides XS.