When you think of successful marketing, fast fashion giant Zara may not be the first brand that comes to mind. They have zero traditional advertising campaigns, no illustrious celebrity endorsements, and their social media accounts are less flashy and more classical vogue.
Zara's simplistic and artistic approach to marketing goes against the grain of what we're used to seeing in the fashion industry. And yet, despite its unconventional methods, Zara has become one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
As education marketers, we are always looking for inspiration. While fashion is fast and education is not, there are certain aspects we can apply from Zara's anti-marketing strategy to our campaigns.
By breaking the rules and being brave enough to do things differently, Zara has tapped into a marketing formula that has made it a retail powerhouse.
Should education marketers tap into Zara’s technique?
We dived into Zara’s unconventional marketing strategy and drew parallels between its efforts and those of the education marketing world. We discovered tried and tested methods education marketers could incorporate into their campaigns if they weren’t already doing so.
Let’s jump in!
What is anti-marketing?
Anti-marketing is a non-traditional advertising approach. It intentionally distances itself from conventional marketing methods to stand out. Anti-marketing focuses on curating a unique and unconventional experience for the consumer.
Companies that adopt anti-marketing usually enjoy challenging the status quo to leverage a unique brand tone that wins customers.
How Zara uses anti-marketing is quite exceptional
Fashion retailers exist to design something new, and see if consumers will bite. But making new designs and taking the risk takes time and money. And in the retail business, timing is paramount. If you wait too long to give the buyers what they want - you lose them. It’s called fast fashion for a reason!
Zara has taken a divergent approach. Rather than setting trends, Zara rides the commercial wave, letting catwalk-style crazes play out before they invest. They then watch to see what's popular and make affordable versions of best-selling items from high-end brands. This “wait and see” approach has proven quite successful for the brand, but it’s more than just that.
They also exude exclusivity - and it works. While other retailers get new designs every two to three months, Zara prides itself on dropping new styles every two weeks, but in limited amounts.
The result? Items fly out of the stores. Zara gets 85% of its full price on clothes, while the industry average is around 65%, as per reports from Beeketing.
Zara’s low marketing spend
What Zara spends on advertising is negligible compared to other retail giants.
Zara spends just 0.3% of their revenue on marketing efforts, while the industry standard is between 3% and 4%. That translates into a mere tenth of what other retailers are spending.
Zara slashes marketing spend and shifts the focus to what they deem crucial - giving consumers what they want at the right time at affordable prices.
They provide affordable apparel for the affluent - and their top-quality threads and excellent store locations secured a 17% increase in profits from 2021 to 2022.
What can education marketers learn?
As education marketers, we never thought we’d look to a fashion brand for inspiration. But there is a certain captivating ambiance that surrounds Zara. Once we researched the brand, their methods inspired us.
Here are ways education marketers can take some unconventional inspiration from the fashion powerhouse.
Storytelling is a critical component of any successful marketing strategy. Zara weaves a compelling story from start to finish, demonstrating how it can transform a brand and drive sales, regardless of the product that’s on sale.
Zara showcases a unique brand story through their stores and website. They use visuals and copy to share their history, design philosophy, and values, creating an emotional connection with customers.
Education marketers can apply this approach by sharing their institution's story, mission, and values to build a connection with prospective students and differentiate their institution to build a loyal following.
Zara is the cheetah of the marketing sphere. Their innate ability to respond quickly to fashion trends seems to be the cornerstone of their success.
Education marketers can apply this concept by being agile and adapting to changing market trends. Adjust marketing strategies to students' needs quickly, respond to leads as soon as possible, and ensure you answer student queries swiftly.
Sustainability and ethics
Zara's commitment to sustainability and ethical practices resonates with consumers. 100% of their stores are eco-efficient, reducing their carbon footprint, and they are also committed to being a zero-waste brand.
This might not be considered a crucial element of education marketing, but it holds its merit. Education marketers should highlight ethics and sustainability in marketing campaigns to build trust with students and differentiate their brand from competitors.
Zara has an efficient supply chain. Their production process enables them to deliver new items to stores fast, ensuring they reach consumers quickly to enhance sales while apparel is still trending.
The processes in the education world might be different, but the principle remains. Processes such as enrollment or application procedures should be streamlined, to create a seamless and hassle-free student experience - ultimately driving sales and enrollment.
Unique brand identity
Zara's anti-marketing approach ensures they shine amongst competitors.
Education marketers can differentiate themselves by developing a unique message or brand identity that resonates with their audience and connects them to prospects - essential to reaching the right target market.
Analyze and copy
Being a copycat is where Zara shines. They wait for other retailers to jump and fall, leap and fly, and copy their best ideas.
The copy-and-paste approach is never an appropriate tactic for education marketers, but there is something here that we can use. Zara stays on top of their competitors. In the ed marketing world, this means keeping an eye on the competition, analyzing their strategy, and leveraging these ideas while creating our own.
What we think
Modern trends and clothing styles rarely last – but education does.
Comparing education marketing to the retail industry was difficult until we identified the elements Zara uses to establish a unique but strong brand identity.
Zara orchestrates a strong and loyal pull among consumers. Their anti-marketing strategy is a testament to the power of thinking outside the box and breaking the rules.
Their message is clear - combine sound marketing strategies with taking a few risks, and you can make marketing magic happen.
Go ahead and take the plunge - apply Zara’s concepts to your campaigns. Analyze what the competition is doing, and create a faster and better way to bring the best value to the client.
Why should brands fit in when they were made to shine?