With so many hipsters shopping online, you would think Tommy Hilfiger's new
Web site would sell the fashion designer's popular jeans or cologne.
But with a Net radio station that plays everything from hip-hop to metal,
and artists such as Britney Spears and Sugar Ray splashed across its
marquee, Tommy.com seems more like an
entertainment site than a clothing retailer.
And that is exactly the point.
In launching an entertainment-focused site, Hilfiger may be trying to avoid conflicts with retailers and other problems that come with e-commerce.
Hilfiger could be taking a cue from Levi's, which tried to sell clothing directly to consumers online but backed out this year after finding
that it was too expensive and that it cut into its retail partners' sales.
And Hilfiger is doing well in retail outlets; for the third
quarter of this year, the company's net revenue was $561.6 million.
The Web site is solely focused on building Hilfiger's brand.
"Tommy.com is an extension of our
multimedia brand marketing plan," Hilfiger said in a statement.
Tommy Hilfiger's TV ads, print ads and fashion shows have been
steeped in music culture. The company has promoted concerts for the Rolling
Stones, Jewel and others, and retail stores give away free CDs with
purchases. Thus, Tommy.com has been set up to align Hilfiger's brand with a
certain kind of lifestyle--that of the cool, athletic music lover.
Music on the Net is arguably one of the hottest online sectors. In the past
six months alone, a slew of sites has popped up to try to garner
advertising or music sales revenue by luring music listeners to their
digital downloads, articles and videos.
Hilfiger may be fresh to the Net, but he realized the power of affiliating
his brand with music long ago.
"Music is probably the best source of fashion information in the world,"
Hilfiger said on his site. "[Musicians] have created unusual
styles--styles that have come into the fashion world and basically taken
But teen-agers and trendsetters are a slippery bunch. No matter how many
"exclusive" model or rock star interviews Tommy.com carries, Net users have
a plethora of other online music offerings from which to choose, from
MTV.com to MP3.com and Spinner.com.
Tommy.com's missing e-commerce link could be a dicey decision, too. Jupiter
Communications projects that consumer spending online will grow to $78
billion in 2003 from $14.9 billion this year and $7.8 billion last year.
The lack of an online shopping center could frustrate the site's visitors:
They can see and experience Tommy clothes, but they can't point, click and buy.
The key to Hilfiger staying
at a glance
HQ: Hong Kong
CEO: Joel J. Horowitz
Annual sales: $1.68 billion
Annual income: $173.72 million
Source: Bloomberg 12/16/99
on top is to continue building an image with buyers, the company says. That
is why Hilfiger hopes that the crowd searching for music on the Net is
the same one that would wear clothes from the Tommy line. Along with asking
visitors how often a person buys Tommy clothes, the Web site also asks:
"What kinds of music do you listen to?"
"Tommy is really all about lifestyle," a company representative said. "People
who are following music and entertainment are the same people who are
purchasing Tommy Hilfiger. The site was designed to talk to the customer in
a language they understand."
Hilfiger's move to use Net music to drive product sales is a trend those in
the music industry say will continue to grow.
The secret to this tactic is to be genuine, says Jon Cohen, co-founder of
marketing firm Cornerstone Promotion, which also uses music and the Net to promote products by
well-known companies such as Nike, Sprite and Sega.
"It's absolutely going to be a new concept in marketing," Cohen added. "But
kids know when they are being sold and when it's natural."
Hilfiger, who is known for being passionate about music, may have the right
"Tommy really takes the whole culture of Hilfiger and entrenches it with
the artists he is working with," Cohen said. "By building a site that does
not have a commerce end, he is just hammering that home. It doesn't look
like he's just paying them to wear his stuff."
The point of nurturing the "Tommy culture," however, is to sell fashion,
the company says. And Tommy.com isn't completely void of commerce. Rock
Style, a book by Hilfiger with Anthony DeCurtis that chronicles how
fashion has been affected by the music world, goes on sale online Monday
"Eventually e-commerce is something they will explore for the site, but the
main initiative is to drive traffic into retail stores," Hilfiger's
Meanwhile, the growing crop of small record labels using the Net to try to
promote unknown musicians hopes that guys like Hilfiger will use their
reach to help new artists with their big break.
"The whole lifestyle concept can make these bands available to fans," said
Wayne Irving, president of SpinRecords.com. "We're negotiating
deals with a dozen or so retailers to promote our independent artists. The
Net brings this together."