Neiman Marcus rocked the house at last year's SXSW—and the luxury retailer returns to Austin, Texas, this year as part its "Make Some Noise" initiative, celebrating women who "rock" in their respective fields. The program, which runs March 18-20, will feature panel discussions by day and performances from cutting-edge artists by night. Neiman's SXSW activation last time around generated more than 80 million impressions overall—27 million in the press and 53 million on social media. Rolling Stone magazine heralded two performances from the 2014 Neiman program—by Charli XCX and Chromeo—among the festival's top shows. In addition to the SXSW project, the retailer's ad campaigns have employed emerging female artists in place of models. Neiman Marcus Group CMO Wanda Gierhart chatted with Adweek about the push to engage young female consumers and to make the brand relevant to the next generation.
What's on tap for Neiman Marcus at SXSW 2015?
We have a fantastic array of female speakers who are as well-known for their off-screen efforts as their on-screen talents: Laura Dern, Rosario Dawson, Freida Pinto and Jenna Bush Hager. Music handpicked by Atlantic will include Grammy Award-winning international phenomenon Clean Bandit, Kaleo, Marina and the Diamonds, Milo Greene and Max Frost, an Austin native who was recently named one of Rolling Stone and NPR's "10 Artists You Need to Know."
Why use music to enhance the Neiman Marcus brand?
The "Make Some Noise" platform is about bold women and bold voices in music, tech, film, business and more. Of course, music is a particularly powerful expression of the platform, so maybe we've leaned into that a little heavily.
Do you think SXSW has special relevance for young, fashion-conscious women?
Absolutely. We are bringing our brand to the next generation in its natural habitat of self-expression—a tech, film and music festival.
Your presence there has been evolving, right?
We started at SXSW three years ago with a very feminine respite—a place to plug in and unplug. We offered refreshments and even yoga classes. Last year, we brought the campaign to life with great speakers and music talent.
We created the campaign in conjunction with CAA Marketing. We have partners like Atlantic Records, which is providing incredible music talent. [The Neiman Marcus "Make Some Noise" house at SXSW] will feature a shoppable showroom powered by Visa Checkout, which lets visitors digitally purchase fashions, accessories and cosmetics.
Over the next three years, our goal is to embody "Make Some Noise" in every facet of our business, from e-commerce to social platforms, from stores to merchant teams, and everything in between.
What have you learned from the initiative?
We really seem to have—forgive the pun—struck a chord with all of our customers.What was initially conceived as a way to attract the next generation of Neiman Marcus customers is resonating with all of our customers.
Last year at SXSW, when model Cameron Russell expanded on her TED talk about the double-edged sword of a society that puts a premium on beauty, there was not a dry eye in the room. Our customers are loving that Neiman Marcus is championing women of substance and style.
Any advice for other brands seeking to leverage music in their marketing?
Leveraging music is not a strategy—it's a tactic. Our strategy is to champion women with bold vision and voices. Music and SXSW are great places to bring our strategy to life.
What advice would you give artists looking to partner with brands?
It's about having the right fit. If the artists represent the brand message or platform nicely, then it makes sense.