Après moi, le déluge?

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A recent retail event that I think will go down in history as a cautionary tale was the Target/Missoni collaboration. First, for its no-holds-barred use of social and traditional media and second, for the seeming covetability factor it generated for a second-tier brand line.

Missoni for Target was a 400-piece collection that offered a variety of fashion and home products that cost between $3.99 and $399.99. This is a far cry from the normal price of Missoni, which can range from $445 for a string bikini up to $12,000 for a Marabou trimmed long cardigan.

This type of luxury and discount retailer collaboration is pretty much standard these days—notable fashion collaborations have been around since 2004 (H&M and Karl Lagerfeld) and the general public is used to Target bringing fashionable brands to its stores. Most of these collaborations have been introduced to the public with great fanfare and success, but I can’t say that any of them generated the near-riot of Missoni for Target.

Much has already been written about this event, but I think it’s worth another look. Scanning the news in the days after the rush, it was apparent that Target had pulled off a marketing coup that was brilliant but dangerous—the result of a powerful traditional and social media cocktail that crippled Target and generated a lot of ill will.

It all started with fashion bloggers getting sneak-peeks of the product months before the product release to excite the fashionista crowd; then came the splashy, national advertising campaign to excite the general public; at the same time there was excitement building on Facebook and Twitter—thanks to Missoni fans,@Target, @mmmargherita (aka Margherita Missoni herself) and even @katiecouric.

By the time the collection hit stores and the Target website, four days later, shoppers arrived hours before stores opened (the police had to be called in at some locations to restore order) and target.com crashed leaving thousands of online shoppers stranded (the savvier of the bunch called in their orders). In an attempt to placate the crowd, Target sent out no fewer than 35 tweets apologizing and asking customers to remain calm.

While I have seen a handful of people on the street sporting the Missoni for Target cardigan, today, there are 20,000 pieces for sale on eBay;dozens of Facebook friends are soliciting trades. One woman is famously selling her Venetian rain boots (originally priced for $34.99) for $31,000, to pay for her daughter’s college tuition; countless others are selling their ponchos, cardigans, dresses and scarves for hundreds of dollars. Seems to me that people are just as eager to off-load their purchases, as they were to get them. Where’s the love?

Target did a one-time limited run of the collection to make it more covetable, but is it really? My conclusion is that a lot of people who bought the Missoni for Target don’t really care about the Missoni brand—they just want to flip it and make a buck. Even Margherita Missoni has asked people to not pay the high eBay prices—because it’s not worth it:

So where does that leave us? The winners in this scenario are certainly Target and Missoni—Target’s marketing strategy worked because it sold out of product and further established its brand positioning as a purveyor of affordable fashion; Missoni, because it has become a household name and thousands of young people might buy Missoni when they grow up.

Are there any losers? The consensus is that Target is suffering from a PR black eye—a lot of people are angry about the way Target handled the situation (too much hype for not enough product); but that will change when they bring out the next great collaboration. For those who fought so hard to get their Missoni for Target, is it an investment piece? Certainly the demand on eBay is high today, but it might fade with time. I doubt a Missoni for Target will hold its resale value in say five years. Or will it?

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