Ever in search of the newest ways to promote their wares, labels such as Stella McCartney, Lacoste,
and, more recently, H&M, are venturing out of real-world practices
and reaching out to what may become greener marketing pastures — the
digital lifestyle simulators of Second Life and The Sims. Steve Lubomski, H&M’s US advertising director who spearheaded the fashion retailer’s collaboration with The Sims
this summer, talks to us about H&M’s role in the project, digital
fashion’s impact on the real world, and why life-simulation is not a
Tell us about the H&M and Sims collaboration.
This summer, H&M and EA’s The Sims 2 partnered to create "The Sims 2 H&M Fashion Stuff Pack." The "Stuff Pack" is to be used as an “add-on” to the popular Sims 2
game and contains virtual replicas of garments from H&M’s summer
collection, plus everything you need to create your own H&M store.
Players will now have the opportunity to dress their Sims in the latest
H&M clothes and shop in our virtual stores. In addition, The Sims 2 H&M Fashion Runway Showcase
was launched on Yahoo! in June, inviting players to unleash their
creativity in fashion design. From submissions around the world,
H&M will select one garment or outfit to sell in select stores.
What was the impetus for this project?
SL: This partnership — the first of its kind for both
companies — was a mutual collaboration of ideas that expanded into the
creation of an entire Sims
"Stuff Pack." The similarities in the company cultures, based in
creativity and the desire to always surprise and engage our customers
in a new and exciting way, led to the partnership.
Why are Sims users the perfect audience for this?
Unlike the majority of video games that focus on a particular segment of the gaming community, The Sims
appeals to a uniquely broad audience that may not normally play video
games. People play the game for different reasons — some play for the
social aspect of it and focus on the interpersonal relationships of
their avatars; others play for the design aspect of the game, focusing
on building the best home and community for their avatars. But what all
Sims players have in common is that they use the game as an
outlet for their individual creativity. At H&M we encourage
everyone to express themselves and their creativity through accessible
What is H&M gaining from this venture?
SL: It is our expectation to expose our brand in a way
that is engaging to an elusive, young target group. Our expectations
are two-fold: to gain new customers and to offer our existing customers
a new way of interacting with H&M. This will allow us to highlight
our range of fashion to new consumers, by introducing them to our
shopping experience, which provides creative license with our fashion.
In addition, it gives our existing customers an opportunity to take the
fashion that they love in the real world and interact with it in a
whole new way.
How will this impact fashion in the real world?
SL: This collaboration will expose young people to
technology and the use of computers in the world of fashion design. It
encourages people to express their artistic selves through fashion and
raise their interest in a different industry. One clear way that this
will impact real-world fashion is through the design contest — for the
first time, consumers will have an opportunity to design clothes to be
sold in our stores all over the world.
H&M has built an empire by embracing and discarding trends quickly. Is this collaboration just a part of this practice?
SL: It is true that we are always looking to stay on top
of trends and provide our customers with the latest in fashion;
however, The Sims,
which started in 2000, has proven to be more than just a trend. At this
time there are no set plans for future collaborations with The Sims
or any other particular video games, but we are open to the idea and
will evaluate the success of this partnership when planning for the
future. We will always continue to explore new ways to surprise our
H&M is not alone in promoting its wares in the digital world. Why do you think this is?
SL: It is only natural for brands who want to remain
current to move into the digital world. As more and more consumers
spend less time watching TV, listening to radio, and reading magazines,
marketers are looking for new ways to engage their customers where they
are spending their time — which for now happens to be online and
playing video games.
Is the virtual world the next marketing frontier?
SL: The virtual world is definitely the new marketing
frontier. With broadband penetration reaching record numbers, and the
young generation growing up with computers and the Internet as a
constant part of their lives, we are only at the beginning of what will
surely prove to be a whole new world of marketing. It will be
interesting to see how it develops, but surely H&M will continue to
explore new ways to engage our customers.
How will this affect traditional, real-world marketing?
SL: Budgets across the industry have already started
shifting toward digital media and this trend will surely continue.
However, the consumer public will define how far marketers will go; we
will definitely be watching how they spend their free time and looking
for relevant new ways to reach them.
- This interview was conducted by Robert Cordero.