Sohini Sen

FabAlley: shock and awe

Ecommerce site FabAlley's first digital film is creating stirring conversations because of its unconventional way of getting the point across.

What is the one thing that makes you share a video? Although there is no right answer, the closest one would be: a video that makes you sit up and take notice. Ecommerce portal, which is betting big on in its latest campaign, uses shock value to arouse that interest.

"We wanted to tell everyone that we have had enough of fashion and moral policing. The guidelines are tyrannical and are still followed by so many of us. What we need is an 'unfollowing' revolution - to be the original person that you are," explains Tanvi Malik, co-founder, FabAlley.

FabAlley: shock and awe
FabAlley: shock and awe
Comedian Radhika Vaz features in the campaign created by Jack In The Box Worldwide. Vaz delivers a monologue where she questions fashion trends, their uses and then lets out a rant against conforming to fashion norms. Her call to action is to 'Unfollow'.

"The strategic objective of this campaign is to give a voice and a personality to FabAlley, especially considering that most e-com startups only focus on discounting or transactional methods," says Abhishek Razdan, executive vice president and national business head, Jack in the Box Worldwide.

FabAlley: shock and awe
FabAlley: shock and awe
But is it not ironical that a fashion-clothing brand's communication features no clothes? The revolt, according to Malik, is not against fashion, but against following fashion blindly. Claiming your own individuality is what the brand wants 'followers' to do. And in that quest for fashion and personal style, FabAlley promises that it has the clothes to dress them up. The shorter videos, to follow soon, will see Vaz dressed in FabAlley clothes, where she questions other manufactured and propagated fashion norms.

"We pull ourselves down because of social pressure. At FabAlley we want to empower women to let them express themselves in any way they want to. This means, if they want to conform to the fashion trends, they can do that. If they are more comfortable being different, they can do that too. We have a variety of clothes for a variety of women, so we are ready for whoever you wish to be," adds Malik.

Malik and Shivani Poddar launched FabAlley in 2012 to offer design-differentiated and fashionable clothing and accessories for the woman on-the-go. Incidentally, FabAlley's birth came about after the duo realised that the young, fashionable working professionals had little choice of following global trends at an affordable rate. Started as a pure accessory brand, FabAlley started selling clothes within four months of its launch and now has a range of bags, shoes and apparel in its kitty.

FabAlley differs from other players like Zovi or fashionandyou. While most other ecommerce players sell generic apparel, FabAlley prides itself in selling clothes and accessories only for the 'fashion forward' woman. It is also more premium than Zovi and sees itself as one with a better understanding of fashion.

The site's core target audience is 18 to 30 year olds. But the video featuring Vaz is aimed at all age groups. According to Malik, a college student's views about revolting against fashion is different from a 20-something working professional's views.

The campaign will be focused on digital, but will also see some spillover on print (in fashion magazines and select dailies). The print communication will not have Vaz but will be based on the 'Unfollow' idea. A total of Rs 40-45 lakh has been set aside for the 3-week-long campaign. The annual ad spend, which includes performance marketing expenditure, is Rs 4-5 crore for the brand, but will double in the next year.

Is shocking people the correct strategy for the first campaign of an e-com site? According to Razdan it has worked quite well. "The conversations that the campaign has generated is testimony to the fact people are getting emotionally evolved. In addition, the FabAlley site has seen a substantial increase in daily visits since the campaign launch. With the first video, we wanted to deliver the message that for looking - or feeling - good, retaining your individuality is paramount. Radhika not wearing clothes is a powerful representation of that," Razdan adds.

FabAlley: shock and awe
FabAlley: shock and awe
The shock factor is certainly not going unnoticed. OR Radhakrishnan, ECD, Enormous Brands finds the method interesting and feels it has all the ingredients to go viral. "What I like the most is that it is an antithesis. I have seen so many ads of clothing brands with pretty girls and pretty dresses. This is different. It doesn't follow the herd mentality. It has shock value but also speaks about attitude and is a reflection of the brand itself," explains Radhakrishnan.

"A lot of criticism that the film has received is about the ad being "unfunny", but I don't think the intent of the brand was to make people laugh-out-loud. It might seem confusing because the ad features a renowned stand-up comic and is filmed in a standup gig setting; but to me, it's more of a rant. The other criticism - about the execution - that does have some merit is that there's a distracting, OTT laughing track in the background which ends up doing it more harm than good," says Eshita Jayaswal, vice president - strategic business, WebChutney.

However, Jayaswal also pointed out that while the brand asks one to 'unfollow' it continues to have segments like "Trends", "Lookbook" and "New In". If FabAlley wants to break category clutter with such powerful communication, it needs to walk the talk and break away from the typical ecommerce/retail nomenclature that has become a norm in this space. Does attention translate to purchase? "While a film like this will surely help build a distinctive brand identity, customer acquisition and retention is still largely dependent on parameters like price comparisons, deals, coupons and after-sales service," points out Jayaswal, though she is all admiration for the ad.

FabAlley: shock and awe
Bang in the Middle's Prathap Suthan feels that people have a certain discomfort talking about boldness. He also fears that the brand has fired all its guns at the same time by showing a very niche professional, who is an older, unconventional, and atypical model, speaking a language that's way ahead of daily speak, and not wearing anything at all. "While it undoubtedly gets eyeballs and tongues, along with a rather strong dose of shock, I don't know if it's too bold for its own good. Benetton could do the UnHate campaign, because it rose from its DNA that has always been controversial. That advertising took the brand higher."
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