Thought Leadership

Strategy | 3 MIN READ

Brands We Love: Lilly Pulitzer

By Allison Lyttle
Product Marketing Manager, Infogroup

Just as bold and colorful as Lilly Pulitzer was herself, her vibrant colors and intricate pattern designs broke the mold and defied what was deemed normal for the time. If you had stopped by her family’s road side juice stand in 1958 in Palm Beach, FL you’d never know that the woman – with unkempt hair, wearing one of her now signature dresses, with a monkey on her shoulder – was born into the upper class of New York City, had been classmates with Jackie O, or that the Pulitzer Prize was named after her grandfather-in-law. Her personality, fearlessness and creative talent is not only why her clothing line is still a staple of summer apparel for people across the country, but also remains a brand that empowers women to be as loud & as proud as those Lilly patterns. [3]

Growing up among the country club set, I never felt as if I fit in – I was loud, blunt and impulsive – pretty much the opposite of the rest of the people around me. Then one day at some type of fancy summer event, I saw a number of people wearing these dresses with insane colors and patterns cruising by and I thought, ‘ Wow! Something I’d actually want to wear that’s unapologetically loud just like me’. And that is the exact moment I fell in love with Lilly Pulitzer.

1.    Finding the Audience & Seizing the Opportunity

Those bright dresses smattered with hot pink, lime green, sea shells and starfishes known by brand lovers as ‘Lillies’ were born to fill a simple need. Lilly was constantly getting stains on her dress from squeezing oranges at her juice stand. She designed a dress that had bright patterns and colors to cover up these stains. She had no intention of creating them for anyone else until woman stopping by the stand kept asking her about her dresses. As more and more people asked about them, Lilly started to sell them locally in Palm Beach. [3]

About 60 years later, the Lilly Pulitzer brand came across an opportunity they weren’t expecting to find either. Their agency was reviewing Lilly Pulitzer metrics in its dashboard when they noticed an interesting insight that had been automatically generated by Facebook Analytics: people who added items to their wish list on the Lilly Pulitzer website spent an average of 2.5X more than people who didn’t. Their agency team saw an opportunity to create a new Lilly Pulitzer Facebook ad campaign with targeted messaging around product wish list capabilities, and the items that were most likely to be added to wish lists. [2]

In March 2018, their agency created a new series of dynamic ads, updated with creative that alluded to wish lists and targeted to people who had added an item to their list in the last 2 weeks, but hadn’t purchased in 10 days. Since then, the campaign has become part of their agency’s always-on ad strategy for Lilly Pulitzer. [2]
 

2.    Influencer Marketing at It’s Best

Lilly Pulitzer deployed an influencer marketing campaign way before the term was ever coined. In 1962, Lilly’s former classmate and reigning first lady, Jackie O., was photographed wearing one of Lilly’s polka dot shift dresses in Capri. After the photo was taken, the business took off like a rocket and by 1963 Lilly Pulitzer herself was being featured in prominent magazines and her clothes were being sold nationwide. [3]

I’m sure Lilly would be proud to know that her brand is still deploying influencer marketing strategies that pay homage to her. Their current programs pull the brand’s theme and brand influencers together, the team puts on trips to create powerful brand content. After everyone returns home, the Lilly team creates a user-generated content gallery on the website that pulls in images of them wearing Lilly clothes and frolicking around Palm Beach from the trip, which the bloggers write about and share on social media. These influencer campaign embodies Lilly’s spirit as much as possible by using hashtags like #spillthejuice and recreate the unstuffy version of Palm Beach Lilly knew on their trips. [6]
 

3. Brand Authenticity

Not following the trend and marching to your own beat defines brand authenticity – which Lilly & her designs have in spades – has resulted in consistent sales for this long-standing brand. While others have attempted to adapt to the times, such as J. Crew, and lost their identity, Lilly stands firmly behind her designs and values. To this day, the brand has never strayed from its vibrant style or Palm Beach roots as advertisements always have models near palm trees and the ocean. From youth to adulthood, Lilly has been a huge part of my wardrobe.

Product Marketing Manager, Infogroup

Allison Lyttle

Allison considers herself a ‘Jane-of-All-Trades’ style marketer. As a Product Marketing Manager at Infogroup, she is mainly responsible for creating, maintaining and administrating product marketing materials and communications for our team. Prior to Infogroup, Allison worked at several different consumer insights companies running event programming from soup-to-nuts, customer retention & acquisition campaigns, and authoring thought leadership content. Outside of the office, Allison enjoys cruising around on her Rat Fink beach cruiser bike, relaxing at home with her cat and fiancé, finding new IPAs to test out and yoga.