#REVOLVEFestival: How a Billion Dollar Fashion Behemoth Stays Ahead
What do an online shop, a ride-hailing app, rappers, and pizza have in common?
Revolve Clothing, one of the largest fashion e-commerce brands, has set out to bring together different people, brands, and even industries into arguably the largest exclusive party in Coachella. Revolve Festival, aptly represented by its brazen hashtag #REVOLVEFestival, has revolutionised the yearly Californian affair by creating their very own exclusive, influencer-filled private party in Coachella itself.
As Fashionista Magazine spoke of the phenomenon, “Revolve is basically creating their own Coachella”, and with their unparalleled bevy of sponsors and partnerships, event line-up and star-studded invite-only guest list, Revolve Festival has snatched all the attention from focusing on mainstream Coachella posts to their very own hashtag, and is without a doubt the smartest and most original marketing strategy the fashion retail industry has seen in a while. Therefore, a closer analysis of this winning strategy is definitely warranted to uncover how exactly Revolve Festival plays into the brand’s ongoing success.
Revolve is one of the most successful e-commerce fashion brands to date. In an interview back in 2016, Michael Mente, one of the co-founders of Revolve, stated that its aspiration for the brand was to make $1 billion in sales – and last year the brand did just that. This comes at a time when even e-commerce businesses – the supposed safe haven for retailers given the decline of popularity of brick and mortar stores – are starting to take a hit, like when ASOS shares fell by 11% in April this year.
Revolve Festival, despite being a relative newcomer to the festival party scene (it is only in its second installation), has rose meteorically to become the party to be seen at during Coachella. The scale in which it operates is unbelievable: the brand booked out the entire V Palm Springs Hotel to host 140 influencers, and set up the festival itself at a huge estate, minutes away from the Coachella Valley. It was the kind of party that you would have thought only existed in movies, with a line-up of rap and R&B artists like Chance the Rapper and Snoop Dogg, special guest appearances from celebrities like the Kardashians, and brimming with beautiful people kept happy with free-flow drinks and food and wearing nothing but Revolve.
If you thought that this would virtually empty Revolve’s pockets and leave them with only slim profit margins we urge you to think again: the host of corporate partner sponsors and partnerships, including brands like Benefit Cosmetics, Beats by Dre, Lyft, Ciroc vodka, Moet and Chandon, Quay Australia and Skinny Bitch Pizza, meant that Revolve’s expenditure is slashed to a fraction of what you would expect. But even that fraction is a prohibitive cost for most other brands, ensuring that Revolve stays a cut above the rest. And with festival-clothing making up 20% of company sales, and the Monday before Coachella raking in more revenue than Cyber Monday for the brand, we can be assured that Revolve Festival was well worth the budget.
So how exactly did Revolve manage to pull this off? As a starting point, Michale Mente, the brand’s co-founder, has credited Revolve’s success to their steadfast observance of core values, the most important one being their customer-centric approach. Revolve started in 2003 by exploiting a gap in the market by bringing disparate brands under the umbrella of a single website (to date they carry over a thousand brands), satisfying the consumer’s needs for a streamlined and convenient shopping experience. A decade down the line, Revolve has honed their understanding of their customer profile to an exact science.
By targeting “millennials seeking an elevated product and an aspirational lifestyle”, as the co-founder has expressed, amassing an army of around 5,000 trendy influencers and celebrities to promote their brand on platforms like Instagram and Youtube was the natural step to take. Therefore, Revolve Festival was not an ‘eureka’ moment in a marketing department meeting. It is merely an organic extension of their customer-centric core strategy that has been paying off for years, but with a fresh, intelligent twist on how they use their customer profile to supercharge their brand image and visibility.
At first blush, one might say that there is nothing particularly ground-breaking about this project. Revolve Festival falls under the category of experience marketing, and it is a tactic that has been used by brands – particularly fashion and beauty brands – for years. Essentially, brands create certain experiences for their influencers, like holidays, parties and events, to utilise as a backdrop to promote their offerings. Revolve has historically participated in this trend as well, such as the Revolve Hamptons House Party in 2015, Fourth of July Bash in 2016, and frequently sending their most important influencers on holidays under the hashtag #REVOLVEaroundtheworld.
At Coachella itself, it is not uncommon to see dozens of brands from all kinds of industries being pushed by influencers, knowing that physical activation would be at its peak at a time when literally everyone would be eagerly refreshing Instagram and Youtube for Coachella material to live vicariously through. The key to understanding how Revolve utilised a common marketing strategy to keep it miles ahead from other e-retail competitors is in recognizing how Revolve was able to utilise its acute understanding of its consumer base, allowing them to successfully bridge the gap between fashion and digital influence.
An awareness of their target audience, as demonstrated by Revolve, necessitated an upheaval of conventional advertising principles. Mente knew that although fashion editorials and photoshoots were the obligatory route for advertising in the industry, using commercial models in an engineered setting would inevitably create distance between the brand and their consumers. Frankly, flipping through editorials parading tall, lithe models pretending to enjoy cocktails by a beach, or posing by a chilli-red convertible does little to nothing in pushing the average consumer towards making a purchase. With this in mind, Mente sought to carve out a different direction in traditional advertising by creating organic relationships with a diverse range of bloggers to represent the brand on a more realistic level.
Their repertoire of influencers span across countries, backgrounds and industries, from Korean-American Youtube sweetheart Jenn Im, fashion designer Chiara Ferragni, and actress Shay Mitchell. Revolve Festival is just another example of how the brand has created a form of advertising that allows the “Revolve girl” to mimic the lifestyle of the ideal Revolve customer – all whilst hashtagging #REVOLVEFestival and providing “swipe up” Insta-story links to their wares, of course. By recognizing that most of the #REVOLVEFamily are normal people instead of lofty celebrities, the Revolve Festival also reflects how they have democratised the previously inaccessible world of private parties into a relatable experience that admits of people from all walks of life. Therefore, this establishes a connection with their ordinary consumers and encourages them that by wearing their brand, they too can one day be part of a project like this.
And perhaps this is the most revealing thing about Revolve Festival. It is a testament to Revolve’s almost scientific accuracy in mapping consumer psychology. Perhaps this could be attributed to how the Revolve office is basically a microcosm that houses members of their own consumer base, forming a dynamic sandbox of ideas that reflect what the “Revolve girl” wants. In fact, the brand started out by using interns, who were part of their target audience, to predict trends and changes in consumer patterns, with an accuracy that could rival even the most experienced of retail executives. Therefore, it is not an empty statement to say that their staff know their consumers. They are active consumers of Revolve, and know exactly what others like them are watching and buying.
Revolve knew exactly why Coachella is so hugely popular among millennials and used it to their advantage. People have their eyes glued to the flood of Coachella posts on Instagram because they want to live the fun, vibrant and fashionable experience vicariously, and because they want to see how their favourite influencers style themselves for such events. With this knowledge, Revolve curated an exact replica of this experience, filled with the exact group of influencers that social media users would be watching, and framed it into the perfectly engineered ‘Instagram moment’. This thinking may seem deceptively simple in its reasoning, but Revolve has cashed in on this fantasy, resulting in up to 70% of the site’s revenues fuelled by influencers, and generating over 4.4 billion social impressions, five times more than Coachella’s underwriter H&M.
“By recognizing that most of the #REVOLVEFamily are normal people instead of lofty celebrities, the Revolve Festival also reflects how they have democratised the previously inaccessible world of private parties into a relatable experience that admits of people from all walks of life.”
#REVOLVEFestival is a visual storyboard that turns our mobile devices and computer screens into crystal balls, mirroring our deepest fantasies. The ultimate FOMO-inducing event has shown us exactly how powerful and profitable physical activations can be if it is perfectly congruent to the target audience’s needs.
Revolve Festival goes beyond cultivating brand loyalty amongst existing consumers to creating a genuine hunger for the full extent of the Revolve lifestyle and by engineering a link between the brand and these picture-perfect moments. By understanding that in the digital age, a brand can only be as strong as how thoroughly they understand their consumer psychology, Revolve has set a historic precedent that exemplifies just how ahead they are in the game.