With hype-driven brand collaborations, hectic fashion weeks, and an impossible production cycle, the fashion space has never seemed more oversaturated. Consumers are constantly inundated with new designers and trends with short life cycles that make building a brand seem daunting and impossible. But there are those few brands that have broken through the noise, captivating a millennial audience of shoppers through desired items, FOMO-inducing events, and a celebrity following. Meet the duo behind the curtain, Jennifer Walker and Adam Drawas, co-founders of Walker Drawas, the marketing agency that’s building up brands like Revolve, New Era, and Hudson Jeans as some of the most coveted brands today.
Jennifer Walker and Adam Drawas have the secret sauce. Walker and Drawas opened their namesake firm in 2014 offering 360-degree programming across celebrity, influencer, experiential, media, and public relations strategies. The Los Angeles-based agency has become the Swiss Army Knife every brand needs. Walker brings an extensive knowledge of the press world, having worked for firms like Ben Sherman, LaForce and Stevens, and as the Vice President of PR and Marketing at All Saints. Drawas is a master of celebrity programming and brand development after working with names like Lara Bohnic, Rachel Zoe, and Charlotte Ronson. Today, Walker Drawas is behind some of the most influential and impactful marketing campaigns in the consumer world. From #RevolveFestival to New Era x Super Bowl 50, the firm has quietly dominated the consumer space with celebrity placements, brand collaborations, influencer activations, and full-scale events. Their current client roster is unparalleled – Revolve, Hudson Jeans, New Era, Persol, Moschino, Vogue Eyewear, NBC Universal, and French Connection have all tapped the agency for their unique strategy. The agency is now making the shift from a public relations agency to a full-scale marketing agency, with plans to bring on clients in the lifestyle space including liquor, hospitality, athletics, and cannabis goods. Below, Walker and Drawas talk their one-of-a-kind strategy, the current fashion landscape, and how brands can make it today.
The two of you bring different skill sets to the table. What are your individual strengths within the team while building strategies?
Adam Drawas: We’re total opposites. I have a vast knowledge in design development, production, shows, celebrity, really the backend creative on what it takes to bring a product to market. When I’m talking to our clients, I’m always thinking of the back machine to come to market with and an understanding of the design development, brand identity, and brand ethos that a brand needs. You need to be creative and unique in order to bring something new.
Jennifer Walker: I’m on the consumer side. That’s where our clients find us most interesting – they can come to us for a full scope program. They have one side of the coin that’s guiding them on product, design and creative, and my side is how we’re amplifying the product. What’s the news? What’s going to generate press impressions? How are we going to sell this product? I’m thinking about it from a consumer lens.
How does your strategy differ from that of a corporate strategy?
JW: As an outside agent, we’re always looking at internal brand buckets that may work for them but are often siloed. Most people have different teams for public relations, marketing, and social media, but no one’s talking to each other. We’re able to come in and tell them they aren’t seeing the umbrella strategy from above and how this all can work together. Look at it from a 360 lens. Corporate strategies really silo departments, which makes it hard for brands to achieve one goal.
What current clients are you excited about?
JW: One brand we’re super excited about right now is an activewear brand coming out of Canada called Lolë. They have this wonderful experiential marketing platform called the Lolë White Tour. 5,000-10,000 people all come together and do a yoga class in an iconic setting. We’re looking to bring this to the states later this year or in 2019. They’re opening an Los Angeles headquarters and launching menswear, so they have a lot of exciting projects going on. Activewear is definitely a division we’re merging in to, especially because Adam and I are fitness addicts. We’re also fascinated with the cannabis category and recently signed on BEBOE as a client. We’re seeing so much cross-pollination with our fashion background and brands like this because there’s a connection between fashion and consumer brands. The founders, Clement Kwan and Scott Campbell, have created this very luxurious, beautiful product. It’s mostly targeted towards women but they’re looking to become the next LVMH of cannabis. It’s working with brands like this that are on the rise that we get really excited about as we get to help guide them with their strategies from an early stage. It’s been a bit restricting especially with who can cover the product due to legality, but it’s a very interesting category because everyone is changing and growing with it and becoming more open. What I think they’re going to stand out with is the leverage of their own brands to create new products and partnerships.
AD: Another thing we’re finding with cannabis is that the stigma and perception has swiftly changed in Los Angeles. It’s really treated as a beauty and wellness brand not just used as “celebration” or entertainment. It’s used for people who are interested in getting better sleep and resolves for anxiety, so we’re treating it in a light of elevated beauty. The demographic is very interesting because it’s not one that people would usually see as a cannabis clientele. We’re targeting people who do buy LVMH and live in elevated destinations. Understanding that we’re changing the perception on a global scale is really exciting.
What do you look for within a potential client’s existing business plans as keys to success?
AD: Product is king. They need to understand know who they are, what they are, and what they’re bringing to market. A lot of times, brands might have great offerings but might not know the landscape they’re entering into so they come to us for guidance. It’s difficult to sell something we don’t believe in. It’s more than just aesthetic. They need to have their manufacturing and production, as well as an understanding of where their retail strategy is going. It’s important to know the product can sell itself. We can bring it to media, influencers, celebrity, but the product has to work.
JW: Resources. We are only as good as the resources you’re going to give us. If we don’t have product to work with or access to certain materials or executives, that’s a big problem. We’ve said to brands that we haven’t felt are ready for us yet that we rely on the brand as much as they rely on us to produce results. Also, the flexibility to educate themselves is really important. Nothing comes of anything if we’re constantly advising and no one listens. Brands need to be flexible and adapt in order to have a great relationship.
With brands like New Era, Kate Somerville, and French Connection, they each have strong roots but are looking to you to stay relevant. How are you helping them adapt to the changing digital landscape?
AD: Kate Somerville is interesting because they’ve had so much success even before the beauty influencer came onto the scene. They have such a strong roster of clientele and are unique because they’re one of the only brands in the United States that has a clinic and a product line. They serve a two-tier purpose which gives them a unique brand identity. We take that core identity and build programs where we’re touching different vehicles for exposure. Working with celebrities and bringing them into the clinic, working with influencers that are great for product promotion and video content. Then coming up with unique marketing opportunities that are going to excite and entice our consumer whether it be through buzz-generating events, experiential opportunities, and showcasing new product. We’re taking a brand that’s been successful in the traditional strategy and bringing them over to digital. They’ve been super malleable and that’s key to their current success.
How are you incorporating retail experiences into your brand strategies in an industry that believes retail is dead?
AD: The issue we always come across with clients and their programs is really making sure we understand what their retail objectives are. There are different strategies based on your avenue of commerce. Wholesale has been dying, but we’re also seeing a resurgence with brands like Nordstrom’s, that are doing very well, but it’s not necessarily in just a brick and mortar context. Where we’re finding they work is being able to accommodate quicker product to market with less risk.
JW: We’ve seen such a shift in the retail landscape. No one’s signing longterm leases anymore. Robertson is a graveyard. What we are seeing that is valuable is this ability for brands to be flexible and change in the short term lease space, like pop up shops. It’s a marketing tool now where brands can showcase special projects, influencer programs, limited edition product, and collaborations. It’s really important from a marketing standpoint that brands are able to pop up in different markets and test where they resonate while not being handcuffed to a huge overhead. There’s a lot to be said about the see-now, buy-now concept being so successful in terms of the timeline that brands are designing and producing. It’s all about supply and demand. From a consumer standpoint, people want newness. They want things that are limited edition, they want to have what the newest and greatest thing is. Fashion doesn’t have a long shelf-life so it’s important for brands to fulfill that need.
You built your company in the entertainment capital of the world. Do you feel Los Angeles is giving you a competitive edge?
AD: I think we’re definitely ahead of the game by being in Los Angeles. The entertainment industry is rooted here. Having those relationships and being here is crucial to the execution of our strategies. We’re seeing a lot of big companies move outposts to Los Angeles.
JW: With what we do on top of day-to-day press and showroom strategies, we create experiences. Our showroom is very much its own experience. There’s music, food, a vibe, it’s bustling. That’s a very different approach especially coming from my New York background, those showrooms are very much about the grind. One formula isn’t better than the other, but Los Angeles is a pleasure center. It’s a feel good town. In the world of experiential marketing, that gives us a leg up here because we live and breathe it every day.
Influencer marketing is now a $1 billion industry. How are you integrating it into your business plan?
AD: The saturated idea of influencer marketing is that we’re seeing this greater frequency of see it, buy it. It’s the ability for the consumer to find product, whether it’s online or on their feeds, and immediately be able to access it. Where we see this industry is going to grow is making this timeline between product launching and purchasing quicker. Already it’s quick, but the reason why influencers have validity in the market is they can launch a product on their platform and consumers can buy it immediately. That’s what brands are looking for. For consumers to consume, love, covet, get, buy, wear. That’s going to continue to grow and refine with how Instagram is changing their algorithm, how different platforms are trying to get products in front of consumers in unique ways, and the timeline between product and execution. Influencers play a big role in consumption and we’ve been able to get greater analytics for these programs to better understand what is and isn’t successful. It’s not so much to promote a program into oblivion. There are better guardrails now to know how to refine this.
JW: Especially now with the birth of the micro-influencer, macro-influencer, celebrity influencer, and all these categories that people are falling into, the authenticity needs to be there within these campaigns. The consumer is becoming extremely savvy to what the influencer actually thinks and likes. As we see this changing, we’re finding it more successful to do larger projects with influencers that they can actually own, like collaborations and licensing deals, so you’re not just blanketing a post that’s going to get buried in a feed. Instead, they’re endorsing a project to the fullest of their capabilities because it’s their project. There’s a much larger strategic approach to be looked at as this industry keeps expanding.
What has been your most successful partnership?
JW: One of our most successful partnerships was Super Bowl 50 with New Era. We worked closely with the co-owner and marketing visionary there, Lindsey Koch. She had a very specific and special vision because it was such an iconic moment in sports history. As an official sponsor with the NFL, they had a marketing platform already in place called the Style Lounge where we created this four-day, elevated brand experience in San Francisco. We were able to curate attendees, music, cultural programs, day and night. From an influencer standpoint, athletes have become style influencers on their own now. We were able to draw in some of the industries biggest heavy-hitters. We had Hailey Baldwin, Chanel Iman, Justin Bieber, Diplo, Jamie Foxx, and A-Rod coming through the doors to experience the brand in an impressive, creative way. On top of that, not only did we have the industry eyeballs looking at us, but the social, press, and content generation that came off the back of it was really exciting. It was such a cohesive program. Lindsey Koch came up with the theme, which was the Gold Rush because it was the color of the Super Bowl 50. The messaging was so perfect because the people attending understood it and appreciated it. We were over capacity every single day.
AD: When it comes to influencers and talent, one thing we try to educate our brands on is that there are different tiers of talent. You want a solid bouquet of talent. The bouquet needs to resonate different categories within their strategy. It can’t just be one note. This bouquet is made up of brand elevators – from mega-girls where just their endorsement by wearing the product helps re-position the brand in a different way. We then have our press influencers who represent middle America, household names who the press love to talk about, who really bring the brand home. Then we have our influencers and our social people who have great exposure and a strong community that you can tap, but might not elevate the brand. When a brand is able to bring that to the table in an organic way and the results of our activity are bringing news and buzz-worthy content to the masses, that’s a great gauge of success for us.
Your activations for Revolve and Minions x Baja East have attracted more than just the fashion circle. How are you building brand moments that attract the masses?
AD: The Minions x Baja East collaboration was also a really interesting event for us. Universal Brand Development is a client of ours that comes to us with different franchises and is looking to tap new demographics through our unique programs and strategies. When they brought us Illumination’s Minions, we gave them a plethora of marketing opportunities that would make sense for them in terms of reaching a new demographic and we landed on working with Baja East. We were under the impression that Minions was geared towards a younger demographic, but we found a unique organic relationship to the franchise. We had our fingers on the pulse of all the ideation and development. The collaboration wasn’t this expected yellow collection. We programmed an amazing show and after-party with Rae Sremmurd that all came into the strategy with the boys of Baja East. We had music, sports, Teyana Taylor and her husband were front row with a minion in hand, Rae Sremmurd performing with minions dancing, and of course the whole fashion community front row at the show. It was a two-hour experience that was one of the best parties of fashion week by taking a franchise and give it a whole new life.