Nordstrom Launches First Work From Mekanism

Fashion retailer hires outside agency for 'Youphoria'

There's no reason not to wear a swank blazer and dress shoes while sawing through a felled tree, according to a new ad from Nordstrom.

Stop and think, and you might come up with a couple. But that's not really the point. The sight gag of a dandy milling lumber while dressed in garden party attire is meant to suggest the idea that an outfit can make you feel ready for the day, according to the brand. It's "that feeling you get when you walk out the door and know you're going to put your best foot forward," said Michael Crotty, Nordstrom's vp of marketing.

Hyperbolic as it is, that sense of sartorial empowerment is summed up in the commercial's tagline, "Youphoria." Coined with the help of agency Mekanism, the individualistic pun is the unifying theme of a new online campaign that launched Monday. Other spots in the campaign feature one woman in a lace dress and stiletto heels riding a mini motorcycle and another in a leather jacket showing off a penchant for starting bonfires on the beach (check out all three videos at the end of this post). 

The new campaign also marks the first time in recent memory that the brand—which has traditionally produced its advertising in house—has turned to an outside creative shop. Nordstrom has also been working with Omnicom Media Group in Chicago for a little over a year, having hired the agency to help with media planning, Crotty said.

While the upscale fashion retailer says it has spent no money on television advertising in recent years, it does invest significantly in digital marketing. In 2012, for example, Nordstrom spent some $36 million on paid Internet display, according to Kantar estimates. "We've continued to significantly increase our digital media investment year over year," said Crotty. "I'd say we're doing a lot more digital video this past year than we've ever done before," he added. "I feel like we did more display in '12 than '11 because we did a lot more retargeting."

The company's focus on digital appears to be paying off. Last year, Nordstrom's online sales grew by some 37 percent, crossing the $1 billion mark for the first time. Still, the new campaign is actually aimed at boosting the upscale fashion retailer's brick-and-mortar stores—with the supporting online media designed to drive foot traffic to locations in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and San Diego. 

Nordstrom's marketing team also hopes the videos will generate interest via social media in the brand, especially among a younger—and perhaps less moneyed—set than might typically be associated with the brand. "We wanted to create something that was viral for a younger audience," said Mekanism partner and creative director Ian Kovalik. "Among millennials…there's the perception that Nordstrom is very expensive," he added. "With this campaign, they want to let them know that it's still great style, you can get amazing looks and amazing fashion here, and it's not going to break your wallet."

To appeal to a younger crowd, the campaign also includes live events at each store location. "It's really targeting a 25-35-year-old," said Crotty. "But to be honest, I wouldn't say that the age is the important [thing]. I think it's more the state of mind of that person. Somebody who's really interested in fashion and music and pop culture…There are 50-year-olds who think like they're 30, and they're welcome to come to the party."

Crotty said the company—founded in 1901—has always been a big believer in the power of word-of-mouth marketing. "Social media is just an extension of what we've done for about 100 years," he said.

That's, in part, the reason the brand's executives chose to work with Mekanism. "They have a great reputation for creating great content that becomes very shareable," said Crotty. "We knew [they were] known for great storytelling…They're the only folks we reached out to, and we were thrilled with our initial collaboration with them." 

In other words, keep an eye out for more Nordstrom work from the agency.  

CLARIFICATION: The above article has been changed to reflect the following. A previous version stated that Nordstrom spends little on television advertising, and included a Kantar estimate that the brand spent $6 million on television advertising in 2012. Nordstrom says it has spent no money on television advertising in recent years.

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.