Designing Free People

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When reading Ben Shields’ chapter, “Designing Social Content,” I couldn’t help but think of the Free People brand. For those that don’t know, Free People is a clothing brand targeting females in their 20s, with a bohemian feel. As they put it on their website, their audience is, “a 26-year-old girl, smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romantic. A girl who likes to keep busy and push life to its limits, with traveling and hanging out and everything in between. Who loves Donovan as much as she loves The Dears, and can’t resist petting any dog that passes her by on the street.”

A very specific type of person. With this specific type of person Free People wants to reach, they absolutely have to actively keep their social medias on brand. Shields states that the building blocks of social content are message, voice, and share proposition. In describing each of these, I will quote Shields,

“Message—What exactly are you trying to communicate to your audience?

Voice—The expression of your brand’s personality through content. Personality is who you are; voice is what you say.

Share proposition—The reason why your audience should share your content.”

Though these 3 ideas are not immediately relevant with every brand—i.e. they are not saying “this is our message, this is our voice, and this is our share proposition!”—they are ideas that are always taken into account when posting.

Let’s look at their instagram:

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Free People’s Instagram bio immediately says who they are and who they are trying to reach. They also advertise their alternate Instagram dedicated to workout wear, their snapchat, and their website for continued interaction. Through these things, as well as an initial look at their feed, Free People stays true to their voice.

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As we click into a post, we see that their voice here is also consistent. The photo, though just a picture of a cat, is on brand with the lounging around (beautifully) aspect of their brand, and makes the user click to see what the caption might be. “Our dreams just came true” with a shocked cat emoji and a shooting star is not something you’d see posted on, say, Adidas’ Instagram, but is very appropriate for the voice of Free People. This is also an example of shareable content, as it advertises free shipping. Certainly the 104 comments are full of people tagging their friends to alert them of the free shipping. These posts can also be sent through direct messaging, screenshotted and texted, or simply for providing information to share with friends. There is a call to action within this post, and it definitely qualifies as shareable content.

On Free People’s Twitter:

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We have a tweet that shows someone working for their brand, whom represents their brand, and providing a link to an article about her and her style. This is a great example of an articulated message. The caption gives the user a clear idea of what will be in the link and who they are looking at. At this point, they can choose to read more or move on.

As an added portion, I would like to share a piece from their youtube channel:

As if their social medias weren’t enough, Free People has a youtube channel with tons of content furthering their brand. Feel free to check it out if you want to see more. However, the most interesting thing they’ve done, in my opinion, is a series of short films. About 3 years ago, they were consistently putting out short films that essentially embodied the Free People girl. There were about 10 of these at one point, though they deleted most of them (I don’t know why). My friend and I were obsessed with these short films—they were always so beautiful and dreamy, and had no motivation other than that. They always had some little storyline, usually a love story. Of course, this is a crazy tactic. Getting Free People buyers to interact with them EVEN MORE, and showing a life that the buyer, if falling under their audience, would absolutely want. With the main character clothed in Free People.

Wild stuff.

That’s all I have to say about Free People. Thanks for having a read.

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4 thoughts on “Designing Free People

  1. Free People was a great example to use to talk about a brand’s voice. I have always thought that FP does a great job of making their brand seem like your neighborhood bohemian boutique even though it is a huge retail chain. They do a great job of maintaining this voice and persona across all social media channels and really let the audience connect with the brand. The sharing of stories from both customers and employees alike lend the brand to interactivity and reliability. I could confidently say that if I were shown a FP social media post without knowing where it came from – I would be able to identify it with this brand.

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  2. I’m glad that you decided to relate this reading to Free People. This brand amazes me because they are so great at branding. What particularly strikes me about their uniqueness is their ability to get their audience on board. Each location has its own Instagram account, almost every employee uses Instagram to promote Free People, and even just the basic consumers utilize Instagram to publicize the products. Free People has created an Instagram community, and somehow, everyone who participates understands the brand and replicates it through their personal use. Seriously. Find 5 different Instagram accounts of Free People employees (it’s super easy once you find one of them). You can usually find out that they work there because their bio will say “FP” or “Free People xlocation,” or their user name will have “FP” or “Free People” in it. They all look exactly the same and they all look exactly like the corporate account. Somehow, someway, they established their brand and got their entire community on board to further the brand.

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  3. What I find interesting about Free People (and what they have done so successfully) is that they create a lifestyle for their market audiences. They associate other types of essentials in the lifestyle of Free People buyer (music, dogs, makeup etc.) to their clothing. Free People targets are very specific audience (female, young, “free spirit”, with money to spare) and yet by building a brand that incorporates other aspects of a buyer’s interests, Free People makes their clothing an essential to the buyer’s life. An important aspect of furthering their brand is using the community, such as Instagram users, to promote their products. They create a genuine feeling of community that offers assistance and information without obviously pushing the agenda of making sales. As Free People becomes more “essential” to buyer’s lives, the less likely sales will decrease.

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  4. Free people, and its family companies of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, is a really good example of how a brand can create synergy between its social platforms and the image of the ideal customer that is pushed to audiences. I have always loved Urban Outfitters’ branding and social presence (in fact, I follow them on instagram as a result of that love), and I think that the videos you included in your post touch on the manifestation of the ideal customer coming to life for consumers to watch in action. FP creates a very holistic brand for people to follow and emulate in several aspects of their lives even without the video content, and the fact that they incorporated that added a 3D level to the online branding that they had already mastered. One thing I think that is interesting about the brand that they create is that it is very much a dream-like, almost unattainable lifestyle for people living in the average everyday reality of the world. Not many people have funds for $20 decorative candles, or take cross-country road trips looking stylish and carefree. People don’t always have the time to lounge around with their cat all day on their $200 bedding set with their pristine make-up set perched perfectly on the rustic wooden nightstand sitting picturesquely next to their bed. It’s an unrealistic picture of what it means to be young and feminine, and by making their products the epitome of luxury life they are able to ensure an avid consumer base ready to eat up the branding story they’re fed.

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