For T by Alexander Wang, freebies mean big pay-off

by EMILY MITCHELL July 20, 2014

Don’t underestimate the power of fun. Audience engagement hinges on the reveal, the spectacle, that moment.

Alexander Wang exemplifies what it means to drive your brand through interactive storytelling. Wang, the Chinese-American eponymous with the luxury clothing brand, whipped up a happening in downtown New York last week. The strategy, employed by the brand and the creative agency All Day Every Day, is an elegant video shared via YouTube.

The clip opens by framing the scene: July 13, 2013: New York City. A group of curious fans attended an undisclosed secret event. No one knew what to expect. Here is the story of what happened.

Unsurprisingly, the internet is abuzz with rumors seeking to undermine the video’s authenticity. In other words, it’s too good! These aren’t fans, they’re paid actors. Now, when unscripted television is understood to have story editing, it’s no wonder the video would be met with such skepticism.

First, curiosity. A crowd of young New Yorkers, all hip haircuts and iPhones, queuing up outside a downtown warehouse. (The location was eventually revealed through social media.)

Anticipation. the warehouse door lifts, the mob stands frozen — the pupils of every set of eyeballs in the place dilates.

Surprise. Alexander Wang appears, Willy-Wonka like, and addresses the crowd via a large projector: “There’s stuff for girls, stuff for guys, some older stuff, some new stuff, some classics. And by the way, everything is free.”

The music cues to romantic. Individuals are shown leaping in slow speed. Some bound with grace, while others elbow their way through the crowd, mouths agape. The scene is ecstatic. Like it’s supermarket sweeps, like it’s the last day on earth, with bodies gliding towards all that pristine merchandise. Might soft layering T’s could offer salvation in the afterlife?No doubt, the slubbed tanks and tees offer no such protection — it’s the sheer indulgence of the whole affair. The fun.

Gutted. By the end, the warehouse is licked clean. One hanger rocks back and forth amidst the detritus, the empty racks. Wang and his strategy team win. Each fanboy and fangirl in the place wins, making off with all that booty. Demand — captured on film. You weren’t part of it. But now, you’ll pay for it.

Here is a caricature of those actual New York sample sales, which are held together by only a shred of decorum. Here, there are no rules, no price tags. The result is raw and unbridled emotion, Fashion Darwinism, the stuff of popular entertainment.

The video, only a few minutes long, plumbs the depth of human feeling, and demonstrates a thing or two about building a brand.

Connection is king. Smart brands shouldn’t rely on the “Most Interesting Man in the World” to lead the way. Smart brands should look for the next Harlem Shake. This is the law of attraction at work. Those who care can also contribute, tipping the scale towards the next purchase.