How kate spade new york Lives Colorfully Through Branded Storytelling

kate spade new york’s mantra is to “Live Colorfully”—and its #MissAdventure original series certainly depicts that feeling of exuberance, prep and whimsy behind the popular brand.

While highly shoppable, #MissAdventure is more than product—its hyper-real, highly stylized mini-movies are a celebration of unique women who inhabit a playful world of bows and happy prints.

Starring an interlocking cast of characters (including Anna Kendrick and Marissa Tomei) in an of-the-moment digital medium, the series is a comedy of errors about life’s universal moments—two girls trying to get a taxi on a crazy holiday evening, or a weekend getaway in which everything goes wrong.

One could call #MissAdventure, launched for holiday 2014 and now at the front end of season two in spring/summer 2016, a runaway hit. To date, the series has drawn more than 100 million views worldwide. Clios.com spoke with kate spade new york executive vice president and chief marketing officer Mary Beech and senior vice president, brand creative (and CLIO Image Awards juror) Kristen Naiman about bringing the brand’s adventures and misadventures to life.

The #MissAdventure series is far from the typical fashion ad campaign. What prompted the mini-movie concept?

Mary Beech: At kate spade new york, we have a very clearly defined brand story. While there is a place for straight product storytelling, there is also a definite place for more narrative storytelling. It was an easy decision to go into film. The ultimate goal is to entertain and engage both existing and new fans.

#MissAdventure star Anna Kendrick was quoted as saying, "The fun thing about it is that it never feels like it has to revolve around selling.” How do you strike the balance of entertainment and advertising?

Kristen Naiman: We really constructed #MissAdventure in a way that we felt the product is neither incidental—meaning it is not costume—nor are we overtly selling it. We’re mirroring the way it works in our customer’s lives, which is to be a character in her story and an element in the world she inhabits.

Describe the world of kate spade new york.

KN: It’s a slightly realer-than-real New York in which iconic, everyday moments occur inside a sense of endless possibility and adventure. It’s when something goes wrong that sometimes the most wonderful and unexpected things happen, and for our girl, the only difference between something being a misadventure and an incredible adventure is her attitude.

How has the kate spade new york woman evolved?

MB: We think of her as a mindset, never as a demographic. She is timeless, smart, confident and fun. It’s also portrayed very well in the series that she’s an incredibly optimistic woman. I think what we’ve done so well, and what has changed, is that we are now showing the array of interesting women who can be kate spade new york girls. The casting, storytelling and styling show that you can have everyone from a Jourdan Dunn to an Iris Apfel, and everything in between.

Also optimistic: The reaction to the series.

MB: We didn’t imagine just how engaging the series would be. The concept of having a series that builds yet changes each time has allowed us to take an existing audience along with us and engage a new audience with each one, depending on who is cast—whether it’s Lily Tomlin or Marissa Tomei—or whether it’s a different setting like L.A. or New York.

KN: Like the best of storytelling, what we aim to do is create an ever-broadening world that invites our growing customer base into it.

You’ve secured some pretty major stars, from Gloria Steinem to fashion icon Iris Apfel. How is the brand-celebrity collaboration changing?

MB: Interesting women are always at the center of our campaigns, whether print or film. Anna Kendrick, Zosia Mamet, Kat Dennings, Lily Tomlin, Marissa Tomei—we have an amazing cast. I think it’s really about moving from being an endorsement, to actors being part of our brand story. It’s not just about the celebrity association of “I wear kate spade new york,” but rather their overall feeling about effectively being an actor in our story. It’s a major change, we think, that we’re pioneering from the way things may have been viewed in the past.

KN: We find the place with them in our collaboration where who they truly are overlaps with our woman. As an aggregate, all of them together portray who the kate spade new york woman is, in all of her permutations and possibilities.

What role do the actors have in the script and styling?

KN: We script every #MissAdventure ourselves. But then there is a lot of ad-libbing, and scripts are used as road maps or prompts for interactions that take on a life of their own when we’re filming. We also cast people we think will have interesting and wonderful chemistry together. For the styling, we have a very open dialog about building the character as much as you might for any film. We’re always pushing it through the brand filter, but with an eye toward creating something that feels authentic and true so that when the customer views it, it’s like—Oh, yes! Of course, Marissa Tomei is in her pajamas! She’s running down the canyon for a carton of milk and she’s in her PJs, but she’s so wildly glamorous.

Kate Spade was the second most Googled designer of 2014—to what degree do you attribute this to season one of #MissAdventure?

MB: To date, our #MissAdventure series has secured over 100 million views globally. It’s certainly by far the most engaging and viewed content the brand has ever produced. We can’t create a direct connection, but certainly we know it had an impact on the impressions we received last holiday in how #MissAdventure came onto the scene with such heat. Our last film had the highest number of views of all the #MissAdventure films, at 33 million. We’re excited about what’s going to come next.

How does the most recent episode, “The Perfect Weekend,” set us up for what’s to come in season two?

KN: One of the things we continue to do is further expand the world we inhabit from a character perspective. On the flipside, you can continue to watch it entwine itself with the larger world of kate spade new york. Like any great TV show or piece of entertainment, the newness is what keeps the story evolving or intersecting with whatever the current culture conversation is that makes it feel fresh and relevant.

Kristen, you recently served on the jury for this year’s CLIO Image Awards. How does the experience of judging impact your future creative work at kate spade new york?

KN: It was inspiring to spend a day looking at the diverse work created this year, and to have the chance to discuss it with such an intelligent and thoughtful group of peers. Seeing the varied approaches and equally varied responses to our industry's efforts to evolve the way we tell stories reminded me what a dynamic, exciting and challenging time it is to be working in our business. We have an incredible, rare opportunity to innovate branded storytelling. Participating in the Clio judging underscored that this cultural moment has given us a mandate to look for ways to push the boundaries, and a responsibility to tell stories that are universally resonate, but told in new and dynamic ways.

Clio Image is the only award to honor the best of creativity behind the business of style. It brings together an all-star jury of executives and personalities, from all walks of the industry, to identify the best work, and talent, that put the final gloss on the world’s most revered fashion and beauty brands.

2016 Clio Image finalists will be announced August 22nd on clioimage.com.