Fabrizio Babino is a fashion business professional, a Parsons professor, and creator of CPE’s new Fashion PR and Marketing certificate, which includes two courses: Experiential Marketing and Influencer Marketing and Celebrity Relations.
With 18+ years of experience, Babino has seen firsthand the breakneck pace at which the fashion industry evolves, and he emphasizes just how important it is for fashion brands and fashion professionals to adapt and embrace new promotional tactics like experiential and influencer marketing.
What is experiential marketing and what is influencer marketing?
Experiential marketing is the number one tool that's being utilized today in marketing strategies. It is about creating experiences—to amplify brand awareness, to connect with the consumer, to create storytelling—all with the focus of promoting the brand and bringing brand awareness. So initiatives like popup activations, mobile activations, exhibitions, in-store experiences—those are all ways that experiential marketing is brought to life.
Influencer marketing has become, in my opinion, one of the number one pillars in a PR strategy. What influencer marketing does is allow for the brand to connect with consumers through talent procurement. The goal is to cultivate and dip into the following of that specific talent—that specific target audience—with the intention of bringing awareness to a brand or to a product, all while raising the equity of a brand.
What made you want to create this Fashion PR and Marketing certificate for Parsons?
The number one goal is to have an outstanding program of courses. But what I saw that was missing was experiential marketing and influencer marketing. These are two sectors of the industry that are offering a large amount of job postings.
So that always dictates, okay, do we have a course that can cater to what the industry is demanding? We are in the business of prepping our students to be ready for the future and to have the ability to find careers that the industry is bringing forward.
What's the number one thing you hope students walk away from this certificate with?
The number one thing that I want them to take away is that times have changed in the realm of marketing and PR strategy. Experiential marketing and influencer marketing, in my opinion, are the modern day PR tactics in-addition to the traditional PR tactics. And they are eating more and more of the pie of the marketing budget because it's kind of the most important thing for consumers today.
Experiential marketing provides an answer to that need for connection—to be able to touch and feel and feel connected. And the takeaway is, if you're not doing influencer marketing and experiential marketing initiatives, then you're dated, you're outdated, you're behind.
How do these tactics fit in with traditional PR tactics?
What's great about it is that—and we talk about this in the course—experiential marketing initiatives offer the ability to connect with the consumer in real life to create storytelling at the same time as those traditional PR activities. So when you go to an agency, you need talking points to keep consistency around brand awareness. So you might have had a brand launch in January, February, but then the launch ends. So what do you talk about then? Experiential initiatives become additional talking points that a publicist can go to an outlet like the Los Angeles Times with. Then, all of a sudden, there could be an article around the pop-up in which you're allowed to talk about the brand and the launch. So that is how you bridge experiential with traditional PR.
Do you think these modern marketing tactics humanize brands?
I think so. And I think what it does—it gives access. So you think about Hermès being very exclusive—I think I went to an Hermès store once in my life, right? But, the Hermès pop-up in Los Angeles in July 2022, HermèsFit, provided access to the public where you could go all day and experience. They brought a space to life. So that is a great example of how you offer access, and it's important because that is how I think you can ultimately connect. The number one goal is to connect to the customer.
What direction do you personally see the fashion industry going in the future in terms of how brands are communicating with consumers?
It's going to be really interesting to see what happens with AI. I do feel it's going to really change how we look at content, how brands offer experiences in a more digital space.
Regarding influence marketing, the customer is smarter. Gen Z and the future are much in tune with what they believe—with what they stand for, which is so amazing and refreshing. And they hold brands to a higher standard. So accountability is going to have to play a part, which is going to continue, I think, to shift the way talent is looked at and the way talent is chosen. I mean, it's amazing to see that there's representation happening, right? We are seeing representation from communities that have needed it for so long. So that is something that is amazing to see and I think it's only going to grow bigger and bigger to meet the demand for accountability from the customer.
If there was one piece of advice you would give to an up and coming fashion brand, what would it be?
My advice is to hone in on your DNA. Understand who you are as a brand. What are your roots? What do you offer in terms of creativity, right? That's going to be important to then understand who your target audience is going to be—who you want to connect to, who you want to amplify with, what customer base you want to dip into, and who you want to cater to in terms of your storytelling.
It's very hard and it's very overwhelming and very easy to get lost in the shuffle of what the industry demands. Because you're going to have demands from retailers and collaborators and partnerships that have their own objective and their own intention and their own guidelines. And so your DNA gets diluted because you're trying to build something in partnership, but it's important to also make sure that you are honoring why you created your brand from the start.
Learn more about the Fashion PR and Marketing Certificate.