Why “Damn, Daniel” May Significantly Alter the Fashion Industry

Jessica Schiffer
PHOTO:

Madewell

The power of social media as a marketing and branding tool is news to no one at this point, but it’s a realm that’s constantly transforming and revealing fresh opportunities in the process. Nowhere has this been more evident than with the now-famous “Damn, Daniel” Snapchat video, which went viral quickly after being posted to Twitter on February 15th by a high school kid named Joshua Holz.

The video splices together clips of Holz’ friend Daniel walking around in cool outfits, always complimented by a pair of white (or, in a few cases, black) Vans. “Damn, Daniel!” Josh repeats in a hilariously exaggerated tone each time, “Back at it again with the white Vans!” It’s been retweeted over 300,000 times, inspired hundreds of equally-funny memes, and landed the two boys guest-spots on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and in a Weezer music video. All of this, while great for sending two strangers into the spotlight, has been especially lucrative for Vans.

On an earnings call in late April, Steve Rendle, the president and COO of VF Corp (which owns Vans), joked, “Well done, Daniel, well done,” in reference to the brand’s great first quarter of 2016. Although Vans was by no means lacking in popularity or monetary success (they’ve seen double-digit growth in sales per quarter for the last 5 years) the video gave them an exciting boost: a 20% increase in direct-to-consumer sales and a 30% increase in e-commerce sales in the US market.

Given that Vans had nothing to do with the video’s creation, it was an unexpected and all-the-more pleasant coup for the brand, and one that confirmed the serious potential of organic marketing in our digital age. While platforms like Instagram and Snapchat offer advertising opportunities for fashion and beauty brands, taken up by everyone from Bloomingdales to Burberry, and feature influencers who often partner with said-brands, it may be the candid, non-sponsored content that has the most power. After all, today’s consumers are extremely savvy about how they’re being marketed to, preferring ads and brand activations that privilege genuineness over anything too forced.

What could this mean for the fashion industry? Well, it’s very likely that brands will now try to capture the essence of the “Damn, Daniel” video—authentic, consumer-driven, silly—for themselves. How they will achieve this without too heavy a hand remains to be seen, but getting their products in front of the right people will be crucial. What that could mean is seeking out potential influencers more than they might seek out “confirmed” influencers who are known for their sponsored content, privileging those digital stars on the rise in lieu of those who have #madeit. Another important goal will be ensuring their products just “show up” at the sweet spot of right place/right time, such as in Snapchat’s Live Stories which are not direct marketing opportunities for brands but spotlight relevant events like fashion week.

Of course, it could also lead brands to explicitly manufacture their own viral content, an attempt which can be challenging given the off-the-cuff, randomized nature of such successes. Whether or not they’ll find a way to do so without entering disingenuous territory remains to be seen, but you can bet that plenty of brands will try. 

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