Clique is using audience data to branch into product co-creation

As publishers scramble to diversify away from dependence on ad revenue, lifestyle publisher Clique Brands is accelerating its early start on using its audiences to drive product revenue.

In Clique’s latest foray, Los Angeles-based jewelry designer Tacori will launch Love, Los Angeles, a 31-piece capsule collection designed using audience insights and input supplied by Clique, home to sites like Who What Wear and MyDomaine. The collection, whose items range from $95 to over $350, represents a lot of firsts for Tacori, a brand better known for engagement and wedding rings that cost thousands of dollars.

Clique helped Tacori design the collection, pick which materials to use, and identify channels the jeweler should use to market it. Clique declined to offer details on how it is being compensated in the deal, saying only that the deal does not involve brand licensing.

Though a number of publishers have taken steps in this direction – publishers including BuzzFeed and PopSugar have helped brands develop products for sale this year – Clique sees this as a core competency that’s key to its future; it is not an accident that the 200-person company renamed itself from Clique Media Group to Clique Brands last year.

“The ability to co-create products makes us more desirable as a partner,” Clique Brands co-founder and chief content officer Hillary Kerr said. “They’re interested in the scope of data we have.”

Advertising remains a core source of revenue for Clique, the publisher, which raised $15 million last year to help build a consumer products arm. But Clique wants to do more in product development. It has a ten-person data and insights group, which analyzes audience data from a network of private Facebook groups and twice-monthly Google hangouts it conducts with influencers. Clique also has Be the Buyer, a 1,500-person program that it uses to decide on the patterns, silhouettes and features of items it sells through Target.

Using those and other sources, Clique polls different segments of its audience around 10 times per month, according to Jessica Blumenthal, Clique’s executive director of strategy and insights. The scale of that operation speaks to the number of products in development but also to the speed Clique claims to be able to deliver insights for brands: Its collaboration with Tacori took less than six months to complete.

“Speed is something we can do really well,” Kerr said.

Clique’s collaboration with Tacori started with a psychographic survey of over 2,600 women, designed to unearth insights about why certain kinds of women buy jewelry. Clique then solicited the opinions of nearly 400 women who fit the tribe Tacori wanted to target. It tapped Be the Buyer participants as well.

To develop insights on designs as well as what kinds of materials should be used, Clique assembled a panel of 30 Los Angeles-based influencers, some of whom are part of INF, an influencer network it operates. That same cohort of influencers will be tasked with marketing and promoting the jewelry when it goes on sale; that marketing will be supplemented with display, branded content and merchandising efforts across Who What Wear, Clique’s flagship editorial brand.  “It’s not only tapping into their preferences, but also speaks to what their audiences will respond to,” Blumenthal said of the work INF did.

With the display advertising market in decline and competition intensifying even in newer areas like video advertising and branded content, publishers are hunting for ways to work more closely with brands on solving specific business challenges. Publishers ranging from Quartz to BuzzFeed have launched sprint teams designed to help identify solutions to brands’ problems.

The next challenge for Clique is proving that their approach, which has been used to spin up fashion and beauty products, can work across a broader range of product categories.

“I think the work we’ve done in developing our co-creation program is applicable to any program,” Blumenthal said. “We could apply it to automotive, we could apply it to home goods. It’s a system that allows us to take a consumer perspective and put it into the product.”

With Love, Los Angeles about to go on sale, Tacori sees the process as effective. “I think they’ve got it cracked,” said Michelle Adorjan Chila, Tacori’s svp of marketing and pr. “They proved it to me with the Target collaboration.”

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