Those days of measuring a brand's popularity simply by product demand and sales are long gone. Dollars and cents still count for bottom lines, but somewhere between the product and the sales register, there lies a whole other series of equations comprising cachet value, cult status, label recognition, and brand outreach. This is especially true in the fashion industry, as Facebook has become as much a barometer of a brand or retailer's popularity as the Nielsen Ratings—just look at Stylophane's Fashion Index, which measures top names in fashion according to their Facebook fans and Twitter followers.
And while we've been functioning as consumers in the Facebook era for a while now, only recently have shoppers begin to take full force of how easily they can actually dictate a brand's decisions. Perhaps the most recent—and visible—example was Gap's logo "mishap," which unleashed a furious roll of thunder across the worldwide web as Gap consumers (and probably many non-Gap consumers) sounded off on the brand's ill-fitting update on its classic blue icon. An attempt to quell the criticism with a crowd-sourced re-design project on Facebook was met with even more scathing reactions and Facebook messages. Less than a week later, the original logo was reinstated.
In another case, Elle's Joe Zee was able to sway the executive powers over at Aldo to put a designer-exclusive shoe shown during a Fashion Week presentation last month into mass production, thanks to a Twitter-facilitated call and response.
While Phoebe Philo of Celine recently stated that she'd "rather walk down the steet naked" than join Facebook, she's in the minority. Marc Jacobs, Prabal Gurung, Jeremy Scott and Proenza Schouler are just a few of the countless well-known designers who engage with their fans via Facebook posts, blogs, and Twitter feeds. Whether or not it's the designers themselves dispatching messages and updating their accounts, it's the point of keeping their consumers in the loop as a means of gauging reactions and collective pulse-taking.
There's incredible potential in the way these still-new methods of social networking allow us to voice ourselves and actually affect a brand's creative decisions. Who knows—maybe if we all shout loudly enough, that thwarted collaboration with Nike and Alexander Wang might actually occur.