Branded to Fit Her Style
In 21 years at Newport News, Geralynn Madonna has become the chief ambassador for this fashion-forward catalog brand. Having studied fashion at F.I.T. in New York before making her way into the catalog industry at Lane Bryant, Madonna moved in 1981 to Newport News’ predecessor, Avon Fashions. Starting as an assistant buyer in the swimwear department, she was quickly promoted through the ranks, first to buyer, and then on to director, vice president of merchandising and executive vice president before landing in her current post.
Madonna has seen the catalog through a series of changes, including a leveraged buyout in 1987 and the purchase of the business by Spiegel Corp. in 1993. The catalog became Newport News in 1994.
Today, Madonna overseas all company-wide operations, from recruiting to finance to design, manufacturing and merchandising.
This month marks the official relaunch of the brand, including a new logo, new catalog layouts and merchandising, as well as upgraded product selections. Driven by customer research, the changes are intended to reflect and support the customer and her changing needs. Madonna spoke with Catalog Success about the importance of branding.
Branding Means Knowing Your Customer
Newport News began a renewed focus on brand in 2001. Of the importance of branding, Madonna asserts, “It’s the key role in any retail business—across every channel. It defines your uniqueness to the customer. What’s your point of differentiation?” She believes brand is defined through a combination of, “the type of store you operate, how you merchandise the product, and the product itself.”
With this latest and most comprehensive brand makeover, “We wanted to define attributes to expand and elevate our brand position.” Madonna says to accomplish this, it had to first take a close look at its core customer—who is she and what does she want? What drives her to buy? Extensive research was begun in September 2001. In all, five different studies were done to examine customer views, including a Brand Equity Study.