“Trust, not data, is the new oil”, Sabah Naqushbandi, Global Marketing Director, for online men's fashion platform, MR PORTER, told the audience on Kantar Marketplace Hexagon Stage at MAD//Fest this summer. Naqushbandi went on to say that, “trust has always been at the heart of what we as marketers are meant to strive for.” 

Founded in 2011, MR PORTER, ‘Net-a-Porter’s litter brother, was one of the fashion industry’s original disruptors. It grew quickly because at the time other potential competitors “were still trying to navigate the the online works and ecommerce.” However, as Naqushbandi explained, “A lot’s changed since then, the markets have caught up and we have now got competition coming at us from all angles... also consumer behavior has changed massively too.”

Therefore, how does an industry changing disruptor keep its edge and innovative mentality, to stay competitive and ahead of the chasing pack? Naqushbandi gave the MAD//Fest audience MR PORTER’S four steps to stay “relevant and stay ahead fo the curve in a rapidly changing world.”

Lesson One - Evolve or die

Naqushbandi was keen to stress the importance of “staying true to the brand’s core” but she added that, in a world that’s rapidly changing at a fast rate not evolving and not being brave has a risk. “The risk of remaining the same is irrelevance.” 

For MR PORTER this meant that whilst being an authority on men’s fashion, they have had to, in Nasqushbandi’s words, “take some big bets.” Capitalising on their luxury heritage they decided to enter the fine watch market - a completely new business for MR PORTER. 

MR PORTER's new line in luxury watches

“We had to experiment we had to learn fast. There were a lot of capability gaps that we had to address as well.” Yet, the outcome has been a major success. It is a part of the business that has grown exponentially and “it's also fueling the growth of our business.” 

Naquishbandi explained that, “I think it's quite interesting about how open we've been with experimenting with our business model. Leveraging this wealth of expertise we had on men, and all the passion and all the knowledge and all the insights that we've built over the years has led us to become more open to innovation.”

This new spirit of experimentation has to MR PORTER creating a new category, ‘fine jewelry for men’ and their own in-house brand, MR P. “Both were passion projects representing our commitment to enduring style and both have become pretty established in a short period of time.”

Lesson Two - Think people, not customers

Nasqushbandi told the audience that she believes “we live in a time where the role of marketing is changing… we are inundated with so much data that I fear that marketing has a risk of becoming a reporting function.” She added that because there’s so much focus on short-term sales performance, “this might come at the expense of longer term brand and customer strategic health areas.”

In a world where information is readily available, Naqushbandi believes that “consumers are scrutinising and becoming increasingly skeptical and empowered.” Therefore, the idea of building trust is “becoming increasingly important.” 

The reality of this is that MR PORTER does not see itself as an ecommerce platform. “We see ourselves as that ‘helpful friend’ that’s there to make you look good and make your life easier.” This is also the reason why they decided to launch ‘Health in Mind, ‘ an initiative to support male mental health.

“We felt as a leading aspirational lifestyle platform for men, we not only had the opportunity but also a responsibility to make a difference… We believe great brands are built on the people they serve.” 

To find out what MR PORTER’s and Sabah’s lessons three and four are, (and to hear more about lessons one and two), watch her full presentation here. 

Over 8,000 people attended MAD//Fest on 6-7 July. Speakers included Rachel Waller, Global VP Innovation, Burberry, Sarah Barron, CMO, Domino's, Peter Zillig, Marketing Director, Ford Europe, Susan Hoffman, W+K, and author & broadcaster, David Baddiel. Full sessions are available now on our YouTube channel.