Harry Rosen wants to set a new tone for younger consumers

Who: Harry Rosen with Zulu Alpha Kilo and Cairns Oneil for media.

What: A new brand platform and ad campaign using the tagline “Set the tone” that portrays a modern vision of leadership—in work, life, and of course fashion.

When & Where: The campaign launched Tuesday (Sept. 22) and will run for six weeks, with digital and traditional media including print, out-of-home and TV, with an emphasis on sports programming.

Why: Harry Rosen has been around for nearly 70 years and has a strong reputation for high-end suits and men’s fashions. But brands have to evolve and change, said chief marketing officer Trinh Tham.

“We just felt like we were catering to the same customers, and we needed to broaden our customer base. We needed to attract a new generation of customers and we didn’t feel we could do that with the same approach we’d been using for the last several years.”

How: As a brand known for high-end fashion and business attire, “leadership” has long been Harry Rosen’s core brand attribute. But “Set the tone” presents a modern, youthful representation of leadership qualities including inclusivity, passion and creativity. “It’s a lot more about transparency and compassion, and empathy and supporting your team rather than…telling your team what to do all the time,” said Tham.

They contemplated other taglines and discussed how they could “set the tone” without coming across as bossy or too aggressive, she said. But setting the tone is open to interpretation and situational. It might mean being assertive in the boardroom, but it also means being a leader and giving back in the community. In the home, it might mean being present with family and leading by example or cutting back on screen time.

The anchor spot features Toronto actor Emmanuel Kabongo delivering a rousing monologue about setting the tone “for little ones and their big dreams,” and by giving back and giving hope.

Dressing like a leader in a pandemic: That modern approach to leadership coincides with a new way for leaders to dress, including fewer three-piece suits and more hoodies and casual jackets.

That fashion trend has certainly accelerated during the pandemic, with so many people working from home, but that is not why they’re doing the campaign now, said Tham. “The brand strategy was done at the beginning of the year.”

That said, work-from-home wear has definitely taken off. People are looking for items that are easier to clean, comfortable, need less ironing, but also breathable and fashionable. And of all those video meetings mean tops are selling more than bottoms.

What about suits? They’ll come back, she said. “People are still buying suits and sports jackets, they’re still getting measured for tailored clothing, so that’s not dead.”

Casting: They chose Kabongo because they wanted someone with a meaningful personal story and who gives back to their community. Kabongo works with his brother Myck to coach sports camps that help kids build confidence and promote leadership in the community. But he’s also an amazing performer and perfect for the role, said Tham.

“We wanted someone in the role who could convey that quiet confidence, but also show energy and passion. And when I saw his audition tape I was like it’s him, he’s the guy.”

The Wakanda salute: It wasn’t scripted, but the ad was shot just after Chadwick Boseman died last month. “That was all [Kabongo],” said Tham. “Sometimes you get on set, and creativity happens, you don’t plan for it. And he just had this energy and we thought it felt right.”

David Brown