Often designers wonder how to create their fashion brands, and wonder where to start when branding themselves. Honestly, there are many books and articles out there – the more you read, the better. In this article, Stephen Cuomo, Executive Producer of Santa Fe Fashion Week, gives advice about pitfalls one can avoid when building fashion brands. -Amanda Caserta
Branding is where the money is. There is a need and calling for you to brand yourself and your fashion brand. All fashion brands have their loyalists. Top luxury brands such as Lexus, Tom Ford, and Wynn are high end brands that charge a premium for their perceived added value. Where does this value come from? In a word: Branding! “
“Consumers today are buying into a lot more then just a commodity” said Marc Beckman, co-founder of Designers Management Agency, which reps Proenza Schouler,Andre Leon Talley and Nicola Formichetti. While many companies offer sales or discounts on a regular basis to wow buyers, customers become trained to wait for the next sale. This can most certainly be a kiss of death. All businesses – especially fashion brands – feel pricing pressures. So how are the above mentioned companies able to demand a higher premium than their counterparts?
Companies that are able to command a higher price look for ways to raise their value proposition. Steve McKee, the Author of “Power Branding” talks about the concept of a companies share of voice is important, saying “the higher share of voice generates higher levels of awareness and recall, but it also generates confidence.”
When building a fashion brand (or any brand for that matter), make sure you have what every piece in place in order to back it up. There is no use in building your brand only to rush to tell the public how bad your product is once they receive it. Amanda worked for a company to help drive traffic to their website. She created campaigns, used every SEO technique she had up her sleeve, spent a decent amount of money on internet advertising, and worked their Social Media. Finally, after all that and going after more and more baffling analytics, she found that the company that was hosting the website was down 10% of the time. Imagine you’re compelled to go to a website and in the middle of making a purchase find the website down, or you’re about to pull the trigger on your purchase, and the site goes down.
Build Your Brand
Be prepared for success! When orders start coming in, will your company be able to ramp up to meet demand? By all means, do not try to be all things to all people. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the “Tipping Point”, discusses the rise and fall of Airwalk shoes. It was a little-known shoe brand that catered to skateboarders in Southern California, but sought to expand its reach. At the risk of alienating their core customers, they began targeting cutting-edge hipsters by making the brand more mainstream, and putting their shoes in big department stores. By doing so, they went from having uniquely-styled shoes, only found in some of the hippest boutiques, to just another shoe just like any other shoe you could find in a department store. Sales fell dramatically. It is a fine line to walk, while your company wants to stay relevant, peoples’ taste change. William Lauder, CEO of cosmetics manufacturer Estee Lauder says, “The challenge for any brand marketer is how to continue to maintain a modernity or contemporaneous look to your brand while not changing it so much that a loyal consumer says, ‘It’s not my brand any more’. It is quite a challenge.”
Consistency is Key
I saw this first-hand when I was a stock broker with Merrill Lynch in Las Vegas, Nevada. You could tell that a lot of Merrill clients had a bit of bravado that matched their Merrill Brokerage Accounts. Merrills commissions, much like the other big firms on the street, were quit pricey. Then the advent of discount houses came along with E-trade, and their $5 online trades. Merrill, in my humble opinion, flinched, and offered online trades as well. Trades that, in essence, could be done without even consulting their broker sent a message to our clients that our opinions did not matter. This was the first time the market broke 10000. Any one could pick a winner – it was a raging bull market (or a very good, hot market). Once the dot com bubble busted, the damage was done. When clients could have used the advise of their broker, clients were already accustomed to online pricing. Merrils’ new platform is more of a fee-based platform which they will tell you plays well into the fiduciary relationship between client and broker, but in realty helps the firms predict what the firms future earnings based on assets under management. But that is a story for another time.
People that know me, know I am a big believer in networking. As a former insurance agent with Met Life and later a VP with Smith Barney I understand its value. Often at networking events I would meet people with a sphere of influence that could help me grow both my business as well as theirs. In the financial industry, we call these people “connectors” – the ones that know when money is in motion. This blog will help fashion professionals navigate the networking playing field. It’s Like Playing “Connect the Dots” CPAs are usually one of the first people that know when one of their clients have just come into a large sum of money be it the sale of a business, or their Real Estate holdings. I, in turn, might have a client that is in need of tax advise. I’ve seen divorce attorneys that have had clients…