The changing fashions of brand
James Packer, Director at Industry Branding
Over the past five decades, the business of branding has evolved dramatically, from the creation of simple visual identity, to the development of business-critical strategy that drives growth and sustains success. Businesses now exploit brand equity to both attract and retain customers, and to carve-out market-share.
THE MAD-MEN ERA
The development of a strong brand strategy hasn’t always been so revered. Up until the late 90’s, businesses relied heavily on traditional media to drive brand awareness and command public attention. Who can forget the media storm created by Liz Hurley in a Versace dress at the premier of Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994?
At the time, brand building rested firmly in the hands of the advertisers, who created slick campaigns to capture the essence of the product or brand and seize the imagination of the public. Working closely with traditional PR firms, the then-thriving agencies would help businesses foster close relationships and brand associations with celebrities and high-profile events; this was the fastest and most impactful way to get a client’s business or product in the media.
THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION
In the last 15 years, with the emergence of social media as a platform for setting and following trends, public interaction with brands has changed immeasurably. For the brand manager, access to tens of millions of potential customers online has made brand building more important than ever. The brands that can build affinity through social media are the brands that will ultimately succeed. The drive to create authenticity and a digital following has created an unprecedented demand for real-world experiences.
This craving for reality has marked the age of the blogger, as fashion and beauty brands scramble to partner with influential posters and capitalise from their army of loyal followers. A recent study by MuseFind revealed that 92% of consumers trusted influencers more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. Working with digital influencers breaks down the barriers between company and consumer, giving brands a persuasive and trusted platform from which to advertise and promote both their products and their brands.
In recent years, we have witnessed flash mobs, viral content, live-streams, pop-up shops, film sponsorships, and supersonic free-falls, all with the goal of social media trending in mind. The challenge for brands now is getting it right; it’s no longer enough to come up with a stunt that piques short-lived interest, businesses must create unique brand experiences that augment and elevate the brand, and achieve sustained customer engagement.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
With the increasing importance of brand value comes new and exciting opportunities, both for businesses and for brand professionals alike. The most successful brands have dedicated brand managers who craft their brand’s image and ensure they are impeccably presented to the world. Like a manager of a rock band, a brand manager is critical to ensuring that brands stay relevant and appealing in a world that has become increasingly fast-paced and ephemeral.
“CONSUMERS CARE ABOUT MORE THAN JUST THE FASHION LABEL; THEY WANT TO IDENTIFY WITH BRANDS THAT STAND FOR SOMETHING”
While the world is ever-changing, and with it, the place of brand strategy in business, the process of creating a brand identity - the logo, the colour palette, the style of imagery - has changed very little; the core principles of identity creation have remained the same. However, the pursuit of purpose - a story to tell and a reason for being - has changed the face of branding for good. Purpose provides clarity and enables a business to make critical decisions about which activities are right or wrong for the brand. What events to sponsor. Where to be seen. Who the brand should be endorsed by. What its stance is on ethics, the environment and fair labour.
Millennial consumers care about more than just the fashion label; they want to identify with brands that stand for something. TOMS Shoes’ one-for-one business model donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair bought, and has given away over 60 million pairs of shoes since its inception. They found that when they told customers about the company’s mission and asked if they’re likely to buy more products, the answer was unequivocally yes. To this end, TOMS have invested more time into telling people about their story; features like VR headsets in their stores allow people to go on a ‘Virtual Giving Trip’ and see the positive impact of their purchase.
As the ethical fashion movement gains momentum, we’ve seen H&M launch their conscious collection, brands like Patagonia - who aim to ‘cause no unnecessary harm’ - increasingly being worn as social statements, and Stella McCartney’s designs epitomising and setting the bar for ethical high-end fashion. Projecting a clear purpose is key to helping brands find authentic and novel ways of presenting themselves. It helps ensure that they’re remembered for the right reasons. Be it by using ethics, design or endorser, when it comes to fashion brands, fortune will favour the brave.
Spring / Summer 2017
This edition launches the new look of our trend magazine, which for the first time incorporates our new corporate branding. Inspired by the world of fashion we bring you new ideas and insights that help to grow your brands and delight your customers.