Archive for the ‘Branding Dont’s!’ Category

This is a sad tale of an illicit love affair. It all began innocently enough. I was at a department store and happened upon a really sweet, sexy bag. Oh yeah—this baby had just the right of leather, buckles, hardware and compartments to get my motor running. I loved it, and was about to plunk down some hard- won greenbacks for it, but no dice: my eyes spotted the huge logo tag on the side, upon which were inscribed the fateful words “Jessica Simpson”. Though I was madly in love with the bag, I had to put it down and walked away, heart-broken.

You see, the crowd I run with here in Seattle tends to be a little on the high-brow side, and a logo’d Jessica Simpson bag would be the end of my street cred.  I’m sure Jessica Simpson is a great gal, and I’m sure she’d be fun to hang with, but the negative public perception imparted upon the poor Ms. Simpson from her reality TV Show “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica”  continues to exist, whether she likes it or not.

How can Jessica fix this problem? Well, I would have bought that bag if the name and logo had been subtle or cryptic. If you want to tell me on the hang tag that the bag is a Jessica Simpson creation, that’s fine. I just don’t want to shout it out to the world when I’m walking down the street. I want a bag that can become part of my iconic personal style, but not an extension of Jessica Simpson’s unfortunate negative public perception.

Dear Jessica, if you’re out there, please know that I love your stuff and even own a sweet pair of your shoes. But in the meantime, I think we need to work on your product branding. Because I’m sure I’m not the only gal who walked away from your sweet bag.

A celebrity fashion label that gets it right is William Rast. Obviously we all know by now that this is Justin Timberlake’s creation, but because the name is a made-up character, it allows the wearer to create a personal identity with the brand. This is ultimately what you want for your brand: for your customers to fill it in with their own wonderful associations. Set the tone, give them direction, but let their imagination run wild.

And hopefully you’ll be on your way to smashing success.

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This February, I was lucky enough to carve out some time away from client work to check out these trade shows myself. Since I am in the business of branding fashion companies, and helping them to create sales and marketing tools, I needed to see first-hand how brands hold up in the hot glare of the fashion world’s klieg lights! I was also lucky enough to walk the shows with two hot buyers from Seattle who and to hear what they had to say when shopping for lines to carry. Insider knowledge rocks!

Standing Out
There was alot of “me-too” branding at PROJECT and POOL. Understandably, fashion is about trends so it’s important for your line to be timely. However, branding is about standing out, and very few brands stood out when walking past the booths. I saw alot of hard-to-read, poorly branded signage with grungy logos that looked like chewed up garbage, and hardly distinguishable from the brand at the next booth. (The guilty shall remain nameless.) With buyers walking past your booth at warp-speed just trying to get done with their appointments before they collapse, it’s crucial to have your brand name stand out on your signage. Help them find you. Help them love you.

Insider tip:
Apparently, my two nameless buyers from Seattle were really hot to see who was getting press, and were more likely to stop by booths where press clippings were made prominent. A quote from one of my shameless industry sources: “Sadly, if Britney (Spears) is wearing it, so will everyone else!” While I think this quote is a bit extreme, having press clippings prominently placed at your booth signals to a buyer that your line is worth carrying, because customers are more likely to seek it out and buy it if they’ve seen it in their favorite magazine. So, get working on that PR, ok?

Make it Easy
While tagging along with my two buyers at their appointments with designers and sales reps, I learned a few things about how to optimize your sales process and tools.

First off, having a simplified line really helps. Overwhelming buyers with too many options in your line can cause them to glaze over and run away. Chances are they’ve been to about 40 other booths, and all they can think about is taking a bio-break or feeding their growling tummies. Make their choices simple, and make your sales tools (line sheet, look book, etc.) easy to read and order from.

Also, help them see how your product is best worn, or what other items it could go with. Helping them to merchandise your product helps them make money, and makes you look like a smart business person. Which, of course, you are. 🙂 Extra credit: show them you have a signage kit that helps them sell their product. Sweet!

Well, that’s enough for now. I’ve got more impressions from POOL and PROJECT that I will add later. Hang in there. Happy designing and see you soon!

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