August 12th 2014

Creating a fashion brand

by Martin O'Toole

MODA

Yesterday was my fifth appearance as a speaker at the UK's largest fashion trade show event, known as Moda. As usual, the Birmingham NEC was alive with an incomprehensibly vast array of stands run by hundreds of fashion brands - from huge and well-established brands to start-ups who are in the process of creating a fashion brand. The event is made up of menswear, womenswear, accessories and lingerie & swimwear halls. It is MASSIVE and a real treat to visit for anyone with a passion for fashion, design, and of course fashion branding.

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My seminars vary in topic, from discussing the importance of branding, to concepts on content marketing, responsive web design and e-commerce. Between my seminars, I usually have plenty of time to wander around the space - meet up with a few fashion brand contacts, check out emerging brands and catch the odd catwalk show.

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One fundamental point arises every time I speak at these events - which is made more prevalent as I speak to audience members - is that there are still an alarming number of brands (small AND large) that do not invest in the absolute basics of brand strategy (and then ask me why their web site isn't converting or why consumers aren't engaging with their social media content).

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Creating a fashion brand isn't just about designing and manufacturing beautiful clothes. You have to put as much (arguably more) effort into developing and marketing your brand. It does rather surprise me that some fashion brands put so much effort into their product, and then fall completely short when it comes to developing the brand wrapper. Granted, there are many reasons for this - funding being a key factor.

So where does one start in branding or rebranding a fashion label? In short, exactly the same place you'd start with any brand. At the beginning...

1. DEFINE YOUR BRAND STRATEGY

A brand isn't just a product, or indeed a logo. A brand is everything that makes up the hopes, dreams and drivers behind a business and its products. Whether you're a start-up fashion brand or an established business that's perhaps lost your way through the various trials and tribulations that running a business presents; ask yourself whether you've properly examined your brand and what it stands for. If not, how can you be expected to successfully tell your brand story to your consumers through digital and content marketing? Simply put: if you have no brand, you have no story.

  • Take some time and consider what are the values of your brand?
  • What do you stand for and what's at the very core of your brand?
  • What's the vision for your brand and your business?
  • How would you define the personality of your brand?
  • How does it look, behave and talk?
  • Then also consider what the fundamental proposition is to your brand. What's its position?
  • To avoid this element of your brand workshop being rather 'fluffy', ensure that you can prove this belief and proposition.

You are a fashion brand. You sell attention to detail, passion, style and beauty. So when it comes to your product photography and look-book, ensure that the same level of care goes into its production. Yes, photography, art direction and graphic design are all costs you could do without. But notwithstanding the fact it will undoubtedly make your product more attractive, ask yourself why a consumer should buy your brand if you haven't presented it as supremely credible?

2. DEFINE YOUR POINTS OF DIFFERENCE

As a brand marketer, this is the first thing I look for: How can I market this brand easily - setting them apart from their competition? There HAVE to be some points of differentiation between your brand and your competitors.

  • Is it the uniqueness of your product design or your base of manufacturing?
  • Is it your passion for detail or the heritage behind your brand story?
  • Is it all about colour? Or the fundamental attitude behind the brand?

There really are a hundred different ways to tackle this, but the only way you can successfully do so is to seriously consider what your brand is made up of.

3. DEFINE YOUR BRAND STORY

Whilst some of the earlier work you do within your brand strategy is internal, defining your brand story is very much more of an external piece.

  • Consider how you might, it a few short paragraphs, convey everything that's great about your brand. Do so as if you're writing it to your potential consumer.
  • Ensure it's engaging, ensure it uses the right tone of voice (that which you've defined earlier).
  • Ensure it shows that YOU are experts at what you do - that you fully understand the issues that your fashion consumer faces - and that's why your brand exists.
  • If you can prove that you understand consumers' issues better than they do, then they're entirely more likely to buy, share, or recommend your brand. Defining your brand story is also an important step towards defining your content strategy.

Next, there's a whole load of work to be done around defining your target personas, which I'll tackle in another blog. In the meantime though, remember that in the first instance, creating a fashion brand is just like creating any other brand. You can apply the same brand strategy - the point being you need a strategy in the first place. Otherwise, you're just another fashion brand in a bloody great sea of them. If you don't know who you are, how can you possibly hope to tell other people who you are? This is the difference between floating and sinking.

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