The Giorgio Armani branding strategy is one of the most extensive and yet one of the most meticulously managed in the luxury fashion sector. The brand has skillfully crafted a single umbrella identity, personality and image from which other sub-brands have been developed. This is a delicate and risky venture for a luxury brand but the success that Giorgio Armani has achieved in managing a portfolio of sub-brands under the platform of a single brand is both remarkable and worth emulating.
The Armani branding strategy functions on three different levels, that have been used to craft the brand's identity and personality. It is also the tool that is applied in the projection of the brand's image to its public. The three levels are:
1 The man, Giorgio Armani
2 The parent brand, Armani
Giorgio Armani has redefined the concept of using the power in a brand name to extend its product and brand categories. When consumers hear the name 'Armani', an image of the designer is likely to pop into their heads, followed by certain linked attributes of the brand. For those that haven't been exposed to an image of Armani (and this is rare), a collection of abstract brand associations forms in their minds. In both cases, perceptions of what the Armani brand represents is immediately developed in the mind. These perceptions are likely to be influenced by descriptive words like glamour, style, sexiness, expertise, talent, sophistication, trend and precision. These can be described as some of the elements of the Armani brand personality, which the public understands through the brand image.
These elements can also be used to describe the personality of the man Giorgio Armani because the Armani brand personality is an extension of the personality of Giorgio Armani himself. This personality comprises the overall image that consumers associate with the brand or any product or service that has 'Armani' attached to it. This means that Giorgio Armani is the brand and the brand is he. The man Giorgio Armani and everything he represents has been stretched to form the parent brand of Armani, making up the first and second levels of the Armani brand strategy previously listed. The third level of function of the Armani brand, which comprises the sub-brands, is the main essence of the Armani branding strategy.
Armani offers a luxury fashion product portfolio comprising haute couture, prêt-à-porter and children's apparel, leather goods such as bags and shoes, underwear, jewellery, fragrance, cosmetics and eyewear. The brand has also diversified into non-fashion product ranges such as cafés, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, flowers and even sweets and chocolates. In addition, the company has varied its offering in different ways. For example, in 2003 Giorgio Armani worked in collaboration with luxury carmaker Mercedes to design a limited edition CLK Mercedes-Benz car.
The Armani brand has been stretched into seven sub-brand categories ranging from high-end to medium priced men's and women's fashion goods, children's fashion and home products. These sub-brands are aptly named the following:
1 Giorgio Armani
2 Armani Collezioni
3 Emporio Armani
4 Armani Jeans
5 Armani Exchange
6 Armani Casa
A look at this list indicates that each of the sub-brands has 'Armani' linked to it. This means that the brand power lies in the name 'Armani' with all its associating attributes already described.
The seven main brand categories have different functions in the overall Armani branding mix. They range from women's and men's wear collections to diffusion lines that target different segments of the luxury market. The first is Giorgio Armani, which represents the most exclusive and highest priced products of the brand. It features goods showcased on the brand's runway fashion shows such as apparel for men and women, accessories, eyewear, cosmetics and perfumes. The Giorgio Armani brand is the ambassador of the Armani empire and represents its image, heritage, personality, product precision and high quality. It also generates great publicity for the entire Armani group of brands.
Armani Collezioni is the diffusion sub-brand of the Giorgio Armani range. It features products like fine tailored clothing, sportswear and male and female accessories. The product group also includes home furnishings. The Emporio Armani sub-brand is targeted at young modern-minded and fashion oriented consumers. It includes clothing, accessories, eyewear and jewellery. Armani Jeans is the denim sub-brand offering a jeans-based product category. Armani Exchange is the sub-brand for casual wear and accessories with a lower premium-pricing strategy. Armani Casa is the home furnishings and decorations sub-brand, while Armani Junior is the children's products sub-brand.
Although the sub-brands have different products targeting different segments of the luxury consumer market, the product groups however share a common feature of the Armani touch and style, seen through the signature characteristics such as the fit and finish of the clothing, the exquisite materials used for the accessories and the exceptional attention to detail given to each product. The offerings of the brand have also successfully transcended beyond fashion and propelled Armani to a lifestyle brand.
The key to the effective brand extension strategy of Armani is that the brand had an early recognition of the important role of the luxury consumer in a brand's success. While several luxury brands focused on the product as the key selling factor of their brands, Armani concentrated on the consumer and on crafting its brand based on consumer needs and characteristics. This was achieved by identifying the different luxury consumer segments that exist and designing products that would appeal to them. Through understanding the consumer segment structures and their driving needs, Armani adopted the brand extension strategy of sub-brands; and the brand diversification strategy of non-fashion categories. As a result, Armani has successfully created a high-clout brand that has revolutionalized the branding strategy of the luxury goods industry.
Although Armani has been criticised for extending its product category to include ranges that are too mass-market focused to be considered as luxury goods, for example jeans, the Armani brand-extension strategy has been successful. This is because the brand has effectively managed to maintain its superiority and high quality standards across the offerings of all the subbrands. It has also implemented a uniform marketing mix strategy for all the sub-brands and the same level of expertise and skill to products across every range.
Another factor of the success of the Armani brand is the genius of the brand founder Giorgio Armani, both as a designer and as a businessman. He is one of the few luxury fashion designers that have successfully combined creativity with astute business sense and commercial savoir-faire.
The Armani brand extension strategy has also been emulated by other brands. Louis Vuitton and Dior for example have introduced demin and sports accessories collections, although these are not sold under a sub-brand name. Burberry has also extended its brand, a la Armani.
The Armani brand-extension model is represented in Figure 10.2.
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