This chapter doesn't provide a magic formula or a definite model for developing or managing a luxury fashion brand that would guarantee instant success and perpetual steady income. However it provides a guide to aid in strategic thinking through a critical analysis of brand development and brand management issues related to luxury fashion. As we all know, fashion and its industry is ever-changing, but what remains constant are branding principles and strategies that can be applied in luxury fashion and beyond.
We've already seen the importance of branding to the luxury fashion sector, and will now evaluate how luxury brands are developed and how they can be managed successfully. First, let's take a look at the attributes of luxury brands. A true luxury brand exhibits 10 core characteristics as indicated below:
1 innovative, creative, unique and appealing products;
2 consistent delivery of premium quality;
3 exclusivity in goods production;
4 tightly controlled distribution;
5 a heritage of craftsmanship;
6 a distinct brand identity;
7 a global reputation;
8 emotional appeal;
9 premium pricing; 10 high visibility.
Other important elements of a luxury brand are an indelible impression, a recognizable style, fast and high fashion design turnover, a strong country-of-origin link, especially a country with a strong reputation as a source of excellence in luxury fashion (such as France and Italy).
The key tools of luxury fashion branding are differentiation and emotional appeal. For example, when you see a woven luxury leather bag or shoe, you'll likely think of Bottega Veneta. In the same manner, tweed or pearls on a product is likely to evoke a Chanel image. This is because these brands have differentiated themselves through these specific product attributes that also serve as a signature for the brands. However, product differentiation forms a part of the tangible aspect of branding which is a complement to the intangible aspects of branding as explained further in the chapter. The intangible aspects of luxury branding include the psychological responses that consumers exhibit towards luxury fashion that leads to an emotional attachment to specific brands and their products and services. Emotional appeal connects with the consumer's sub-conscious, sensitivity, intelligence and personality. This implies an intimate relationship and a special bond between brands and their consumers.
In the current rife fashion market where the consumer is overwhelmed with product variety and choices, purchase decisions are mostly based on brand choices. This means that the brand that consistently reinforces its appeal to consumers through its differentiated offerings will draw the most loyal customers.
How can a brand differentiate itself from its competitors? The first step is through finding the answers to the following three questions:
1 What feature does my brand have that will appeal to customers?
2 What makes my brand unique, which competitors cannot copy?
3 What element do I need to make my brand a better choice than others that offer similar products?
After establishing the answers to these questions to ascertain a clear indication of the differentiation and emotional appeal features, the process of brand creation and development is set into motion.
In order to create a luxury fashion brand, four factors should be ingrained in the subconscious of every participant of the brand-creation process. These points include the following:
• Strategic thinking the ability to have a defined brand vision, foresight and orientation towards long-term brand benefits.
• Creativity the ability to use imagination, resourcefulness and innovation in creating and designing brand elements.
• Clarity a clear idea of everything the brand stands for, both for the company and for the target customers.
• Consistency a uniform approach in designing every aspect of the brand and in delivering every communication regarding the brand.
The role of these points will become clearer in the following sections. The process of brand strategy development is stimulating and the results can be positively overwhelming. This step-by-step procedure, which I prefer to call an adventure, is explained in detail in the following sections.
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