First, let's look at the concept of branding. Brands are powerful and symbolic elements that have the potential of influencing cultures, societies and generations. They play a daily role in our lives from the product decisions and choices we make to the people we choose to speak to or associate with. They are also wealth-creators and a source of a steady income stream for the companies that own them. These statements will become clearer as you read further.
The concept of branding has been in existence for hundreds of years. The origin of brands comes from the times when early cattle-rearing men stamped their ownership on their livestock by burning a mark of their name or identity on the cattle, to distinguish one cattle-farmer's stock from another's. Through this means of differentiation, the good quality cattle could be easily identified. This crude method has translated into the trademarks and logos of today, which forms a crucial part of the brand.
The current definition of a brand has however evolved from marks, names, logos and shapes to elaborate marketing development and strategies. The result is the creation of something powerful and consistent, which has the ability to produce emotional and psychological attachment with consumers and financial value for the brand owner.
A brand symbolizes a guarantee and credibility that assures the consumer that what they are about to purchase will deliver its promise. The instant recognition and definition of certain products is mainly as a result of the brand. However, a product is not a brand and neither is a service a brand nor a company a brand. If we were to go by the book definition of branding from the experts, we might summarize branding as the following:
A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, design or a combination of these that is intended to identify the product of a seller and to differentiate it from those of competitors. It is an identifiable entity of a company's total offerings that makes specific and consistent promises of value, which results in an overall experience for the consumer or anyone who comes in contact with the brand.
A product is a commodity that is made in a factory, which possesses attributes and features, making it tangible. A brand is the sum of all experiences and communications received by the consumer resulting in a distinctive image in their mind-set based on perceived functional and emotional benefits, which makes it intangible. This means that branding and all its associations reside in the mind of the consumer, therefore you and I (the consumers) are important players in the branding scenario. Products can be easily copied and become outdated, but brands are unique and timeless.
Branding has become very prominent in the last fifty years as a core aspect of marketing and business strategy. The concept has been stretched beyond the product or service application level to become one of the most important business categories. As a modern concept, branding can be applied to anything from products and services, to companies, countries and even individuals.
Every brand possesses the characteristics of identity, promise, value and differentiation. These are the features that create the relationship between the consumer and the brand. The fundamental benefit of a brand is value-creation both for the brand owner and the consumer. From the consumer perspective it is 'the promise and delivery of an experience', while from a business perspective it is 'a distinguishable piece of intellectual property and an intangible asset that secures future earnings.'
Having said this, let's now look at luxury goods and their interesting position in the whole branding set-up.
The luxury and prestige fashion goods sector utilizes fierce brand development strategies in its overall marketing strategy development, visibly in communications. Luxury brands recognize that the art of product design, innovation and aesthetic beauty can only be effectively portrayed through creating strong brands that appeal to the psychology of consumers. Branding is the lifeline of the luxury industry while design and creativity are its bedrocks. Without branding, there would be no luxury goods.
Luxury fashion brands strive for innovation, differentiation and appeal. This is because the fashion business is forward-thinking. Fashion always incorporates the past and the future and is hardly preoccupied with the present. It draws inspiration from the past in order to create the desire of the future. The present is only a temporary phase because if fashion is here today, it is already old-fashioned. This is where the role of branding is most prominent because it fuels the continuous desire of luxury products despite the constant changes of fashion.
Luxury brands set the fashion trends for every season during the fashion weeks held in Paris, Milan, New York, London and other prominent cities. In the past century, haute couture designers like Christian Dior and Valentino decreed the colour of every fashion season and the cut of every jacket through their designs. Presently, the scenario is gradually changing as a result of a wider choice and variety in brand and product offering fuelled by branding. However, luxury fashion designers are still considered like demi-gods in the fashion business. They tell the consumer public what to wear and not to wear, indirectly determining the tastes of the fashion society. If Marc Jacobs of Louis Vuitton showcases white as the colour of a fashion season; behold the world of fashion adopts white. If Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel decides that wedges should be the must-have accessories for a fashion season, then wedges it must be. If Jean-Paul Gaultier at Hermès rises in the morning and is suddenly inspired by a dream he had of an African safari trip, he can decide that zebra prints are the new season's fashion flag and so it will be. The consumer population awaits the judgements of these luxury fashion designers and the mass fashion brands take the dictation of these trends to the mass-production manufacturing factory.
But you may ask; who bestows the luxury fashion designers and their brands with such powers? How can we trust their opinions without question and how can the fashion population become like enthusiastic robots under their control? The answer is simple: luxury brands have the power of BRANDING! If you believe that brands like Dior or Gucci have the absolute prerogative to determine the appearance of the entire global fashion consumer population every season, then you've acceded to the absolutely powerful and commanding brand strengths of luxury brands. Now, take a look at the following brand logos:
LOUIS VUITTON PAUL & JOE®
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