This answers the question: 'What is your name?'
The brand concept is simply the birth of a brand, in other words, the overall idea behind the creation of a brand. The core concept of the brand must be compelling and appealing to anyone that comes in contact with the brand. It should be both relevant for its moment of creation but, more importantly, it should have a lifetime potential. Prominent branding specialist Jean-Noel Kapferer perfectly sums up the approach to the Brand Concept in the following statement:
The best way for a new brand to succeed is to act like an old brand!
In other words, the new brand should develop new products but conceive its strategies like an established brand. If you're wondering how this can be done, then keep reading.
The brand concept is reflected through the name of the brand, its country of origin, its history and story, its visual image, its logo, its colours, its shapes, its language and its total offerings. Luxury fashion brands each have a distinct brand concept that differentiates them from others although they generally share the similar characteristic of 'prestige'. For example, the horse carriage, which is part of the Hermès logo, represents the brand's beginnings in horse saddlery production. The colour orange is also unique to the brand and the taglines in the brand's print advertisements are often in French, reinforcing the brand's foundation and country of origin. Also, Louis Vuitton products are packaged in brown and this has become the colour attributed to the brand. It is also difficult to think about Tiffany without thinking of the colour turquoise, which is the brand's concept colour. These are all components of the brand concept.
The most visible aspect of a luxury fashion brand's concept, however, is the brand name. Traditionally, the brand names adopted are those of the founders or major designers of luxury brands. The names naturally depict the country of origin of the brands as exemplified by the following brands:
Salvatore Ferragamo Yves Saint Laurent Donna Karan Yoji Yamamoto
However, luxury brands also feature brand names that evoke a specific country of origin and sometimes do not typically represent the countries of the brands' founders. These brand names have been adopted for strategic associations with particular countries or for other reasons. They include the following:
Jimmy Choo British
Comme des Garcons Japanese
JP Tod's Italian
Samantha Thavasa Japanese
Paul & Joe French
The adoption of a brand name for a luxury goods company increasingly requires careful handling. Since the brand name is the first point of contact between the consumer and the brand, the name should evoke all the associations that make up the brand. Consumers should easily be able to decipher a brand's connotations from its name without being in contact with its products or advertisements. This is quite challenging to achieve especially since the traditional practice in luxury fashion has been for fashion designers to lend their names, personalities, origins and beliefs to their brands.
The genesis of this practice can be traced to the French and Italian fashion designers of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries such as Pascal Guerlain, Thierry Hermès and Guccio Gucci. During their time, the notion of branding was less sophisticated and focused more on differentiation through brand name and product design. This meant that the business development aspects of the brands often came after the name choice, indicating that the brand concept was not the determinant of the brand name. This approach has been successful for more than two centuries. However, the twenty-first century branding context requires the application of a defined strategy in every aspect of brand development, including brand naming. This factor has led to an emerging trend of brand name adoption that reflects a specific message and appeal to consumers. A classic example is the brand, 'Comme des Garcons', launched by Japanese designer, Rei Kawakubo, which doesn't have its origin in France or the French language. The brand creators realized that as a country, France is recognized as having a strong luxury fashion heritage. They therefore used French fashion appeal in the brand name concept to reach consumers who might not ordinarily associate a Japanese brand name to luxury fashion. Also when Diego Della Valle created the Tod's brand in 1978, he chose the name JP Tod's from the Boston telephone directory because this was the only name he found that sounded good in all languages and also had ease of pronunciation. More importantly, the Tod's brand concept was developed to translate the American casual weekend style through Italian know-how of luxury product development and to introduce luxury weekend fashion style to the world. The brand name was therefore suitable for the brand concept.
Another often cited example of strategic brand naming in the non-luxury fashion category is the Baileys Irish Cream liqueur brand. The brand is named after a supposed 'R.A. Bailey', who also has his signature on the liqueur's bottle packaging, although he doesn't exist. This fictitious character has been used as a banding tool to sell the appeal of Irish beverage alcohol to consumers. The benefit of this conceptual approach is an acceleration of the understanding of the brand concept and the spread of brand awareness among consumers.
In addition to recognizing the symbolic role of the brand name, several traditional old luxury brands currently modify their brand names to reflect a modern look and increase their appeal to the changing tastes of consumers. For example, Christian Dior has erased the forename 'Christian' from its packaging, advertisements and communications. The brand is now simply known as Dior by consumers, although the company name remains 'Christian Dior Couture'. This name adaptation is a variation of the strategy of adopting the brand's initials like Louis Vuitton has done with the 'LV' logo; Yves Saint Laurent with the 'YSL' logo and Dolce & Gabanna with 'D&G'. The adoption of a brand's name initials aids consumer memory recall of the brand name but could also backfire on the brand if mishandled. For example, the adoption of the initials 'CD' could have several meanings for consumers, including 'Compact Disc'. The choice of the brand initials as a logo should only be made by a brand after achieving extensive global awareness and appeal. This would ensure that the brand's perception remains undiminished among consumers.
The brand name choice should also have elements of universality because luxury fashion brands are increasingly global in nature. Consumers of luxury goods appreciate exotic brand names associated with the brand's history and origin. At the same time, the disposable nature of today's consumer means that if the total brand package lacks appeal, then the name of the brand will count for little. There are thousands of brands launched annually but most of them fail and become forgotten as a result of unfeasible tactics. Only the few brands that have well-defined brand concepts and brand strategies are successful.
The brand concept is also reflected in the brand logo. Most luxury brands are built on a foundation of history and heritage. However the evolving luxury market requires an adaptation of the traditional outlook of luxury brands to a modern stance. This has resulted in the tweaking of the logos and the brand names of several luxury companies. As noted earlier, Christian
Dior's logo is now represented simply as 'Dior' (Figure 5.1). Also Diesel, which aspires towards the luxury sphere, has included a tagline 'For successful living', to its logo that interprets its status as a premium brand that helps its consumers show their success. Other brands like Hermès and Lacoste have maintained their traditional logos using their heritage as their symbol, while Prada's logo can be classified as 'hybrid'.
The logo plays a key role in both the brand and product recognition. For example the famous LV monogram of Louis Vuitton and GG of Gucci provide instant recognition of the products of these brands. Other brands like Bottega Veneta minimize the logos on their products and rely on their signature style as a recognition tool.
The strategic objective of accurate representation of the brand concept is to align all its features to show the idea behind the brand in the way that the public can understand. It is also essential for all other elements of the brand to complement the brand concept. These elements are discussed in subsequent sections. The brand concept is the root from which the brand grows and therefore should be solid because some aspects of the branding strategy might change with time but the brand concept remains constant.
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