January 17, 2016
Branding and Labelling in the Fashion Industry
By: Peter Gregory
In fashion, few things are as powerful as branding!
Here at GB Labels, we’re in a fortunate position when it comes to branding. We’ve handled the labelling requirements of thousands of fashion businesses over the years. We’ve seen first-hand the impact a strong brand can have on a fashion business.
In this article, we’ll explain the basics of branding and give you some practical steps that will help you create, improve and test your fashion label’s brand.
In the fashion industry, your brand is the identity of your business. It’s not a logo or a slogan — it’s everything to do with the public persona of your business. When you think of your brand, you have to include everything, from the quality of your customer service to the textiles and patterns you use in your designs.
I like to think of ‘Brand’ as the message people get when they come into contact with your business. Your brand lasts a lifetime, so it’s important to give it a lot of thought.
The best way to think of a brand is as a promise to the customer.
Take the automobile industry, for example. Most cars have four wheels, five seats, an engine, windscreen wipers, indicators and so on, but we all know that there’s a world of difference between a Kia and a Jaguar! Each of these brands attracts its own ideal buyer — someone looking for a certain standard of reliability, economy, luxury, mileage and so on.
The same thing applies to brands in the fashion industry. In fashion, the brand tells the consumer everything they need to know about a garment’s comfort, style, quality, fit, value for money … you get the point!
Branding is important in every industry, of course, but it’s only in the fashion industry where branding really comes into its own.
For example, most of us have a friend with a fashion collection of some sort. It doesn’t matter if our friend is into Burberry coats, Gucci bags or Jimmy Choo shoes, the fact is we understand why they love to collect these things — we may even be envious of their collection. Now imagine the same friend told you they collect branded laundry soap. You might be tempted to re-evaluate your friendship!
In most industries, branding can reassure a customer about the standard of a product they’re about to buy. In the fashion industry, a brand goes beyond simple reassurance; it can compel a customer to buy a product, even if they don’t need it!
There’s a reason we refer to clothing companies as fashion labels. On most fashion products, the label is the only place where you will see the branding. In fact, for decades, the label on an article of clothing was the only way to see who had made the garment.
These days, patterns are playing an increasingly important role in fashion branding. If you see a three-stripe detail on a sports kit, for instance, you know it’s an Adidas product, and Orla Kiely’s bold repetitive floral pattern is recognisable anywhere. For most fashion businesses, however, the label is still the keystone of their brand.
When you’re ordering your labels, try to think beyond the logo. Think about how the label itself conveys the central promise of your brand. Consider the shape and fold of the label (we’ve got a guide to label folds here), the positioning of the label and the material that the label is made out of.
If you’re a startup, you’re probably thinking “where do I even start with branding?” You might have a business name or a logo design, but do you have a proper brand on your hands?
You don’t need a PhD in Marketing to create a great brand. You just have to be willing to spend a few hours working on it. If you take it step-by-step and experiment with different ideas, you’ll come up with something truly unique and special.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to developing your own fashion brand:
Step 1: Know Your Audience
In fashion, your audience is your customer. Before you start, you should get a good idea of who your typical customer is, what they like or don’t like, what their lives are like, what else is in their wardrobe and — perhaps most importantly — what they’re looking for when they’re shopping for products like yours.
You’ve got to have an intimate understanding of your customers, but how you arrive at this understanding is up to you. You don’t need to run focus groups and come up with elaborate buyer personas — you just need to talk to your consumers. This is easy when you sell your own product at a market stall or online shop. Set yourself the goal of talking to each customer for sixty seconds. Ask them where they’re going on holidays next year. Find out what stage of life they’re at. Look at what they’re wearing when they buy from you! If you feel like you know the people who buy from you, you’ll instinctively make better branding decisions.
Step 2: Define Your Brand
The sooner you can put a ‘broad-strokes’ shape on what you’re trying to do with your brand, the better. Remember that your brand should stand up as a promise to the buyer. Every brand in the world, good or bad, says to the buyer “when you buy me, you will get something in return”. When you ‘define your brand’, you want to get specific about what that something is going to be.
To get the ball rolling on Brand Definition, try to answer these two questions:
Step 3: Develop Your Brand Difference
Clothes and accessories are always competing. Whether it’s on an exhibition catwalk, a crowded retail rack or a consumer’s wardrobe shelf, fashion products are always fighting for somebody’s attention. If you want to get your goods into shops and closets, you need to think about what your products offer that other brands don’t.
Spend time really thinking about this Brand Difference, and make sure you shout about it once you know what it is. Your slogan, your marketing methods and your logo all need to show the unique and special thing that your brand is offering. If you have something that nobody else has and you can put that into words, it’ll make your sales and marketing work so much easier for years to come!
Step 4: Discover Your Brand Personality
This is where we get into the more academic side of marketing! Brand Personality is best understood as the ‘human parts’ of your brand that customers relate to when they’re engaging with your brand.
Back in 1997, a Stanford student named Jennifer Aaker theorised that every brand has five dimensions to its brand personality: sincerity; excitement; competence; sophistication and ruggedness. Think about where your brand lies on the scale for each of these values. It’s OK if you don’t want your goods to feel particularly ‘sincere’ or ‘rugged’. What matters most is that you can clearly picture what you do want your brand personality to be so that you can communicate it clearly.
P.S. Jennifer Aaker is now Professor of Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. If you want to read Aaker’s research on the ‘Big Five’ you can do so at this link.
Step 5: Create a Clear, Consistent Brand Message
Everything you do needs to fit in with what your brand is. You should keep your message clear and concise throughout all marketing efforts, whether that be doing offline or online marketing.
Every time someone is exposed to your brand, you’re making an impression on them and you’re showing them what to expect from your business, so don’t waste the opportunity!
Step 6: Engage With Your Audience
If you can maintain a relationship with your customer, you can build brand loyalty and win sales from them for decades to come.
Audience engagement through email, customer service calls and social media can help you reinforce your brand message. Engagement can also help you to stay in control of your brand’s profile: you can respond to negative customer reviews and get a deeper understanding of what your customers need from you.
Step 7: Keep Your Brand Promise
This is the most important part of branding: more important than logo or slogan or advertising budget. If your brand promises a certain standard to its customers, you must deliver on that promise.
If you’re running your business in an ethical, decent way, listening to your customers along the way and doing your best to deliver your finest work, you’ll be amazed at just how far your brand will carry you!
That’s it! I hope this guide helps you to come up with a winning brand. If you have any questions or if you need some advice on fashion labelling and branding, please get in touch. We’re always willing to share our expertise with our customers!
Thanks for reading!