Good marketing = good business

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26/02/2017

I sat at the catwalk today (part of London Fashion Week) and ruminated about the sudden arrival and conversely, the rapid demise of fashion brands. The biggest marketing blunder you can make in fashion retailing is to be just not fashionable. Austin Reed, with 155 stores and almost 1,000 staff, appointed administrators in April 2016, a few days after being taken over by hedge-fund Alteri Investors. The company sold some stores and closed many others. (When was the last time you shopped in any of their brands?) The traditional gents clothing market served by Austin Reed has been undermined by the trend for casual clothes and sportswear; additionally Austin Reed suffered from being ‘stuck in the middle’ of this market, neither luxury, exclusive nor low price.

And did you know that American Apparel the large once-trendy young person’s clothing retailer has not made a profit since 2009 and applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.? It has more than 200 stores worldwide, with 20 in the UK. Basically losing business to fast fashion. My daughter bought American Apparel up until 2 years ago, but is now a Brandy Melville and Top Shop fan. That’s how fast your fashion-conscious market disappears.

Fortunately, though, there are success stories! But there’s usually a very good reason why. My wonder of the moment is the phenomenal international growth of Lululemon. This brand was founded by Chip Wilson in Canada in 1998. It is a yoga-inspired, technical athletic apparel company for women and men and the original store concept quickly developed a cult following.

The vision was to create more than a place where people could get gear to sweat in, they wanted to create a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical aspects of healthy living, mindfulness and purpose. It was also important to the ethos of the company to create real relationships with their ‘guests’ (customers to you and me) and understand what they were passionate about, how they liked to sweat and help them celebrate their goals. Lululemon have successfully built and transferred this core proposition around the globe.

The phenomenal growth of this brand is a shining example of how consistent and rigorous brand and marketing at the core of a business is key to long-term growth. The product itself (superior quality athleisurewear) has remained relevant by keeping close to customers and elite athletes who provide constant feedback to the design team. The brand purpose has never wavered and remains as – the desire to empower people to reach their full potential through providing the right tools and resources and encouraging a culture of leadership, goal setting and personal responsibility alongside the core values of quality, product, integrity, balance, entrepreneurship, greatness and fun – lived by the Lululemon employees every day and at the heart of a unique company culture.

“We live a life we love. We set our goals to align with our vision, and it’s why, so often, our one-year goals become today’s reality”.

What Lululemon have done is successfully reach across international boundaries with a human, unifying thought at the heart of their brand, one that transcends local cultural barriers and with a product that evolves to weather the fast fashion fads.

Today the company has grown to revenues over $2Bn from over 350 stores + online, quietly but effectively competing with giants like Nike, Adidas and Underarmour. In the fickle world of fashion, this seems to be a success story based on a consistent and clear brand strategy, core proposition and core values. If you don’t want to be caught fashion-napping talk to us at gigCMO for some fashionista marketing advice.