Faceless Fashion – Is it time fashion brands told more of a story to gain brand loyalty and drive sales?

By Phoebes Garland – Garland & Garland Fashiongroup_shot_sportscraft_ambassadors

Australian chain store Sportscraft is doing it and the Japanese brand Uniqlo have just announced theirs. Brand ambassadors are nothing new for department stores, but chain stores are now jumping to put a ‘face’ to their brand in the hope of finding new customers and converting them into a loyal base.

But is it enough?

From a commercial point of view ‘celebrity’ definitely sells, and appointing a high profile brand ambassador may bestow brand credibility through celebrity endorsement, but does it really create an authentic story to tell long term? It is no secret the brand ambassadors are doing it for a fee (and there is certainly nothing wrong with that), and a cynical public knows the reality, so for the appointment to bring credibility and sustainable benefit beyond a headline it helps to also have a compelling backstory. The first question, which should be asked of a brand ambassador, is whether they are a believable customer of the product in the eye of the retail consumer? This depends on both the buyer and the seller. While a blogger with 150,000 followers may influence a 21 year old, will they influence a 50-year-old woman in choosing a brand?

Over the last 10 years we have seen the sad decline in the number of owner-occupier fashion labels. In Australia, some of these businesses have been sold, many more have closed, and with each departure the industry loses the personal face of each brand. Fashion is becoming faceless and the influx of multinational chain stores is adding to the homogenous face of fashion.

3495955044_4aaba6fcc4_zWhile some Australian companies may still be privately held, the owner of the company tends to be so busy behind the scenes that’s it’s easy for them to forget the importance of marketing their own brand by being their own public face. And many have compelling stories to tell. Customers usually know very little about the background of the brand, its owner/s and employees who have often spent lifestyles honing and developing style. Consequently we now have a lot of fashion companies that are merely that: companies. There is nothing personal the customer can relate to from the outside.

With most high-end brands, the designer still has a face and they use their reputation and presence as a personalisation factor in their marketing, but there are too many that aren’t taking advantage of the inherent value their brand has simply through being an organic organisation created from vision rather than a tentacle in a corporate octopus created to fill a market segment. I have noted there are plenty of fashion companies that may have 50 to 70 wholesale accounts in each state, and while they have a very good business commercially, their marketing leaves a lot to be desired as the majority of their retail customers – and sometimes even their wholesale buyers – know very little about the people behind the business. They wouldn’t recognise the owner if they walked into the shop half the time.

Has manufacturing offshore diluted customers into thinking some of the smaller fashion brands are just another mass produced label? It’s no secret customers choice is enormous and growing, but there is also a ‘sameness’ in the market, particularly when you stroll through large shopping centers. Perhaps what is missing more and more is the uniqueness of each label; the story behind it. The customer’s ability to relate, and want to buy that brand, because it was a ‘designer’ label brand with an actual ‘designer’ behind it. Perhaps the word designer in fashion has now been more replaced with product development? Is it time we put a personal approach to selling fashion?

dh_gomes-20130322104716483066-620x349When David Jones launched their Australian designers campaign it was a huge success for the Australian department store in creating an instant point of difference. In April 2014 Westfield launched a similar campaign around Dion Lee, Romance Was Born and We Are Handsome to coincide with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Both the David Jones and Westfield campaigns employed smart marketing strategies showcasing how the companies were supporting Australian designers as people not just as products.

The personal touch counts.

Recently one of my own large accounts made mention they were changing their strategy. Traditionally they buy large quantities in many different categories and do huge volumes in sales, but they are also very interested in developing a story for all the labels they buy. They want to highlight the owner, showcase them on all marketing material and create loyalty with their customers.

There is no doubt consumers love to have something to relate to, especially the rags to riches stories: the Hollywood star discovered at a supermarket checkout or the designer who started a business with a couple of hundred dollars and had to waitress to buy fabric. Along the same line, customers love the ‘behind the scenes’ shots and videos; they want a peek into the world of how a fashion brand came to fruition through creativity and passion rather than a leveraged takeover. While the business owner may think this is mundane, they might be surprised their customers are yearning for it. Essentially these customers want a relationship with brands and want to see part of their world. It breeds authenticity and customers who themselves become your ambassadors.

With social media making it so much easier to reach out to customers, and create a more intimate relationship between the fashion brand and the customer, and with so much mass marketed fashion for the consumer to buy, isn’t it time fashion brands started adding a more personal edge to their marketing strategy?

phoebe_soloAbout the author

Phoebes Garland is a Features Writer for EXPOSED Online and co-owns Garland & Garland Fashion with Robert Garland, a leading fashion agency based in Sydney. Phoebes also owns Fashion Initiative an online fashion destination covering business of fashion, fashion, luxury and events. Described as a” Power Agent” by Ragtrader magazine. Between the two of them, Phoebes & Robert Garland have over 50 years sales experience in fashion, publishing and advertising.

Garland & Garland Fashion is a respected leading boutique fashion agency based in Sydney, and they are regularly sought for comment from various media and the fashion industry on business fashion topics, fashion and issues. Phoebes was named as The Ones To Follow In 2014: The Top 20 Fashionista Hot List of 2013.

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