The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Brand Parasite …
October 5, 2006, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Comment

What a crazy, mixed up World … 

Years ago, ‘fashion’ brands were the deliverers of ‘mass market cool’ … and yet now, massperation is achieved through consumer technology.  How weird is that eh?

We’re now in a situation where Levi’s are trying to latch onto Apple’s ‘cool-wave’ by having mannequins in Apple stores. 

Cool by association is an old ploy – but the brand that is in power is very interesting in this case.

If you had told me in 1982 that in the future, a company that made sort-of similar products to the Sinclair Spectrums, Commodore Vic 20’s or Philips G7000 would be cooler than Levi’s, I’d of laughed in your face and yet that is exactly what situation we’re in.

Is it Apple’s genius … or marketing’s decline? 

Well, it’s obviously both – but when you look at what Apple have achieved, you realise [1] what a great job they’ve done with their brand and [2] how much opportunity is out there for the brand who is willing to truly connect with consumers.

17 Comments so far
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Are you saying that Commodore’s Vic 20/C64 ads in the US with William Shatner WERENT cool?!!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Oh dear … bang goes your planning job! Ha.

Comment by Rob

Ah come on now:

THE commodore vic TWENTY.
Six….TEEN k of ram, more valUE for your MONey.

No wonder the C64 sold by the bucketload 😉

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Marketing’s decline? Now, why would you infer that? Just because Levi’s is using Apple as the brand to leverage on? In fact I think Levi’s should have done this ages back. There was an old episode of Apprentice I watched and that one had the contestants designing clothes for GAP, and when picking the winner, the GAP guys said that the most important aspect of youth wear today was to factor in that technology was an integral part of their life.

I find the idea that technology brands leading masspiraton being seen as ‘marketing decline’ doesn’t allow for marketing to evolve. Any one segement is never going to be the perennial torch bearer of mass market cool, yesterday it was fashion brands, today it’s tech brands, tomorrow it may be Luxury brands, LV is already half way there with women.

Comment by Hari

Also, its worth remembering that Levi’s have been investing in the “tech jacket” for a few years; adding various tech gadgets into these products.

I dont think you can call it a decline, but its certainly a major shift. Points 1 and 2 are very very right.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

When I say ‘marketing decline’ I am referring to the category in general, not Levi’s.

Oh and as regards the ‘technology clothing’ … it’s been banged on about as far as 1986 [Sony Walkman Jacket] and overall, it’s about as popular now as it was then – ie: not very popular at all.

Comment by Rob

Technology clothing hasn’t been popular precisely because of that approach. People need technology clothing like they need technology food.

The design emphasis shouldn’t be on marrying technology with clothing, but rather accomodate the use of it. Case in point is the success of Surf Wear or Skate Board wear. The brands in those cases didn’t make shorts with spare wheels (along the lines of jackets with bluetooth built in) but simply accounted for the benefits needed like freedom of movement and water resistant features.

RM: glad to see there’s still some sense in the world of planning. Guess this also seals my planning job.

RC: I still don’t agree with you when you say the category of fashion has gone into a marketing decline. Your basis for that comment is that they are no longer pioneering mass market cool, that was never the category purpose. Mass market cool is now dictated by Luxury brands, while as brands they are not mass, fashion as a topic has today become more mass than ever. …H&M and Karl Lagerfield for example.

Comment by Hari

I always find it interestingthe famous quote of Nike saying they arent part of the “F” word… but they blatantly are.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

No Hari … I am not saying the marketing of the Fashion industry has gone into decline, I am saying the whole of the marketing category has gone into decline.

We now live in a World with more information and more opportunities to reach and connect with consumers than ever before and yet, bar a few certain exceptions, brands have less emotional connection with consumers than at any other point in history.

Sure, this is not just the fault of marketing departments around the World, but their influence on consumers tends to be disproportionate to other departments within organisations.

As for fashion not being about mass market cool … that is totally dependent on which brand you are talking about because in many examples, that was certainly the case – from LEVI’s and Le Coq Sportif in the 80’s right through to Diesel and Ben Sherman of today.

Comment by Robert

Without a doubt they are, as far as I can tell over 70% of all Nike footwear and clothing bought sees no more intesive physical activity than running to catch a bus.

Interestingly the Nike website has a bag described with the following lines “This super chic duffle brightens up your look in retro style…” if that’s not F, I don’t know what the F is.

Comment by Hari

Surely the rise and fall and fall of FCUK is a fantastic example of how mass marketing and over-doing the cool factor can affect a brand.

Ive never seen a better more exact example of a brand using mass market cool to become huge; then suffering as they fail to notice when it has lost the cool factor.

The point about emotional connection is spot on. I wonder how much the model of consumer ambition has played in the detachment or attachment of brands. That is, that brands represent a position in society or quality of life… owning said brand creates happiness by making someone feel like they have reached that place in their life.

I agree with Hari that fashion is becoming more and more mass market. I wonder how much the Primark effect (branded clothing at discount prices) has played in this.

When I was at school, we knew the guy who dealt most of the fake clothing in our town. All the people who went round claiming they had all this excellent clothing…ALL fake. But now people can afford these items if they wait a little out of season.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Exactly Hari.
Yet by loudly stating not to be fashion led, they seem to have avoided going out of fashion.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I think in FCUK’s case … their failure was more to do with their decline of fashion relevance, rather than their advertising relevance.

And whilst NIKE obviously care very much about fashion [and they’re mad to deny it], that still doesn’t mean they are a wholehearted fashion brand anymore so than B&O or Apple – who also appreciate ‘looks’ are important.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of NIKE’s sales are probably from people after a ‘look’ rather than an ‘athletic benefit’, but that’s surely the consumers choice, rather than the brand manufacturer misguided communication.

Comment by Robert

I think FCUK failed to spot themselves becoming un-relevant, they failed to notice people were tired of their shock tactic ads, they failed to spot every warning sign til it was too late.

Instead of going quiet (in order to re-emerge with a new direction) as most fashion brands do after a decline they kept trying to revive their out of style idea.

I dont think it could be classed as misguided, I think its deliberate and intentional distancing. Fashion wont sell to athletes, but athletes will sell fashion.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Well the emotional bit is surely right. But then again in the spirit of evolution maybe we need to explore other forms of connection with the consumer. Especially given the proliferation of brands today and a consumer very aware of the function of advertising and marketing, we may be trying the same old trick a little too long.

Of course at this point it’s purely hypothetical but can we maybe talk about a physical connection with the consumer that leads to a brand (emotion) connection over time, the case of wines for example. Consumers largely describe their choices in that with the use of product description rather than a brand and lifestyle connection.

And then there’s another factore we need to consider about brands and scale. Most examples that we have spoken about from Levis to even Apple itself established emotional connection on the basis of belonging to a minority of the world, and once that strong ‘reason to belive’ of their rebel character is lost, they slip away from their cult status.

RM: Nike is an exception to this, and I belive their secret to success is that they continue to focus on a very very practical aspect of their products which are conveyed with attitude as opposed to the attitude itself being the product.

While one can argue Levis did the same with it’s series of classic commercials about the ‘Fifth pocket’ or ‘Double stitched’ etc., they forgot to take into account that Denim itself was an attitude statement, and once it became mainstream they had no additional layer of attitude to rely on that was ownable.

Comment by Hari

Very very good point on Levis and Denim there.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Oh dear, please lets not go into the whole ‘what brands do and don’t own’ … that’s an area that makes me very, very angry.

Hari, of course your view on denim having a natural ‘attitude’ within the product is right – but you’re a planner, so you should know that sort of thing.

Whilst your hypothosis is interesting [and probably has some real merit to it] this is not why NIKE continually win and LEVI’s have had ups and downs because there’s a shedload of counter examples which I’d go into but I’ve seen the time and I have to be up in 3 hours to catch a plane.

That’s the problem with our industry – we all search for a perfect, one-size-fits-all solution, but it doesn’t exist and as soon as we all understand that and spend time understanding ‘people’ and ‘present’, the better we can all be.

Have a lovely weekend boys, need some sleep.

Comment by Rob

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