Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of judging the first ever business award at the Graduate Fashion Week Awards.
The idea behind it was to recognise and reward an innovative business that filled a gap in the market. Last night, we applauded Sebastian Collinge onto stage as he received his award for his business Attire Care, which creates stylish shoe and garment care products here in the UK.
Judging the awards was an intriguing challenge. As a panel, we wanted to identify a young company that had not only a great idea supported by a sound financial model, but also had all the hallmarks of being a future success.
This got me thinking – what makes a successful brand? I’ve been in the luxury industry for over 10 years and in that time, I’ve seen businesses come and go.
Here are five steps that have underpinned the successes (and been absent in the failures) you can incorporate into your business DNA and strategy going forward.
1. Develop a clear identity
This might sound simple – but it’s not. Identity is about more than a punchy logo and a clever strap-line. It’s about being relevant to your market, knowing who your customers are, and having a deep understanding of what they want. Once you know this, you can build your identity. Over many decades, luxury brands such as Chanel and Hermès have perfected this. They may have evolved to reflect the changing character and conventions of the fashion industry but they’ve always stayed true to their identity.
Supreme, which isn’t even 25 years old, is another that figured this out in its early days. Its identity is so powerful that even though it’s fundamentally a streetwear brand aimed at skateboarding youth, it’s become a go-to label for style mavens, collaborated with the likes of Louis Vuitton, and racked up a billion-dollar valuation.
Get your identity right, stick to it and then reap the rewards.
2. Build trust through honesty
Who likes being misled? Whether it’s your child telling porkies about eating sweets or your government covering up a scandal with ‘mistruths’, dishonesty breaks down trust and relationship. Just look at what happened to the VW Group in the aftermath of the emissions scandal. When it was uncovered that it had designed cars to cheat tests, more than $30bn was wiped of its stock market value.
Trust comes from delivering a product or a service that does what you say it’s going to do.
Make sure you consistently fulfil the promises you make to your customers, and you will earn their trust – and more importantly their loyalty.
3. Tap into your customers’ emotions
Inspiring an emotional response from your customers is key to success. It’s not enough to simply solve a problem or perform reliably. Your product must do these things while connecting you to your customers emotionally. Marketeers talk about creating communities of believers, which starts with an invitation and grows through the experience of ownership.
Take TAG Heuer’s approach, for example, the company’s chief executive Jean-Claude Biver says his watches offer ‘eternity’ or Patek Phillipe for that matter whose ad slogan, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” undoubtedly evokes an emotional response and connection. That makes them not just a financial investment, but an emotional one, attracting customers into the brand’s community.
Connect with your customers emotionally and they will become advocates for you.
4. Stand out from the crowd
The gap in your market won’t exist for long. Once you’ve identified it, and if you’re a success, others will follow, creating competition. In established industries, competition is a good thing. It drives innovation and stimulates the market. But it will swallow you unless you find something that differentiates you.
A successful brand is one that has a point of difference that convinces a customer to purchase from it instead of someone else.
What makes you stand out from the crowd? What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
5. Innovate, innovate, innovate
Successful brands are those that never stop learning, never stop improving and never stop adapting to the changing world around them. Once known for its classic collections, Gucci identified a gap in the market, went back to the drawing board and reinvented itself by appointing Alessandro Michele who took it to that next frontier.
Innovation is a vital ingredient in success
From unconventional collaborations with artists, to the launch of a restaurant and concept store in Florence and the new ArtLab – a hub for innovation and craftsmanship, the brand continues to push the boundary with their creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Gucci seems to have mastered its approach to innovation. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, a rise of 51% in instore sales in the year 2017.
Grant Morris, CEO Elite Associates