, December 5, 2017

How to position a fashion brand

In fashion, how do you create brand positioning and differentiate yourself?

Competition is tough, especially in the fashion sector. It’s a massive challenge to start a brand, produce at least the first three collections, and watch it take off. Your Brand Positioning and creating a USP (unique selling proposition) in many cases are the only things setting you apart from many other labels which can look, at least on the surface, quite similar. Particularly if funds are finite (aren’t they always?), strategic thinking about positioning and USPs from the outset will give your brand a competitive advantage.

What is Brand Positioning?
Brand positioning is an integral element of brand strategy. It defines your brand relative to others: it could be more aspirational, more accessible, more luxurious, more ethical, pay more attention to detail and so forth.

An effective way of exploring brand positioning is to look at competitors and chart them, together with your brand, along two axes: one can be price (less expensive to more expensive) and the other could be fashionability – classic versus fashion-forward. Or you can place ethical or sustainable fashion on axis (more sustainable to less sustainable) and on the other, small product range to large product range. For a sportswear brand one axis could be technical focus versus fashion focus.

You can see how the choice of axes is key in the type of exploration you are undertaking, and how creating more than one positioning chart allows you to delve into different defining criteria.

During the brand strategy process, you will find that some areas of the charts are more crowded than others. Your aim is to find a clear area. The book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne refers to this space where there is little or no competition: where there is a gap in the market.

It is tempting in fashion to believe that the design of the products themselves will be enough to make a unique brand. However, design is not enough. This research sets up the essential groundwork for a successful brand.

What is a USP?
Unique Selling Proposition: it’s what makes your brand different, most likely a combination of factors like the product itself, pricing, distribution method, types of promotions. The classic marketing definition which can also be applied to USPs includes the four Ps: Product, Price, Place, Promotion.

However these days you will hear much more about storytelling in marketing – it’s a more organic approach. Just as every individual is unique, so are stories. But some people – and stories – are more interesting than others!

Your brand strategy should include a clear Central Idea, a defined explanation of What Makes Us Different, and visual and descriptive Brand Attributes which convey personality. Once this strategy is developed, it will be clear which stories fit into the brand and the tone of voice naturally flows through.

Rather than asking ‘What is our USP?’ you can ask ‘What is our brand story?’.

The fashion sector is unique because it is design-driven, and the product offering becomes part of the identity of its consumers. Think of furniture design: also design driven and partly representing the identity of the consumers (think of a B&B Italia-furnished house compared to an IKEA one) but the furniture owners don’t tend to carry their sofas around with them!

Thus, your fashion label’s brand story becomes the consumer’s own story in a deeper way than in other industries. Your brand is literally very close to the skin of your audience.

Key Points

  • Brand Positioning and creating a USP are part of your overall Brand Strategy
  • A well-researched and thought-through Brand Strategy can give your brand a competitive advantage
  • In any industry including fashion, design alone is not a USP
  • In defining your Brand Positioning, research the brand landscape and plot your brand against others, using 2 axes like Price and Fashionability
  • These charts will help you identify the Blue Ocean: the gap in the market
  • Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) can be based on the classic four Ps: Product, Price, Place, Promotion
  • Another, more organic, way to look at the USP is to create a Brand Story

Brand Positioning and creating a USP, or telling your Brand Story, will set up the strategic groundwork for a successful fashion brand. Without this strategic work a new fashion brand will likely struggle to differentiate itself from the competition.

Researching competitors, finding a gap in the market and showing how your brand is unique and desirable will help it become a commercial success.

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