Luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton stand at the center of our pop culture, bringing new trends and reaching consumers from generation to generation. And their customers proudly sport Gucci G’s and Louis V’s. The value of those logos allows the brands to reap the benefits of advertising long after their products are sold.
In many ways, that’s the promo industry’s ultimate dream: for end users to wear a client’s logo with pride, brand recognition months and even years after the product was created. So, it’s worth looking at some of the tactics that high-end fashion brands use to gain respect and build customer loyalty, and how industry suppliers and distributors are adopting those same tactics in their own business models.
1. Monitor trends and understand the marketplace.
“Fashion brands are at or at the forefront of where our society is going,” says Jeremy Picker, creative director and CEO of Colorado-based clothing design and branding business AMB3R Creative ( asi/590243 ). “They start the trends two to three seasons in advance.”
Trends are constantly trickled down from high-end brands to smaller industries as promotions. For example, streetwear that started with brands like Off White or Yeezy has now become common across industries. Even the colorways featured on the Yeezy brand, including many nudes and earth tones, have hit retail worldwide.
“For distributors who want to differentiate themselves and be recession-proof, you have to know the marketplace — not just your opinion or the designer’s opinion,” says Picker.
It’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening online with other brands, especially since we live in such a digitally connected world, said futurist and trend analyst Vicki Ostrom of Foot 40 Presenter Sanmar (ac/84863).
The advertising industry is targeting the same consumers who browse websites, see ads, and receive email blasts from hundreds of other brands. This exposure shapes consumer expectations. “When you look at us and our industry, you expect to see the same images, the same fonts, the same way the images are placed graphically on the page,” says Ostrom. “They expect it to be flawless.”
Picker and Ostrom agree that ignoring other brands puts promotional brands in the spotlight. “If we don’t change, we won’t be useful,” says Ostrom. Whether it’s flipping through magazines, searching online, or browsing social media, “you have to go where the consumer’s eye is,” Picker says.
2. Use collaboration to connect with a wider audience and establish the brand.
In high fashion, famous models and celebrities are constantly collaborating in luxury fashion houses. For example, at events like the MET Gala, interviewers stand on the red carpet steps and ask, “What are you wearing?” They are ready to ask. But “Who are you wearing?”
While promotional products are not a common practice in the industry, it can be beneficial to partner with relevant figures for your target consumer base. And it may not require searching far and wide. “A small company can look right in their hometown and partner with someone,” Ostrom says.
Co-branded and limited edition drops are the way these collaborations will be seen on promotion. By offering the canvas new logo designs that combine brands, companies and figures, distributors can meet product needs for the next co-branding partnership. Some recent successful partnerships include Megane Stallion and Popeyes, Subaru and LL Bean, and Nike and Apple.
Partnerships help brands build credibility, and limited-time product drops feed into the scarcity mentality that prompts consumers to act quickly. With the right digital marketing and relevant partnerships, these high-end fashion brands will do well in the promotion.
3. Pay attention to current social and cultural issues.
High-end fashion brands aim to appeal to wider social and cultural issues such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion, LGBTQ rights or gender equality. Luxury styles that once focused on protecting consumers from brand narratives have shifted to reflect their values to make consumers more inclusive.
The Luxury 3.0 report by HIGHSNOBIETY and Boston Consulting Group works to measure “what matters most to the new generation of luxury consumers.” This report shows that young consumers are looking for inspiration and community, and most associate brands with cultural credibility.
“Luxury brands now, for young people, really represent sustainability issues and all these very important social, cultural issues,” says Ostrom. In fact, the report says, “Desirability in luxury today is driven by cultural loyalty and is limited to high-end products and experiences.” Brands that do not pay attention to the values of the next generation will lose their relevance with them.
To reflect these values, there are several things suppliers and distributors can do. If the goal is to support sustainability efforts, look into using recycled materials. Differentiate models used in catalogs and marketing materials to promote racial and ethnic inclusion. It can be as simple as changing the product description to add more appeal.
“People don’t want to talk; they want to be a part of the creation of things now,” says Ostrom. Instead of being told what to wear, consumers gravitate to brands they feel like a part of — that amplify their voice and offer products they can see themselves using or wearing.
4. Don’t just sell the product – sell the lifestyle.
There is no denying that luxury brands are selling more than bags or shoes. They sell the following prestige and a sense of exclusivity, feeding the desire for creative self-expression, all in a sought-after lifestyle. Products are more likely to speak to consumers if they fit their lifestyle or are willing to adopt it.
Consumers need more than a clean catalog picture to help them imagine themselves in the brand. For advertising, this means showing products in a real-world setting alongside other complementary products. “Just putting the product on a blank background doesn’t bring it to life,” says Picker.
One example of a supplier with an attractive and effective lifestyle image is Hans Brands (asi/59528). The alternative clothing brand is designed to resonate with those who value health, comfort, sustainability and minimalism. Models are photographed on location against whitewashed brick backdrops that appeal to that aesthetic.
5. Be creative. Cheer up. Be fun.
He says that in an industry as naturally creative as promo, it helps to allow designers to be curious and childlike to imitate the creativity of the fashion world. High-end brands constantly replicate their logos as they launch new lines. Fabrics, prints, colors and patterns that are popular in the realm of luxury fashion can be used to refresh a company’s logo. Stagnation and rigidity are the Achilles heel of a design-focused industry like promo.
“The most important thing we learn from high-end fashion is to be able to break the rules and have fun with the product,” says Ostrom.