The teen’s fashion scene is swept by howling whirlwinds.
Lonely riders, deadly duels, high noon’s: it all reminds too well of Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, the last and, to my modest opinion, best installment of his so-called “Dollars” trilogy of “spaghetti westerns”.
Should we then rightfully tag the turbulent young fashion scene a “spaghetti fashion”?
In the original motion picture, Clint Eastwood (the Good) is a taciturn, enigmatic lone rider, searching for a cache of stolen gold against rivals Lee van Cleef (the Bad) and Eli Wallach (the Ugly).
"The real West was the world of violence, fear, and brutal instincts," claimed Leone. "In pursuit of profit there is no such thing as good and evil, generosity or deviousness; everything depends on chance, and not the best wins but the luckiest."
In the turbulent unfolding of the teen fashion market, we believe it is not the luckiest who wins, but the one with the soundest strategy. We believe failures come from poor strategic decisions, precisely from flaws in the strategies themselves, as the following facts and brand stories clearly demonstrate.
1. Abercrombie & Fitch’s turnaround
We’ve learned from last month’s rumbling news that A&F’s controversial CEO, Mike Jeffries, abruptly exited the stage.
The coup de scene followed 11 (!) straight quarters of same-store declines; 180 stores to be closed by end of 2015; one major brand, Gilly Hicks, shut down; same store sales down by 10% in 2013 and another profit warning issued for 2015, as the outlook for the current fiscal year dooms.
Much has been written on the many excruciating reasons why the teen retailer has been struggling to attract customers who have increasingly turned their backs to the brand: its weak inventory management, its premium prices through times of economic instability to mention a few of the most frequently mentioned causes.
More significantly we must introduce two crucial factors, which alienated their audience:
· Lack of understanding and response to changing fashion and market trends: reducing logo presence or removing shutters from the storefronts is not the radical, strategic change required for a turnaround business situation.
· Fierce competition from fast-fashion-forward brands: we’ll expand on this fundamental factor in the following.
2. The crumbling of a crowded group of troubled teem retailers: Wetseal, Delia’s, Deb Shops, and more (and maybe more to come?).
· Just a few weeks ago, adding up to a too long list of casualties, fashion teen retailer Wetseal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
· On the lower end of the chain, part of an unstoppable chain reaction shaking the teen’s market, Delia’s and Deb Shops shared the same dusty road to oblivion.
· The downtown LA vibe is not rescuing American Apparel from a progressive, inescapable brand appeal and identity crisis.
The list might become longer in the near future, as we witness the static, ineffective reaction of most of these brands to the irrevocable changes taking place in the teen’s marketplace.
3. The winner of the gold cache: H&M (and a victorious cluster of fast fashion brands, the likes of Zara, Forever 21, and more).
The advent and overwhelming expansion of the so-called fast fashion or fashion forward retailers is unanimously deemed to be the devastating force shaping the teen fashion market (the other crucial factor being the increasing relevance in the teen’s purchasing set of indirect competing products, such as technology).
· Cheap-and-chic is the new fashion credo, which has converted millions of young consumers to the stylish, fashion-forward, eclectic and, significantly enough, accessible product offers from these (mostly European) brands.
· The business models on which these retailers operate are phenomenally modern, and successfully aligned to consumers’ lifestyles on the one hand, as well as to the fast paced digital world on the other: a marvelous case of cultural integration.
· These brands create, develop and deliver fresh, up to date merchandise to the sales floor every three weeks, rotating their sales floors more than twelve times per year, hypnotically attracting and engaging customers with their fashionable collections.
· Their product offerings cater to a wide array of consumers, with different body types and needs. And their pricing strategy is accessible. In a word, their approach to fashion is democratic: how striking the contrast with the Abercrombie’s of the world, exclusively and narrow-mindedly targeting the “beautiful people” (to use Jeffrie’s words) of the world.
In the original film, though dubbed "the Good, Eastwood’s character is not much better than his opponents -- he is just smarter and shoots faster.
The same applies here to the fast fashion retailers in our “spaghetti fashion”. Smarter and shooting faster: which is the difference between life and death, in the wild, wild, West (read fashion?).
How often we tap into stories of brands embarking in stretches and extensions into new, unexplored and brand-dangerous territories, such as entry price offers? It happens far too frequently in the Fashion world: the recent crisis which starting hitting few years ago and is persistingly embracing the Fashion & Lifestyle world in a deadly hug has pushed so many brands far away from their core values, from their true personality and from their valued consumer basis, desperately searching for business opportunities "down there", where prices are low, with flaming new entry price series.
Well the following story, one of true and authentic brand protection and enhancement comes from german luxury car manufacturer Porsche: never dilute your brand, alienating your consumers, were this to cost giving up plans for new segments and categories to be attacked, whenever these do not sit in your core values and personality territory.
And here's the story.
German sports car manufacturer Porsche - owned for 49.9% of its core business by Europe's largest auto maker Volkswagen - has dropped plans to build a two-seater vehicle which would have been smaller and cheaper than its Boxster model, Stuttgarter Zeitung reported on Saturday, citing Chief Executive Officer Matthias Müller.
Such plans would risk diluting the brand and alienate traditional customers, according to Mr Müller:
“We would do no good to the brand if we were to lose traditional Porsche customers” by pursuing a smaller Boxster model, the CEO was quoted as saying in an interview.
Mr Müller said Porsche also has no immediate plans to develop a smaller version of its four-door Panamera sedan, though he indicated that such a model could become an option in five or six years.
Literally love this super-hot article from a great branding blog site I regularly follow for inspiration.
It reveals a highly demonstrative case of misuse of Social Media by companies that think of Facebook, Twitter and all other Social Media as of shopping windows for their products. Or advertising displays. Or simply places where you an get "free" contacts and spread some "word-of-mouth" for just nothing.
Now, look at the image below. It's the image that Chapstick, the leading American brand for lip balm and other cosmetic products, advertised just recently. Well, I find it's such a cool image: provocative, ironic, showing a young girl tilting off her sofa to try and get her chapstick. As I said: I find it just great: communicative, inspiring, allusive.
Obviously it did get to irritate some women, and, particularly, a blogger, who posted a comment to rise her complain. And that was the beginning of the storm: post got deleted, other comments followed and soon mounted into a super-big turmoil of hundreds of fans complaining about their comments being deleted.
Well: a great lesson. Social Media is a place for conversations. And conversations can be smooth or rough, but still conversations. I wonder whether Chapstick has learned the lesson...
Food for thought...Enjoy!
Over the past few days lip balm icon Chapstick’s Facebook page has been ground zero for social media controversy.
It all started when Chapstick posted a new ad on their Facebook page that featured a woman searching for a lost Chapstick container. The ad’s not-so-flattering depiction of the woman’s hind side inspired a feminist “Reel Girl” blogger to write up a scathing review of the ad.
When the blogger posted a link to the review on Chapstick’s Facebook page, the page’s moderators promptly removed it. This spurred many follow up posts inquiring about the deleted link. When these subsequent posts were also deleted…all hell broke loose.
As Chapstick fans began to notice the ongoing censorship negative comments began to poor in faster than Chapstick moderators could delete.
The most unfortunate part of the entire episode for Chapstick’s brand is that all the negative feedback could have quickly been avoided had Chapstick handled the initial negative posts better. Users were looking for an explanation. They were looking for a dialogue. Chapstick’s “delete first and answer questions later” response has led many fans to boycott the lip balm company.
Branding is all about the conversation. Most consumers understand that while they try so hard to be, businesses are not perfect and everyone makes mistakes. It’s the response to those mistakes define character, and in a business’ case, define brands.
Chapstick had the opportunity to admit their error, remove their offensive ad, and move forward. Chapstick could have invited their consumers in an allowed them to belong. Instead, they ignored the people who purchase their products.
Chapstick got people talking for all the wrong reasons, and now they are desperately trying to find a way to change the conversation.
Are you listening to the conversation online?
Yet another fashion blog