The retail landscape is evolving and brand strategies need to keep up.
On one end is what’s dubbed the ‘Amazon Effect,’ a product of Amazon’s relentless growth posing a pretty serious threat to long-standing retailers. In fact, Amazon’s apparel sales were higher than the combined online sales of Macy’s, Nordstrom, Kohl’s, Gap, and Victoria’s Secret. And they’re just getting started. Amazon is planning to launch new private label lines and has their eyes set on more acquisitions (side note, they already own Zappos and Shopbop).
And on the other end of retail are small to medium brands like us. We’re shaking thing ups and taking a slice of the market. Much of that is thanks to platforms like Maker’s Row and Shopify. They’re making it easier to start an apparel brand than ever before. This democratization of resources is incredible but with the lower barrier of entry comes an increasingly saturated market of fellow emerging brands. Not to mention, we’re still competing against Amazon. Let’s face it, we’re not going to beat out the goliath on convenience, so we’ve got to level up our branding.
When I started Brevity Brand, I quickly realized branding went beyond style guides, tone of voice and so forth. It’s about being able to succinctly communicate what your brand stands for. This was tough. After several fruitless brainstorming sessions, I finally created a set of questions to help guide the process. I found that breaking it down into these three simple questions helped me hone in on my brand’s core elevator pitch:
- What is my brand’s value?
- What is my brand’s purpose?
- What is my brand’s niche?
Here’s how I broke it down for Brevity Brand:
What is my brand’s value?
“Athleisure meets modern design, jacket fit to go anywhere and do anything.”
(Backstory: I’m based in San Francisco, a city known for fog and startups – this combo means there are a lot of hoodies. I wanted something that was just as comfortable as a hoodie but much sleeker.)
What is my brand’s purpose?
“Each and every jacket is made in women-owned factories.”
(Backstory: I saw a gender leadership gap across the industry. Predominantly female brands like Nordstrom and Saks are run by males CEOs and likewise a majority of factories are run by men. I wanted to play a role in leveling the playing field.)
What is my brand’s niche?
“Go-getters, girl bosses, women who believe the future is what they make it.”
After I launched Brevity on Kickstarter, I asked my backers which of these three brand pillars resonated with them most, 47% said our brand value. While all these elements will remain core to my brand, I know to streamline my messaging to focus on brand value first.
Keep in mind this doesn’t mean brand value is the most important message for every brand. In fact, you don’t even need to be able to answer all three questions, but you should be able to clearly answer at least one. For instance, some brands zero in on their mission statement while others focus on community.
To get your creative juices flowing, below are examples from other brands that span across all three pillars:
(Does your brand create a better product than what currently exists in the market?)
- Allbirds – premium natural materials to make the world’s most comfortable shoes
- Stowaway – right-size makeup you love in sizes you can carry and finish
- Away Travel – first class luggage at a coach price
(Does your brand stand for a mission, create social impact or contribute to charitable causes?)
- Reformation – killer clothes that don’t kill the environment
- Everlane – know your factories, know your costs, always ask why
- Patagonia – cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis
- Shinola – of all the things we make, the return of manufacturing jobs is the thing we’re most proud of
(Does your brand resonate with a specific group of people that can be clearly defined?)
- Ugmonk – creatives, graphic designers, artists
- MM.LaFleur – lawyers, consultants, executives
- ModCloth – vintage lovers
- Petite Studio – petite women
Now it’s your turn! It’s time to analyze your own brand, which of these three brand pillars makes you standout? Try to keep your messaging brief and memorable in order to captivate your potential customer.