By Guest Contributor Clare Hall-Taylor, Edmund Hillary Brands
The retail market is actually growing, globally ‒ 5% in the last year alone ‒ and it continues to thrive in the UK.
But it is also changing. These days, customers want products that reflect their personalities and say something about who they are. If brands get it right, they can create a strong brand that stands the test of time.
Having rapidly established our brand presence we have some experience. Here are our four top tips…
Tip 1: Find your place in the market
The strongest brands find a gap in the market, a need that is unfulfilled. However, they also need mass appeal. Research your market to uncover trends and discover areas which are undersaturated ‒ that’s where you’ll find the sweet spot between underserved and appealing. This sweet spot maybe hidden or obscured so it can be useful to think on multiple levels at once ‒ an overlap of activities and experiences the market enjoy, for example, or of an iconic figure and a hobby.
Finding the right products for your market also requires some trial and error. We started with a wider range of products at much smaller volumes, testing what worked and cutting what didn’t. This ‘agile’ way of working ‒ failing fast and finding what works ‒ means you can rapidly tailor your products to real-world market desires, rather than basing your product range solely on research.
In the current climate, it’s also important to connect with your market’s values. Start by defining your own values and creating a vision and mission for your brand. The aim is to take people with you on that journey, so you need to base all your branding and marketing decisions around those values. By taking the lead on your chosen values, customers will forgive areas where you are less than perfect, appreciating the areas where you place your focus.
For our brand, we defined our values around the personality of Sir Edmund Hillary himself: humility, endeavour, philanthropy. We refer to these three core values on an almost daily basis to help our decision-making process. We also ask the family, who are a key part of the brand, what Ed would do, which helps us stick to our values when it comes to difficult, real-world decisions.
Tip 2: Design long-lasting products
The big trend across all of retail is toward longer-lasting products. People are much more aware of sustainability issues and want to contribute to environmental protection through every purchase if possible.
Sustainable materials help establish your brand as one that cares about your customers… and the planet.
People are also simply looking for quality in their purchases. They understand the false economy of buying cheap products that fall apart after a year.
My advice is to design for your market and their needs today, as well as into the future. Strong brands have longevity.
People also want to invest in meaningful purchases that reflect their personality and say something about who they are ‒ a conversation starter. This personal connection also builds customer affinity with the brand, transforming them from a customer into an advocate.
Tip 3: Ethics are important to consumers
Sustainability is important, but the human factor is also very important. Does your company do good for the people involved?
Awareness of exploitative sweatshops has been growing for years and tragedies like the Bangladesh factory collapse highlight real ethical issues at the bottom of the supply chain.
There has also been a rise in social enterprises over the past decade. These businesses either have a social mission of their own or support a particular charity. In doing so, they highlight their values and demonstrate how they are taking real, practical, measurable steps to help that charity or cause.
For example, we try to follow Edmund Hillary’s example and values, and therefore support various charities in Nepal and New Zealand.
Tip 4: What’s your story?
The strongest brands have a good story. Perhaps a link to something or someone iconic. If you already have a link to something iconic or can capitalise on something connected to your products, you will start with this story already integrated into the fabric of your brand, making it particularly strong from the outset.
Of course, not every brand has links to something iconic, but every brand has a story. Why did you create your brand? What did you set out to achieve? What values do you hold or mission did you set out to fulfil? Again, link it back to your values, then tell the story. This will help develop the personality of your brand and provide the conversation starter that modern shoppers are looking for.
Creating a brand can be an exciting and challenging process with lots of decisions to be made. The strongest brands take time to consider every aspect of their business and pay close attention to detail.
If you use these tips to form the basis of your exploration, define your values to help make key decisions, and focus on being a premium fashion brand with a conscience, you’ll be on the right path to success. Best of luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Clare Hall-Taylor is from Edmund Hillary Brands. The Edmund Hillary clothing range is seasonless and durable and made from natural materials – often heritage fabrics. A percentage of every sale is donated to causes close to Hillary’s heart – supporting Himalayan communities and also outdoor education in the UK and further afield.
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