The ethical fashion industry growing in popularity. The millennial consumer seems to be less inclined to put their money into fast fashion brands and there is a series of well-founded reasons why happens. According to a recent report conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charitable organization supporting the circular economy model, the fashion industry generates more than 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses yearly. Besides, various fast fashion brands were recently the target of a series of controversies around the way in which they treat their employees, a lack of transparency and so on. For the millennial consumer, such aspects influence their spending decisions. A shift to ethical brands already exists, especially for the informed consumer.
And so, numerous fast fashion brands, like H&M, started to notice a drop in their sales and customer engagement. Blame their faulty marketing efforts, their social media campaigns or their lack of transparency and focus on seasonal fashion, but 2016 was a dark year for many fashion brands, including some big names like Gucci or GAP.
As the fast fashion-consuming audience is steadily dropping, many businesses in the fashion industry seem to see rebranding to be a reliable solution to marketing themselves as ethical brands. But what is a fail-proof rebranding strategy? We know that many fashion brands went downhill after similar actions, but how to secure your fashion business against failure? First, let’s get down some basics.
What is rebranding?
Well, rebranding can take many forms. A brand could simply choose another name for their company, they could implement a completely opposite marketing strategy or they could adopt a new business model. To put it more “academically”, rebranding is the process of changing the corporate image of an organization. It is a market proposition to change the name, symbol (logo) or design for a brand with history in the industry.
The main idea behind rebranding is to create a completely new identity for an organization. Fashion labels do this once they decide that they want to target a completely new audience, when they notice a drop in their sales due to a series of market variables, and so on.
The thing that many organizations lose from sight in the process is informing their audience on the action. A lack of transparency when rebranding efforts are implemented will most likely confuse customers and your business will suffer in short, and long-term perspectives.
Why is fashion rebranding more complex?
Abercrombie & Fitch proved that rebranding is no easy job. Once every teenage girls’ dream, now the label struggles to raise their sales. After hiring a new executive in 2015, the label tried to switch their main audience from teenagers to an older consumer. The goal, as described by the company itself was to be seen as an “iconic American casual luxury brand” for a young adult, this time. The attempt was futile. After the creative brains cleared out some of the outdated logo-heavy elements and modernized their shops, the sales didn’t bounce back, as expected. In fact, each quarter, the company experienced a decline in sales.
While some say that the visual elements and aesthetic of their shops improved significantly, the change didn’t resonate with the shoppers as expected.
Obviously, rebranding can be a risky business. Especially in the fashion industry, businesses spend years, sometimes decades creating something that resonates with the consumer, allows the business to differentiate itself from the competitors, and the consumer to make instinctive shopping decisions. When a brand is already-established and speaks for itself, the consumer knows exactly what quality, practices and policies they should expect from the organization.
On the other hand, rebranding efforts, if not approached professionally, will neutralize all your brand’s efforts to become a voice in the industry. In the fashion industry, rebranding efforts are not for necessity, generally. They are due to boost the hype around the label and signal new practices, with the main purpose of boosting sales. Done poorly, the label losses all its previous assets, audience-wise. And such, brands have to create hype around their rebranding process, like Celine did last year. They also have to make sure that all those efforts affect the consumer as little as possible.
Why changing your logo is a key step in the process?
When discussing rebranding efforts, companies adopt such measures to evolve with the market, its’ demands and to stay relevant, to reflect a shift in the manufacturing method or to limit negative associations with previous practices (see fast fashion). This includes practical concerns as well. Some companies choose to rebrand themselves for the sole purpose of creating a logo that registers well in any browsing device.
In the fashion industry, however, a logo is an aesthetic or a motif in an organization’s arsenal. Generally, experts advise keeping elements of the original logo, if possible. This will only help you enhance your fashion business and offer it a fresh look. According to a series of experts in the industry, rebranding best practices can be seen all over the industry (Celine and YSL being the most recent ones). However, most successful rebranding attempts were seen in those brands that preserved some of the initial elements: colour, shape, font, motto etc.
How should a rebranding process look like to be successful?
Know why you are rebranding. Considering the fact that rebranding is a major move as a fashion business, it only works if you identify correctly the reasons for your change. In some cases, the labels attempted a change of name and redesigning their services. And so, rebranding efforts are necessary to encourage growth in the desired direction.
Design a comprehensive strategy. While the decision to rebrand can be easy to take, it comes down to implementation, when assessing the potential of your change. Focus on a name change and matching web domain, design new branded company products, redefine the clients that you pursue and the logo of your company to match the new direction. Plan for a change in marketing efforts, as well as a new business strategy.
Anticipate consumer questions and concerns. Communication and transparency are essential in rebranding your fashion business. Some clients may not understand why you choose to rebrand your business and some may even lose their trust in your brand. Make sure that you clearly outline the reasons behind and put those in a positive light. Keep communication simple and straightforward with your target audience during a rebranding process.
Create publicity around the new brand. Use social media and press releases to create hype and publicity around your rebranded organization. If the reasons behind your decision are laudable, you will be faced with support, positive reactions and encouragements and your sales will most likely boost.
Prepare your customers. Again, being transparent with your decision and process will go a long way toward customer retention. However, your business should also focus on maintaining impeccable customer service in the process.