Liberty of London and Uniqlo: An unexpected marriage

May 29 2016

Liberty has been engaging in some interesting collaborations with other brands in the past few years as part of a shrewd deployment of their brand positioning. Liberty is one of the brands that I study on a regular basis, as they consistently undertake projects that underscore their perfect fusion of deep heritage and extraordinary forward-looking sensibilities.

Nike Liberty

For those of you who don’t know this amazing brand, here is a bit of history. Founded in 1875 (before Selfridges, you Masterpiece watchers), they acquired a print works in 1904 that specialized in block-printed silks. The fabric and sewing area of Liberty’s is still an important part of the retail brand, with Liberty prints from the archive regularly reintroduced to complement new print designs. They have collaborated with young, fun brands like Dr. Maartens, Supreme and the North Face, as well as MAC cosmetics, Nike, and now Uniqlo. It’s an incredibly smart way of creating entry level price points, making the brand available and relevant to consumers who never think of going into the store or shopping on their site, finding the great majority of what’s on offer to be too expensive or exclusive. It’s also a clever way of bringing making prints interesting to the general public and younger fashionistas, who tend to wear a neutral palette. The Uniqlo customer has been accustomed to Jil Sander, not Liberty, the designer who has been one of the queens of a sleek, restrained palette.

Way to go, Liberty! I’m looking forward sporting to my vivid Uniqlo T-shirt this summer!

Uniqlo Liberty

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Expensive Divorce: Starbucks & Kraft Foods by guest blogger Cedric Littman

November 26 2013

Recently Starbucks had to pay Kraft Foods a huge settlement. The agreement was for Kraft to distribute Starbucks packaged coffee beans into the supermarket supply chain, while Starbucks alleged that Kraft had underperformed despite Kraft increasing sales tenfold.

Kraft is a huge food manufacturer with hundreds of brands delivering consistent mediocrity who, as their recent take-over of chocolate maker Cadburys shows, puts efficiency before ethics. If we compare the Starbucks and Kraft brands, what would we think? We think of Starbucks as a modern company delivering an excellent coffee experience in its welcoming shops where customers are warmly greeted. Starbucks is also known for its ethical business practices and treatment, having switched over completely to fair trade coffee and tea, promoting actively from within and providing medical coverage to all workers, even part-timers, so that the impression is of a circle where employees, suppliers, and customers are well treated.

by Ryan Gustafson

This prompts the question “is Starbucks is not managing its brand properly?” While presenting itself as a friendly company with high principles, it employed Kraft who seek value by delivering mediocrity at the expense of quality. Starbucks was disappointed Kraft had not increased its supermarket sales, wanting them to push hard into a market where staff are not well treated and small brands are at a disadvantage.

We think of Starbucks as highly principled and enjoyable. Can we draw any conclusions from Starbucks choosing Kraft as distributor of its “ethically produced” coffees? Starbucks’ behaviour was not in alignment with their brand positioning as they picked a corporate partner not known for their integrity, and then was angry with Kraft when profits were less than anticipated. It was a weird marriage to begin with, and ended in an expensive divorce.

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