American Apparel: When Simplicity isn’t So Simple

October 09 2013

American Apparel is a brand well known for its’ pared down, comfortable aesthetic, one that appeals to the young. urban, hipster-chic teens and 20s of America and across the World. Long known for simple basic unisex t-shirts, hoodies and jeans, they have moved into the territory of vintage-inspired disco pants, chiffon blouses and palazzo pants. By bringing more “design” into their clothing, American Apparel has attempted to set themselves apart from their competition -- Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Urban Outfitters. They have been so effective in branding themselves in the mind of the consumer that it will be interesting to see what happens as they move forward in this new vein.

On a political level, American Apparel’s heart has been in the right place (at least from my leftie perspective). The brand is a strongly voiced advocate of LGBT rights, it is committed to environmental protection, and is known for having all of their clothing made in the U.S. without the use of underpaid sweatshops in other countries. That is a big one, as more and more ethical issues arise regarding how the fashion we love and wear is made. American Apparel’s company website also has a list of other ethical causes that they support.


via americanapparel.tumblr.com

This is a brand with some major disconnects despite its success and good heartedness. Despite their ethical chops, the brand has been scrutinized in the past for having overtly provocative advertisements, for not being plus-size friendly, and for their inflated price point, given the quality and lack of originality in the merchandise. In addition, if American Apparel is going to claim a more constructed, designed sensibility, they will need to pull other elements of their brand communications in line. Their window design frequently looks like a cheap mall brand that sells five-dollar T-shirts and ten-dollar parkas. The store merchandising is decidedly barebones as well. It’s certainly not an issue to expand upon a brand’s sensibilities, as Juicy Couture moved very successfully from coveted velour tracksuits into much more cultivated pieces that still retained a high level of comfort. American Apparel might benefit from studying Juicy more closely, as that brand has had all of the elements working in sync since the beginning, and was just sold to Authentic Brands Group for $185 million. Get it together, AA!!

However, American Apparel has come a long way in the message it gives through its brand. What makes American Apparel such a strong brand is their exuberant, precise, and edgy advertisements. American Apparel speaks volumes through their fashion photography. Each advertisement exudes a feeling of the American dream through clothing, in other words the emotion of living your life through these clothes.

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Market Trending: Kmart Raps Its Way to the Top

August 23 2013

Retailers go through cycles in which they gain and then lose market share. Of course, the reasons for these cycles are complex, ranging from everything to being out of touch with consumer tastes and trends, downturns in the economic cycles to making mistakes in repositioning their offerings and brand voice. Currently suffering mightily in public perception and market confidence is the Kmart franchise. In 2012 they shut down eighty-four stores, but they have been dealing with declining sales for the past six years.

Market trends have shown the business’ decline is mainly due toe loss of popularity among younger consumers. Feeling desperate to staunch their losses and bad PR, and In order to appeal to a hipper teen audience, Kmart is now trying to refine their brand image by teaming up with viral sensation Da Rich Kids, a group of young rappers all younger than age thirteen. Kmart asked the group to create a rap song about the discount store and thus “My Limo” was born.

    

                                                       Image via www.fastcocreate.com

My Limo has already received millions of views and is featured in the retailer’s latest television commercial. This new partnership may push Kmart back up the ranks and sway younger generations to shop at KMart, but the affiliation seems a bit out of left field. In addition, there have been a few reports of older customers being unhappy that the rap commercial portrays only African-American children promoting a brand that is known for low prices. However, the ads are too new to calculate exactly how big or small the effect has been so far with any of their target audiences.

Keep in mind that brands must be credible in order to cement consumer loyalty and maintain longevity in the marketplace. Kmart would need a family of products with legs that are in alignment with the spirit of My Life and that would continue to attract the same type of audience. A flash in the pan doesn’t work long term at retail, as it’s critical to maintain your brand voice in everything you do. Hence the consistent success of brands such as Burberry, Diesel, and Vans, who really know what they are doing in this regard.

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An American Heritage Brand: Twinkies

July 17 2013

When we think about America, we think about apple pie and baseball. What about other American classics, like Twinkies? Hostess Twinkies have been around since 1930, a true staple for generations of snackers. The cream-filled sponge cakes have never been the healthiest option but America has never seemed to care. It takes a strong brand to stay relevant and successful with such a processed, sugary product in today’s market, especially when fresher, organic options are being become more popular and widely available.

Twinkies took a hit last year when Hostess Cakes declared bankruptcy after a hostile fight with its union workers. Once the word got out that the factory was about to close, any remaining product sold out in the blink of an eye. Media stories abounded about people’s grief at the loss of an iconic American brand.  

Then Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo came along and bought Twinkies and other Hostess cakes for $410 million. Now this beloved, familiar snack is back on our shelves. The new boxes will showcase the tagline, “The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever,” underlining the brand’s heritage position.

Despite their one-year hiatus, the Twinkie brand hasn’t lost its place in the heart of America. Reaction from the public seems promising, and a less iconic brand might have been mourned and already forgotten. The product will still have the same classic taste, as well as all the sugar and calories that come with it. Twinkies have a whopping shelf life of forty-five days, which may not be what it once was, but is enormous in light of the current trends towards local and fresh food and changed consumer consciousness.

So it seems that although the market for healthy food has only grown over the past year, consumers can’t wait to get their hands on Twinkies once again. This brand seems to be resilient to say the least, and it looks like the desire for this tasty treat will last a lifetime.

                 

                                                    Image via marketingpilgrim.com

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