Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jimmy goes Cheap

The designer Jimmy Choo announced its collaboration with H&M for a cheaper shoes and accessories line. The fashion label is the latest in a slew of high-end designers forging partnerships with stores in order to produce cheaper and more accessible products. This trend of going down market has me wondering about the whole idea of Brand Equity: so in school, I learned that you can earn money based off of your brand if you have a well-established brand. To establish your brand, you need to figure out a couple of things that are central to your identity, and your messages have to relate to those characteristics. These characteristics will in turn, earn your brand some value and theoretically, will make people want to 1. buy your product, and 2. become loyal customers. So for example, Apple's brand is hip, great looking, and easy to use. They stick to those in all their commercials and messages, so people would want to buy an Apple product because of those 3 reasons.

For luxury products, one of the central characteristics that they all share is exclusivity, and exclusivity by way of price. In order to be a luxury line, your products must be inexplicably expensive. So a high price becomes one of the central defining characteristics of a luxury product. This characteristic is usually reinforced in all of the marketing for luxury lines -- most print ads for fashion houses give off the expensive vibe. So if designers such as Jimmy Choo are lowering their prices, then can they still be categorized under "Luxury"? If they have both cheap and expensive products, then how much of the brand image is the label compromising?

I guess my main issue is that when you have a brand that wants to be both accessible and exclusive at the same time, it's hard to make it work. Many brands have solved the problem by introducing separate lines within the same label, such as Marc by Marc Jacobs and Michael by Michael Kors. And I guess it's a good solution for now...but the Marc Jacobs brand (the main brand) is still seen as less exclusive than say, Prada, when their products cost about the same.

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