Expand Your Market With This Brand Strategy Guide

Expanding Beyond the Core

Can you expand beyond your core customer or client base successfully? There is a school of thought that says this is at best a risky proposition and at worst a dirty one, after all you could go out on a limb to reach a new target and totally miss the mark while simultaneously alienating the people you already have. So is it possible, or perhaps the better question is, should you even try? The answer is yes and yes, but you must be smart about the process and understanding.

Core

Who is your core? Well, in many cases a brand is started by core members. These are the people who are passionate about the product, early to adopt the process or product and are very knowledgeable as well.  You may find your core audience is also very protective and would prefer to keep the product all to themselves, rather than see it spread out to the masses. These are all things you must be aware of and sensitive to if you are going to reach out beyond the core, because expansion does not mean abandonment.

Identify Brand Truth

As you begin looking at ways to expand beyond your core, you want to start by understanding your brand truth. What is brand truth? Discovering your brand truth is a simple process of asking a few basic questions about the business. For example:

  • What is your brand, and what is it not? Understanding this provides you a good idea of not only where your brand is but the extent of where it can go. For example, Victoria’s Secret is a brand associated with women’s lingerie, but not denim jeans. If you want sexy lingerie you will go to Victoria’s Secret but if you want quality denim you might look elsewhere.
  • What is the expertise of your brand? Keeping with the Victoria’s Secret example, they are experts in bras and panties, but will never be the leader in outdoor apparel.
  • What is your brands iconic status? In other words, what does your brand stand for? Victoria’s Secret is known for women’s sexy underwear, not organic cotton.

Expanding Upon Brand Truth

Discussing the above points may tend to paint the picture of locking a brand into a narrow market, but that is really not the case. By understanding your brand truth, you can get a more concrete map for future and successful growth. It is important to also have a good understanding of how your brand is shaped.

  • Product – what you produce
  • Personality – how you produce
  • Point of View – why you produce

Keeping these three things closely aligned in order to achieve success.

Each company will have to determine what makes sense for expansion. One example of this is the supplier who offered cotton fabrics from India to major fashion houses. They soon expanded into fabrics created of coconut and other items. They attempted to move into lace and embellishments but found that those markets and the manufacturing was too complex, and was not in their area of expertise so they exited that market rapidly.

Defending the Soul of the Brand

Once you have determined your brand and begun to expand, you will find yourself in the position of defending the soul of the brand. People will constantly be coming in and out of your organization and you will need to boil your brand down to a phrase or collection of phrases that will instantly define and communicate your brand. Take the rallying cry of Nike  “Just Do It” is a simple idea that guides every step of the process.

Final Thoughts

Can you grow your brand beyond the core without abandoning the soul of your company? Of course, but you must first understand your brand completely. Simplify your brand to the point that it is fantastically easy to defend and remember that No is your best friend. Say no to anything that is not in line with the brand. Simplicity also makes it easier to say yes!

 

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Photo: Graber Agency

The Structured Guide To Ensure Successful Product Development

Fuzzy Front-End in the Fashion Industry

To succeed in fashion, you must be innovative and capture the attention of consumers. To determine the direction and the approach you take, you need to go through the fuzzy front-end process of product development.

This begins by utilizing the tools available in the industry. Technology has allowed the apparel industry to make considerable advancements. It is estimated that 75% of product faults are found when going through the early product development phase. Of those defects, nearly 80% still make it through the final process. The problem is that too often the fuzzy front end process is unstructured and hectic. In order to be successful, you must create a structure to your system that allows the design development to run an analysis and adjust designs.

The fuzzy-front end process has five parts associated with it.

1. The Portfolio Stage

This is the creation of the designs you want to add to your product line. You might use a computer aided drawing program or an old fashioned sketchbook to create them. When you have your designs, you begin to process through them.

2. Project Setup

Begin to piece together what you want to create from the sketches. You remove the designs that aren’t realistic or you feel would clash with the other designs you are considering rolling out.

3. The Planning Phase

You begin to determine the supplies you need. What patterns will go with what items. At this point, you are preparing for the items you’ll create prototypes of.

4. Execution Phase

This is where you produce your working versions of the designs. You determine what works, what doesn’t. All to create the vision you have. This is more about creation and less about pinpointing problems at this point.

5. Review Stage

It is here that you begin to explore the physical designs. You inspect them to see what works with them and what doesn’t. This analysis phase is important because it can help to create new products, while helping you to determine what won’t work. As you do this, you boost the quality of the output and can reduce the costs associated with mass production. Especially if there are flaws in the original design that need to be addressed.

Here’s an important thing to keep in mind with any new product development. More often than not, the early stages will fail. The reason, is that you’ve established at the beginning why it would fail. There is a clear definition of the tools and when you reach this point, you’ve determined why formal development isn’t the best choice. Now for products which would be a success, this process allows you to go through the associated variables and confirm there is a minimal risk of rolling them out.

There are a few things to note.

  1. Have a champion. Their goal is to help focus on making a product successful.
  2. Try to simplify the process. When possible, combine elements to have some uniformity between pieces.
  3. Drop items that are not working. You’ll find that removing these elements from this and future designs reduces the number of flaws your pieces have.
  4. Involve select customers in the process. Design pieces around them, especially high profile figures. Gain their input on what they like and make adjustments to create pieces that shine.
  5. Make certain communication remains open between departments. You need to have everyone working towards the same goal, in order for the fuzzy front-end process to be successful.
  6. Assess items as individual pieces and as part of a collection. If an item works alone and not as part of a collection, consider showcasing it as something else. But never add an item to a collection that doesn’t make sense.
  7. Allow creativity during the fuzzy front-end stage. While the designs and elements are yours, this allowance helps pieces to stand out. If a sample sewer realizes there is something in the design that extends production time and costs, while it can be simplified, give them the authority to change it. You’ll find this does help you in this stage of the process.
  8. Define what you want to accomplish and the priorities for each garment. This can help to better guide you through the process so you can be successful.

With the right approach, you should find that you’re successful with your fuzzy front-end in the product development process. Begin by creating a team who will work together and create magic for your line. With the right players on hand, you’ll have a balanced process designed for success.

 

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Photo:  Tanya Lefevre

Prevent These 3 Mistakes in The Product Development Process

Technical Failings Between Design and Product Development in Fashion

Any functioning business should view design and development as part of an ongoing operational lifecycle. The issue with design and development is that these are two stages of innovation that feature heightened risks, which can lead to the failure of a project. The fashion industry is unique in many ways, but this doesn’t mean that businesses in the industry can’t learn from the NPD (new product development) steps that other industries follow when delivering successful projects.

Three Key Mistakes in the Technical Process

Mistake #1: Failing to Communicate

A lack of communication is often a leading factor when it comes to failures on a project. Designers create an innovative and compelling new piece or collection, and then product developers try to implement that design into production. A lot can get lost between design and manufacturing. Developers may consider cost cutting methods, altering materials or even complete design concepts. Communication is key, and should continue through the NPD process. Developers should not be afraid to feed their concerns back to designers, so that the end product can be a true reflection of the original vision.

Mistake #2: Unrestricted Creativity

Unchecked creativity can also be detrimental to the process. Creative types are the key innovators in the fashion world, however creativity does not always result in a product that is marketable. The design of a product can contribute to up to 80% of the end stage manufacturing costs.

When the budget is tight, development leads need to be given the authority to limit what they accept from design teams. Although it seems counterintuitive to stifle creativity from a later stage in the process, it can actually benefit cost and time to market. Again, communication is key, and a solid leadership structure needs to be implemented. Having a lead product creation executive will be critical to ensuring that everyone involved in the process is on the same page when it comes to operations, restrictions, roles, and responsibilities.

Mistake #3: Designing Without Manufacturing in Mind

DFM (Design for Manufacturing) is a process that is promoted and enforced in many of the leading engineering and technology firms. The fashion industry could benefit from such an approach. Many designers in fashion produce pieces and collections without considering what is feasible from a manufacturing standpoint.

In DFM, design is carried out with consideration to readily available materials, production methods, and costs. Development teams would closely collaborate with designers when a system of DFM is in place. Rather than stifling creativity, DFM enables designers to think outside of the box while using a predetermined set of resources. There’s still opportunity for innovation, but ultimately the products that reach market will be more profitable and easier to produce.

Collaboration is Key

A lack of collaboration is often the lead determining factor in technical failings between fashion designers and developers. Designers cannot work completely independently of development teams, and development teams should not be afraid to go back to designers when a product doesn’t suit current technologies or financial restrictions.

By implementing better NPD processes, fashion companies will be able to bring more products to market, without the risk of failed projects and costly product design cycles.

 

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