An Odd Pair
The Blogfather goes on a stiletto-adorned rampage, and rants about brand equity following the news that Michael Kors has acquired Jimmy Choo.
...marketing Leg-End Bob Hoffman is quite right to call the idea of brand “love” utter “horse shit”
Brand equity. Two words thrown around a lot in marketing departments and agencies alike; and understandably so. While marketing Leg-End Bob Hoffman is quite right to call the idea of brand “love” utter “horse shit”, brand perception and the impact of it is all too real. So, our shoe-loving, handbag-hoarding Junior Account Manager Leanne, let out an almighty screech when news broke that Jimmy Choo had been bought by Michael ruddy Kors. She added the (unconfirmed) middle name.
Sorry M.K, but while your no-doubt stylish watches and handbags grace the arms of at least 1 in 2 women* I come across on a daily basis, that is also everything that’s troubling me about this news; the Jimmy Choo name has an exclusivity about it that Michael Kors just, well…doesn’t. It’s like if Swatch were to buy Rolex. Sort of.
*Not actual statistics.
For shoe fanatics (and there are literally some of them) the purchase of a pair of Choo’s shouts ‘Look at me! I’ve got money and I’ve got power’. You buy a pair and you buy the shit load of “sass” (and about as much foot cramp) that comes with them. Buy Michael Kors however and you say ‘Look at me! Oh, and everyone else…’ Michael Kors may have themselves (no-doubt correctly) positioned as a premium fashion house, but the brand equity just isn’t the same.
"All of Ferrari’s red, prancing horse licensed products have another thing in common – none of them are cars" Mark Ritson
Let’s “throw it back”, as the cool kids are saying, to 2009, when Aston Martin announced its plans to launch the Cygnet; one mammoth balls-up of a line-extension. As Mark Ritson correctly predicted, it was set to fail from the 97bhp get-go. Why? Because an exclusive, perhaps the most exclusive in Ritson’s words, luxury British car brand, took a mass-produced, Japanese city car and simply whacked their badge on it. That, my dear readers, will simply not do.
The problem with the Cygnet, is that it was a car. Stay with me for a second... Brands run a serious risk with line extensions that fall “so close yet so far” from their existing product offering. Yes, Aston make cars, but they make (in their consumers eyes), pure British class on wheels, or some such rubbish. In the same way that Harley Davidson’s CEO says they don’t sell motorbikes, what they sell is “The ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.” Take what is essentially a washing machine on wheels Toyota IQ and put it among a line-up of iconic DB models and you’re in danger of altering how a customer perceives your brand.
Ultimately, Jimmy Choo's shoes and bags risk being devalued by a marriage with Michael Kors’ shoes and bags. Being bought by another premium fashion label isn’t the issue. In fact, it should be considered a smart move in comparison with the many private equity firms it’s passed through in its 21-year history. But unfortunately, Michael Kors has followed the same 'short-term sales over long-term sustainability' pattern as the average US luxury house. And whilst in reality they won’t, it’s the mere thought of Jimmy Choo going down that same mass-distributed road that’s got us quaking in our stilettos.
Sarah Shannon at businessoffashion.com sums it up brilliantly:
"While Europe’s luxury groups have focused on long-term brand building, maintaining an “illusion of exclusivity,” US luxury houses have chased short-term sales by boosting distribution as wide as possible once a brand becomes fashionable, then suffering the blowback when the brand becomes too ubiquitous and crashes."
Couldn’t have put it better myself, Sarah. Literally.
But never fear! It seems that Michael Kors’ CEO John D. Idol is all over it:
"We believe that Jimmy Choo is poised for meaningful growth in the future and we are committed to supporting the strong brand equity that Jimmy Choo has built over the last 20 years."
Jimmy Choo's chairman, Peter Harf, said that a combination with Michael Kors would allow Jimmy Choo to "embark on its next phase of growth."
For this to have a positive impact on the future of both brands, it’s crucial that Idol stays true to his word of supporting the existing brand equity. There needs to be zero evidence that the two apples now fall from the same tree, as it were.
As in any industry, not just high-end fashion, it’s important for brands to have something unique in the way a customer perceives them. Think about it like this: in the business of bottled water, how do brands like Evian and Volvic survive against their cheaper supermarket rivals?
Have a gander at this corker of a TED Talk, from the wonderful Amelia Torode, for the answer:
And, talk to Gasp. We run brand workshops, with great success, to help with a vast array of brand challenges:
• Redefine and clarify your Vision, Mission and core Values
• Give your brand personality some new clobber and a refresh
• Create Differentiation. “Me too” is not memorable
• Reposition your brand and attract a new market
• Create compelling and consistent messaging
• Produce a strategic brand plan
We helped what is now a world-famous B2C brand grow from an initial meeting that contained the airing of some very different opinions, and you can have a read of that story here.
If you like the sound of spending some time with us to help shape your brand, then drop us a note or give us a tinkle. We’d love to have a chat.