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Brand Perception: Is Legacy Enough?

As the retail, luxury and beauty market continue to evolve, as does the behaviour of consumers within it.

Until recent years the market was dominated by power houses such as Estee Lauder, L’Oréal and LVMH. However, small authentic brands are fighting for the spotlight and appear to be making the key players sweat regarding their approach to the new values of millennial shoppers.

This notable change in attitude is likely to be attributed to consumers thirst for clarification on the provenance of the products they are buying and the values of the brands they are giving their money to. In a time where multinational corporations can be more influential than politicians, where we decide to spend our money is where the power lies.

Statistics recently found that over one third of UK consumers want to know the origins and journey of their products and the values of the brands they are aligned with. Therefore, it is of no surprise that start-up brands focused on eco-friendly supply chains and value driven cultures are pushing their head above the clouds of the heritage brands in their space.

Glossier is a prime example of community over legacy. Glossier is currently the most talked about direct to consumer brand in world of beauty. Founded in 2010 by Emily Weiss, it has been dubbed at the “Estee Lauder of the Millennials”. As described by Emily herself, Glossier is a “people-powered eco-system”. This culture driven ethos is reflected in the influence this brand has imprinted on consumers across the globe, with a small glimpse of new collection glossier play receiving close to 60,000 global followers overnight. Vogue described the movement as

“Revolutionary for its time, harnessing a certain come-as-you-are acceptance”.

The catalyst for Glossier’s success can assumably be pinpointed to the brands mantra around being yourself and enhancing your natural beauty. Marketing material from the Glossier brand displays a diverse range of models and real time customer feedback; all of which are celebrated by the millennial and baby-boomer customer.

In a marketplace where exclusivity is no longer championed, brands must be far more strategic in the audience they wish to target and the authenticity of their products to a wider pool of shoppers. Research suggests millennial and baby boomers respond to marketing that is relevant, authentic and reflects diversity.

Failure to adapt can mean a failure to profit and a decline in market share - regardless of legacy. During the early 2000’s Victoria Secret was THE brand amongst millennials, yet the last two years have reflected a major struggle to remain relevant, losing thousands of viewings to their annual fashion show [leading to a cancellation for this year] and a consistent decline in quarterly sales. A further downfall came in the form of Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek’s criticism of plus size models and direct competitor ThirdLove stating

“Nobody has an interest in seeing plus size models on a Victoria Secret Runway…We are nobodies Third Love we are their First Love”.

This move backlashed on the brand leading ThirdLove CEO Heid Zaik to hit back with an Open Letter in the New York Times to Victoria Secret, slamming their lack of inclusivity,

“We are done with pretending sizes do not exist or aren’t important enough to serve. Please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend… to all women, everywhere we see you we hear you”.

In a new world of attitudes towards authenticity and values, focusing on exclusivity will no longer buy you the top spot for consumers shopping lists.

With the decline in admiration for mega brand Victoria Secret, competitors stepped up to steal the spotlight. Brand of the moment Savage X Fenty, crafted by pop icon Rihanna has been described by many as the modern-day Victoria Secret. Savage X Fenty caused a social media frenzy when it showcased its first catwalk in 2018 casting models of all shapes, sizes, expressions and ethnicity. The show was described to Vogue by Rihanna herself as “a celebration of womanhood.

A further notable brand paving the way in the form of sustainability is footwear brand Allbirds. Allbirds is famous for their environmental approach to footwear, making training shoes constructed of merino wool and eucalyptus tree fibre – machine washable and designed to last. A similar European brand sweeping social media platforms and even being worn by royalty is eco-brand Veja.

Veja like Allbirds uses core raw materials: wild rubber, which is bought directly from Amazonian rubber tappers; B-Mesh, made from recycled bottles; and agro-ecological cotton. Veja merchandise is now hard to miss around London, on all social media channels and major fashion platforms including Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and Selfridges.

In light of this, there is concern that with the pressure and expectation of brands to be sustainable and inclusive that it becomes a trend as opposed to a necessity. These changes should be implemented due to the benefit for societies social values and for the protection of the planet for generations to follow our own, not as a marketing ploy to entice but deceive consumers. Consumers grow ever demanding for clarity and proof and it is notably better received when there are realistic targets set in place to tackle a problem and admittance there could be more done than ignorance and deception.

Looking into the future, 2020 is set out to the be the year of change with multiple market leaders promising their commitment to sustainability in all its forms from products to the treatment of employers.

Will this be the year we see legacy powerhouses wake up to the carpet that is being pulled from under them by energetic and authentic start-ups? Only time will tell.

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