Brand Identity in an Online World

Brand Identity in an Online World

To understand clearly how an online clothing brand or Lovemark is perceived and received by the market, a great analogy to consider is the concept that every one of us has his or her own personal brand. That brand is how others identify us.

So in a sense it defines who we are.

Socially, mature adults aren’t attracted to people who are obsessed with having as many friends as possible and being as popular as possible. Generally speaking, they only succeed in coming across as totally fake and disingenuous.

Maybe even desperate.

It’s not easy to connect with someone like that on anything but a shallow level. And as a friend of this kind of individual, you’ll most likely be lost in a sea of “followers” anyway.

So the bond within that friendship will almost certainly be quite tenuous.

Instead, we’re far more strongly attracted to people who are genuinely themselves, who have their own thing going on, and who are passionate about what they’re doing with their life.

When you meet someone like that, but have no interest in what they’re doing, you probably won’t become close friends, and that’s OK. But if you have even a slight interest in what they’re about, then you’ll definitely want to connect with them on some level.

It’s like a bee being attracted to a flower. That’s the real, natural law of attraction.

It’s the same for a clothing brand.

It should be genuine, have its own voice, have its own thing going on, and the right people will be attracted. Some won’t get it and won’t like it, and that’s OK. A brand isn’t supposed to be for everyone.

The important thing is that the people who do get it will likely be loyal followers for a long time, because the brand stands for something.

It has substance.

When a brand checks these boxes, its customers feel a connection and it’s on its way to being a Lovemark.

Unfortunately, the online world is rife with distractions that can undermine a brand’s conviction in its own identity. It can fall into the trap of being led by “the algorithm”, and by likes, followers, and keywords.

A brand hell-bent on being flavour of the week can lose its identity, its voice and its purpose. When this happens it can no longer build a loyal following because it will no longer stand for anything.

Everything about the brand that its customers could have built a connection to will have been sacrificed. And the brand will have relegated itself to “influencer” status, following trends and chasing popularity and recognition with no basis and nothing to offer.

As a big music lover, I look at musical artists and bands the same way.

I’ve never had any interest in bands that just follow and reinvent themselves for the trends, looking for commercial success. That’s the very definition of selling out.

The truly great bands have their own style and sound. One that changes for no one other than themselves. They don’t follow everyone else’s path. Instead, they create their own.

They don’t change just to be as popular as possible. The world changes to adapt to them.

That’s so incredibly powerful, and it’s the path that all great bands have taken.

I know what you’re thinking though – it’s easier said than done. And you’re absolutely right.

But here’s the thing.

Every brand has a choice to make – to be satisfied being a conventional brand forever, or to strive to be great.

To be a Lovemark.

If your ambition is just to move as much clothing to as many people as possible, or to be as popular as possible with the masses, then your choice is the former. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

If that is in fact your choice.

Alternatively, you can choose to build unshakable customer loyalty among your people – your people – that’s built on deep, emotional connections.

Lovemarks have a heart and a soul.

They’re capable of loving, and of being loved. And as such, they’re impervious to competition, because they transcend the importance of pedestrian brand-defining factors like utility and price.

In his book, This is Not a T-Shirt, Bobby Kim of the clothing Lovemark The Hundreds discusses the importance of respecting one’s own brand identity.

There was a rough patch of four to five years that The Hundreds went through where their sales where dropping dramatically and the brand was in dire trouble. The generation that had grown up with them had gotten married, gotten careers, moved on to other things, and so on.

The new generation was interested in different styles. So things were grim for the brand.

But rather than bow to the market and chase all the sales they could, they instead doubled down on who they were as a brand, since they knew that was their greatest strength.

They let go of many accounts that they thought weren’t the best fit for them. They stopped selling in malls, because their founding supporters didn’t shop for their apparel there. Their wholesale accounts wanted them to produce jogging pants and sportswear lux fashion, which were sure-fire sellers in that climate, but they made baggy chinos and LA-style workwear instead.

They only did collaborations that strictly aligned with their interests and revealed facets of their character, rather than being financially-based.

They slowly carved out their own niche once again, and once their dark period was finally over they found that their community had stuck with them. Their sales recovered and in some categories even reached record highs.

All the changes they made to save the brand were high risk and never guaranteed to work. But in the end, sticking to who they were rather than folding to chase sales and popularity within the current marketplace is what saved them.

The message here is very clear.

By all means listen to your market, they’re important. But don’t obsess over what they want to see each and every day. Don’t count how many likes they give you.

And don’t assume the market is always right. Don’t bend to their every whim and suggestion.

You will lose yourself.

To do that is to change who you are. And who you are is what your people love.

If your desire is for your brand to become a Lovemark, stay true to your identity above all else. And don’t try to be the most popular kid in town.

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