The ABC's of Brand Strategy
In a Challenging Environment, Brands Try New Techniques to Differentiate.
In the life of a brand, companies make many attempts to meet specific, long-term goals. While the road may wind, the ultimate endpoint is to sell, sell, sell. We’ve chatted up some top industry executives to see what they are doing now, during a difficult time, to stand out and get product into the hands of consumers.
A = Tapping Artisans and Ambassadors
“The role of a brand ambassador for Champion is someone who inspires others and embodies a true Champion – those who are bold, authentic and bring their own style. For Champion’s first-ever Reverse Weave Week (celebrating the franchise patent, finalized on October 14, 1952) celebration, we teamed up with TikTok superstar Jalaiah Harmon. She is the creator of the viral ‘Renegade’ dance, so we enlisted her to create a ‘reverse’ version of the dance. Knowing our fanbase spends a lot of time on TikTok (and wears a lot of Champion on the social platform organically), it was a natural evolution for our team to begin engaging with content curators in the space.” – John Shumate, VP of global brand marketing, Champion
“I have been working with Shinola since their beginning. They first reached out to me to make a range of sports balls with the Shinola logo. The relationship was a real game changer for my business. We both focus on American manufacturing, authentic design, American sourced raw materials and American craftsmanship. We have a similar customer base. Leather Head Sports is unique in that we view sports balls as sculptural objects. The obvious advantage in working with Shinola is that their orders provide the resources that help keep us in business.” – Paul Cunningham, founder, Leather Head Sports
B = Building Brick and Mortar Relationships and Engaging Retail Buyers
“It’s harder to find buyers without tradeshow events like Outdoor Retailer. We’ve been able to hang on to customers, but picking up new ones is difficult. New retailers have to see the product and doing that multiple times is challenging. We set up our own studio to do virtual appointments — spending about $1500 on a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, studio lights and a backdrop for showing off product. We used this setup to successfully pitch L.L.Bean for FW21, and ultimately got into their stores and catalog.” – Jake Anderson, founder, Forsake
“We are in 16 REI stores. But when we were in New York City to participate in the Gotham Gets in Gear [media] event, which was held steps from Paragon Sports, we took the opportunity to go next door, find two buyers and invite them over to see our product. They actually came and took samples! They want newness and family-oriented offerings, so this was great for us. Such a ‘serendipity’ thing to have a media show right across the street from them.” – Alexandra De la Torre, brand manager, Selk’bag
“We are finding that buyers are very short-staffed and hard to reach. Lots aren’t going to trade shows. We are actually doing direct mail. We say that we want to send you something (compression socks) and it brings the experience to them. I am also separately launching a new platform next year called ShopDot, which allows independent retailers to partner directly with brands to grow their eCommerce experience and product assortment without operational hassle or inventory costs (shopdotapp.com). Vim & Vigr will continue to grow under the leadership of our COO, KC Nelson.” – Michelle Huie, founder, Vim & Vigr
C = Next Generation Collaborations and Partnerships
“One of our task force members met Black Folks Camp Too founder Earl B. Hunter, Jr. years ago at a trade show. She reached out to him when the country’s social unrest was at its peak last summer. We realized we had the natural makings of a mutually beneficial relationship — Oboz would advise BFCT on the footwear segments of its Digital Education Initiative, and BFCT would assist and advise us with our Diversity and Inclusion work. The next step was collaborating on an attainable footwear product that would benefit anyone and everyone to get outside on the trail — Black Folks Camp Too x Oboz O-FIT Insole Plus. We chose an insole due to its low barrier to purchase and added graphical elements to appeal to a broad audience. Oftentimes collaborations are completely product focused, but here the product is just an element of a program that extends into educational resources, events and awareness.” – Regan Betts, marketing manager at Oboz
Smartwool is using the New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) ZQRX index, which is a sourcing platform dedicated to 100 percent regenerative wool. The index includes emphasis on animal welfare and social responsibility, as well as increased focus on environmental issues that directly reduce carbon emission and improve biodiversity like waste, water quality and soil health. “We believe in continual improvement and when you know better, you do better. That’s why we’ve been driving innovative sustainable Merino wool solutions at every level of our business for over 25 years. ZQRX is the next ‘better’ way and an important advancement in moving our industry forward.” – Jen McLaren, brand president, Smartwool