PERHAPS nowhere in the world of business and commerce have brand names become as important as in the beauty and fashion industries. From handbags to hairsprays and shoes to shampoos, consumers are being swept up in a wave of acquiring products because of their name.
In Guyana, we, too, have been caught up in the tide of brand names, particularly in our choice of footwear, as we sport Nike, Fila, Adidas and other famous brands, along with the ever-popular Clarks, which now offers greater variety in an effort to keep up with the fierce competition.
And, in recent years, a growing number of entertainers and sportsmen and women have been ‘joining the fray’, either producing their own product lines or endorsing those of famous companies. One of the best-known endorsements, the basketball legend, Michael Jordan’s name on Nike sneakers and actress Elizabeth Taylor’s line of fabulous perfume are just two examples of this.
Some companies develop logos, catch phrases, distinctive colours, or a combination of these so that their products are instantly recognisable by consumers. However, critics point out that many no longer bother to create designs or patterns, but simply rely on their name emblazoned on a garment to sell it, turning buyers into advertisers, and so benefitting from this ‘free’ advertising.
Some items produced by famous fashion houses are of such high quality and price that they need no such advertisement, and, as is the case with the gorgeous Birkin bag by Hermes, do not even carry a visible brand stamp.
Hermes, along with Gucci, Dior and other big names have long since established their credentials, and rely on the outstanding quality of their products to promote sales and retain their standing in the elite fashion market.
Some brands preserve exclusivity by limiting the number of particular items on the market, so that demand constantly outweighs supply. Others like Supreme, whose name and fortunes have been on the rise in the urban wear market, have an elaborate pre-purchase process, and customers can often be seen in long lines waiting to buy one of their exclusive hoodies.
Hermes has a waiting list for their Birkin bags, and can confidently boast of their impeccable quality, and the fact that no two bags are the same. With a price tag of hundreds of thousands of US dollars, customers expect no less.
However, branding is important, and is defined as ‘the process of creating a strong perception of a company, its products or services in the customer’s mind by combining such elements as logo, design, mission-statement, and a consistent theme throughout all marketing communications’.
The Nike ‘tick’ and the tag line, ‘Just do it’ are two of the most powerful in marketing history, along with the Guinness catch phrase, ‘Guinness is good for you’, which, although developed decades ago, is still known and repeated today, (and the now world-renowned Guinness Book of World Records was originally introduced as a marketing stunt!).
The French and Italians have long been considered as world leaders in the establishment of elite brands, now being made even more famous by American rappers, who wear their clothing and accessories, and regularly plug the designer names in their songs.
But even these elite brands have not escaped the advent of the ‘Impostors’, who produce items almost identical to the originals, but lack the quality both in raw materials and workmanship.
Several companies have resorted to extensive campaigns and lawsuits against these ‘fake makers’, aimed at increasing public awareness and preventing sales of these ‘knock-offs’, as they are termed, but, nonetheless, fakes are found throughout the fashion and footwear industry, which are perhaps the most vulnerable.
It, therefore, behooves consumers, especially those brand-name lovers, to examine the items they buy carefully to ensure their authenticity. And if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. For there is an old adage in shopping, which still generally holds true today, ‘You get what you pay for’. And marketing is still one of the most powerful tools of manipulation in business today.