Flocking, differentiation and generic fashion. Uniqlo’s CMO Jörgen Andersson gets it.
An interview with new Uniqlo CMO Jörgen Andersson in today’s Business of Fashion begins with a reference to a legal paper, “The Law, Culture and Economics of Fashion”. In that paper, authors Scott Hemphill and Jeannie Suk address the concept in the world of fashion of differentiation and flocking. Individuals want to express their individuality. They want to present a style that is unique to themselves, a personal brand. At the same time they want to belong to a group. Be identified as a certain type of person and fit in with others that they want to be associated with.
Why flock? We have an innate desire to fit in. To be part of the group. To be accepted. For some it is a social status issue. Certainly high-end brands communicate wealth and exclusivity. Street brands communicate coolness and rebellion against any perceived existing establishment. Athletic brands exude lifestyle choices. There are countless boxes which can be used to describe the general groups, movements and communities which people want to flock to. For some just being an accepted part of the group is the end goal. Others wish to disappear within the group. For many, within the context of a particular style and sub-culture there is a desire to still express an element of individuality. Working from a foundation of a general style, individuals can then express their own uniqueness via a personal style that allows them to be part of a trend but not an exact replica of everyone else within the trend.
Billions of dollars are spent every year promoting these concepts of flocking and differentiation. We call it branding and trend building. Thousands of students take marketing classes on how to brand and hundreds of agencies promote themselves as experts in how to achieve this. We hold up billion dollar brands from Nike to Lululemon to J.Crew to Gucci and more as examples of both how we want to be perceived as well as how a brand should impact society and consumers.
When I entered the apparel industry as a total neophyte I was armed with a transcript full of business classes on marketing and branding. I thought my secret was going to be that I solved a unique problem that cut across the various subcultures. Years later I still think that is the case but have to admit that I held, still do hold, certain brands in my head as examples of how I would like the business to one day appear to the public. It’s part of the reason why this topic always resonates with me. Fit issues always prevented me from embracing any brand and style that I wanted flock to. It made me think about these same issues and for a period of time, feel like I was the only one expressing the struggle between the individuals desire to fit in and look like everyone else while also expressing individuality. Of course now I know that there was nothing unique about that insight and I was just one of many who noted the issue. While I can not say that my closet contains a single item from Uniqlo it does make me enjoy the refreshing honesty of their CMO, Andersson.
To read the full interview with Andersson follow this link: http://www.businessoffashion.com/2014/04/uniqlo-cmo-jorgen-andersson-consumer-culture-generic.html