Are brands still judged by the company they keep?

Are brands still judged by the company they keep?

For generations brands have been judged by the company they keep and often by the environment in which a brand is offered to its target audience. This discipline has been an important success factor for luxury or premium brands across product categories like automotive, jewellery and fashion, to mention a few.

Case studies that demonstrate the importance of this brand reality include Lexus and Audi in the luxury car market. Although from the Toyota and Volkswagen stables respectively, both luxury brands created stand alone environments in an effort to challenge the likes of BMW and Mercedes Benz.

In the fashion business, brands compete for custom on the luxury shopping avenues of the world with shop designs that are an extension of the brands’ fashion statement. Sales of merchandise considered to be “last season” is carefully managed to protect brand reputation, often in factory outlets or those shopping strips out in the Californian desert.

At the opposite end of the market this strategy can work in reverse. Value or cheaper brands flourish in environments deliberately designed to reflect a lower or more accessible price point. “Stack them high and sell them low” has worked for successful, unpretentious brands.

The latter approach does not have to be cheap and nasty. Trader Joe’s in the United States created a good value environment through choice of merchandise and eye-catching bulk display of choice products.

However, the “internet mall” now seriously challenges this strategy of being in total control of the environment in which your brand is available to consumers. In a dynamic where buyers know exactly what they want in terms of brand, size, colour, it is the price rather than environment that determines a successful sale of even luxury brands.

A tough challenge for brand guardians. Are we fast approaching the reality where the high street store will be no more than a brand statement while consumers will use smart phones to secure what they want at the keenest price?

Even if this scenario proves to be the way consumers make brand choices in the very near future, I believe brands should remain very selective about the company they keep. The Apple store or Louis Vuitton flagships will always attract brand “tragics”, even if just for a touch or a peep.




I cannot imagine this brand statement from a Tiffany’s spread in Vanity Fair being signed off with a selling message of “Now available at Walmart”.


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