The growing consumer trend of individualisation is counteracted by the global uniformity of international players. What can international lifestyle brands do to benefit from local customisation?
Globally known brands perform strongly. They stand for continuity and clear quality standards and consumers recognise them, which makes it easier for them to further establish themselves internationally. The brand stores of such global players often contribute to shaping inner cities.
The products of these brands, however, usually remain interchangeable. Locally different nuances in the assortments are often unnoticeable by customers. As most of the products are globally available, customers can not lift treasures on their travels with these brands. So, instead, they are looking for trophies and souvenirs elsewhere.
Role Model Hard Rock Cafe
The merchandising of Hard Rock Cafe is certainly a success story in local customisation. For decades, customers of all ages have been storming the shops worldwide and securing their T-shirt with the city name. The further away from home, the better. And it can be assumed that only a small percentage of Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt owners have ever even had a coffee at the Hard Rock Café. But they brought back their trophy to show at home how international and well-travelled they are.
It baffles me that international brands are not focusing more strongly on localising some of their products. Is it too complicated in production? Is it against a globally prescribed internal marketing ‘law’ to offer the same products everywhere? Doesn’t management believe in additional sales through impulse purchases?
Levi’s logo shirts have been another hype; entire school classes have raised them to uniform. How about if the red logo print comes with an additional ‘Berlin’, ‘Los Angeles’ or ‘Seoul’, with each shirts only being available in the respective Levi’s Store? It would open a new dimension of consumer’s collecting passion, and push store traffic, sales, as well as brand awareness.
Sportswear Brands Push Local Individuality
Sportswear brands have been in the offensive locally for some time already. Puma, Adidas and Nike have started individual campaigns in trendy cities and offer appropriately labeled products. In the rest of the brand world, however, local custumisation remains too rare. The potential for additional customer satisfaction that localisation offers cannot be achieved with interchangeable products.
And this potential is not limited to sportswear or streetwear, but includes luxury brands whose only growth currently takes place in these more leisurly industries anyway. A hoodie by ‘Chanel – Soho, New York’ might be a paradoxical intervention for the French brand, but would certainly find its lovers. Similarly, the upcycled bags of Swiss brand Freitag to be sold in their Tokyo store could be made exclusively from tarpaulins with Japanese lettering. International customers of the store would love that too. Hermés fans would likely find interest in Kellybags with an indication of the name of the traditionally hand-producing manufactory (as these passioned customers simply buy all Kellybags, they can get and afford, anyway).
Berlin-based artists Elmgreen & Dragset even placed a ‘Prada Store‘ into the desert of Marfa, Texas in 2005 (see image at the top of the page). If I were Prada, I’d offer (and definitely sell) merchandising that references the famous art installation.
It Takes Creativity and Courage With a Wink
Local customisation is about implementing creative ideas instead of sticking stubbornly to uniform global brand presence. It’s also about having the courage to play locally with your own brand. Customers are looking for surprises, inspiration and famous labels that make them unique among their peers at the same time. Last but not least, it’s also about a good portion of humor and a certain self-irony that makes brands likeable to customers. Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier, Walter van Beirendonck, even Louis Vuitton have done it. Or look at this hoodie I found in a store a few years ago: it’s print reads ‘Betty Ford Clinic – Beverly Hills, California, USA’ and I bought it right away. But that’s a different story.
About the Author:
Alexander has worked as a buyer for men’s fashion, in retail management and as a consultant for store branding. He currently runs a variety of museum shops and has learned that quaintness is key in lifestyle retail. You can get in touch with him via e-mail and read more of his posts here.