Retailers can succeed by doing one thing well (or solving one problem well).
I have been inspired recently by a denim brand called Hiut denim from a small town in Wales called Cardigan. They are a company who craft jeans. Only jeans, no jumpers, accessories, t-shirts or anything else. Simply beautiful, handcrafted raw denim.
And they are excellent at it, they have developed a global brand community that are captivated by the craftsmanship and story that comes with every pair of jeans. Their model is simple - do one thing, focus on their craft and be excellent at it.
In fact, through the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday my respect and admiration for the brand deepened, Hiut closed the metaphorical ‘doors’ of their website. Yes, that may sound crazy in the current consumeristic market of the 21st century, when we as shoppers drop vast amounts of cash and expect prices to plummet as we fill our homes with new clothes, technology and anything else that we can put our hands on at rock bottom prices. But Hiut opted for a different approach, one that may not work for all retailers, but which was refreshing nonetheless.
As other retailers were racing to the bottom, their closure on Black Friday was a simple and powerful statement that their quality products deserve better than opportunistic price slashes – and that sustainable commerce requires consumers to shop responsibly.
But, what has made their model work?
A singular brand focus makes messaging easy for both staff and consumers.
It is apparent when you look at retailers like Hiut, that focusing a market offering can lead to consistently good customer experiences, which in turn can build amazing loyalty. Customers can most easily identify with a brand when it is clear who the brand is, what they believe in, what level of quality they offer and why they price the way they do.
In the case of Hiut, customers know they are quite literally getting a pair of jeans that is a cut above (pun intended!), so they are happy to pay a premium for quality. Supporting this is Hiut’s simple pricing structure and lack of sales gimmicks – which is entirely consistent with the product approach, and which engages consumers in the brand’s ethos. In a weird way it is all about the jeans, and at the same time it is about more than just the jeans.
There is no one-size fits all approach to brand focus (especially for jeans…).
Focus shapes purpose and purpose helps people within organisations to consistently create the right customer experience.
Focus can look different for a variety of retailers: there is no one-size fits all approach. Depending on a brand’s history, competition or customer preferences, it could be a focus on:
- doing one thing well like Hiut; or
- a single product type like the miraculous WD-40; or
- customer service excellence like the US shoe e-tailer Zappos; or
- providing huge discounts like TK Maxx; or
- providing a diverse assortment selection like Tesco; or
- delivering a luxury experience like Burberry– the list goes on.
The important point is that when organisations decide what is core to their brand proposition, then they can go after that thing relentlessly. Focus shapes purpose and purpose helps people within organisations to consistently create the right customer experience. Without clear focus people within organisations can miss the mark and offer different experiences when a customer interacts with different departments e.g. in store vs customer service.
For example, 20 years ago the eCommerce shoe retailer Zappos received a customer email with just the word “WOW” in the subject line. That email has truly defined Zappos’ journey and resulted in the company honing its brand proposition by narrowing product selection and focusing on providing excellent customer service and fast, reliable delivery. Their relentless pursuit has been to repeatedly create the “WOW” experience – it is what drives their people across the whole organisation and provides a basis for their strategic decision making.
This applies to you, and everyone can be a catalyst for brand focus.
As an employee within an organisation, it is easy to see other brands execute with an inspirational level focus and just wish that you could do the same. We can all be caught in the inertia of thinking that it is for the executives to define the focus. But brand focus is not just the responsibility of executives (although it is their responsibility too!).
Staff at the front line in every organisation have the ability to create a focused and consistent experience for consumers – not varied experiences of marketing, in-store, online, city vs town, etc. It has to be joined up in its purpose and messaging.
This comes down to everyone within organisations communicating and collaborating more effectively, finding ways to create consistency of purpose across teams and relentlessly communicating that upwards. Not waiting to be told but seeking to define.
Don’t dilute your brand by being “OK”, or by being a jack of all trades and a master of none. As staff, we can be curious and passionate about our brand purpose – and this will be felt by our customers.
Practically within your teams, this can be as simple as asking the following questions:
- What is our brand purpose?
- Do we all have a consistent understanding of our brand purpose?
- As a team, are we focused on what we do?
- Who do we need to talk to internally to be clearer on what our focus areas should be?
Veriteer has been designed to help organisations overcome this problem
At Veriteer we help our partners design brand experiences that are built on each and every customer interaction. Veriteer exists to help organisations address the challenges of what to focus on, how to communicate purpose through teams and how to create brand loyalty through an incredible, on-brand customer experience.