What is a Brand?

What brand do you like? Why? Is there a competitor and why haven’t you chosen it? 

There are so many brands to choose from on the face of the planet that their creators have taken the time to nurture, curate and grow over the course of their varied lifetimes.

The one I return to so often in brainstorming meetings and strategy meetings is far and away J.Crew. For the purposes of full disclosure, I used to work there. So I’m a brand evangelist in that sense. But I vividly remember my job interview when my supervisor asked me why I wanted to work for the company. I replied that I believed in the lifestyle of the brand.

While that was years before I acquired my Marketing consciousness, I didn’t need a pile of jargon to affirm what I knew about the brand. It was a lifestyle — your best friend, your secret crush, the way you think of yourself when you’re daydreaming. The brand accomplishes so many things and that’s what makes it a good lifestyle brand. It outfits you for Saturdays, getaways, wedding days, Tuesdays and some of the most important other days of your life. The brand manages to really effectively outfit you for your entire life. The approach of the stores is to essentially be your closet, not a showcase for things that would come to live in your closet. The stylists offer honest advice (at least I always did). The catalogs reminded you how to put things together pre and post-purchase.

All that said, J.Crew does an excellent job of making their brand about real people. Their tumblr has great tidbits on what’s going on behind the finished product all the time. The Instagram is a preview to the images you dream of in the catalogs. And, hello, did you SEE what Jenna Lyons did with a full page ad and a bikini? The brand is about the buyer and nobody else.

Obviously, there are other brands. Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, Macy’s, Kohl’s. Each one a different variation on the same theme. But I haven’t chosen either one as quickly as I choose J.Crew because none of the others seem to nail it. Banana Republic is decidedly work wear or casual wear. There’s a hard fit in the middle. Anthropologie takes the drop of quirk and turns it on full-blast (I wish everyday were Saturday). Ann Taylor is absolutely work wear. Macy’s and Kohl’s don’t add the right layer of attainable luxury to their brand.

J.Crew offers something for my life. I don’t have to try to shoehorn my life into what they’re selling.

Other brands worth noting for awesomeness: Tesla Motors, IDEO, Kanye West, Sean Wes, Newaukee, Whole Foods, New York City.

This blog post is part of a series written as prep work for Designation

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