The power of branding, a lesson from Rodeo Drive

It’s hard to imaging spending $300 on one pair of jeans, let alone spending that kind of money on denim when our country is in a recession. But, designer jean companies have figured out how to keep selling their high-ticket items and thrive during the downturn.

While most wouldn’t put designer jeans and training products into the same category, they do have one thing in common – they’re both viewed as nonessential items when tough times hit. Training and development is often one of the first places companies look to cut when under financial stress.

Like training programs, when consumers start to feel the pinch it means cutbacks on “non-essential” items including expensive clothing. Michael Ball, creator of designer jean brand Rock & Republic, explained how he built his denim empire and what he’s doing to handle the economic downturn in a recent BusinessWeek article.

With no fashion experience, Ball created a line of jeans just over five years ago that immediately caught on in the Los Angeles celebrity scene. His high-end, $300 men’s and women’s jeans developed a cult-like following that turned his idea into a $300 million brand.

So, how did he do it?

Start with a high-quality product that people find value in. “Certain denim brands have made it their focus to be a game-changer. They make you feel really great and you will pay twice as much for those. What [Ball] is able to do is get the consumer of many different age segments and deliver on the implied promise that these jeans will make your life better, you will feel better.”

Change with the market. Ball understands that people have less money these days and are changing the way they spend money. While they may not buy three pairs of jeans at a time, they will buy one great pair from the brand with the right message. “The top-tier has fallen off,” says ball who has repriced his jeans due to the struggling market.

Develop a powerful brand. Believing that “all publicity is good publicity,” Ball is never shy when it comes to media attention. Strong brands are more likely to hold up better than weak ones when the market hits a slump. Ball was able to create a distinctive position in his market with a “real perceived differentiation” than others in his industry.

Position your product as an essential part of your consumers’ lives. Whether it’s a pair of jeans or employee training software, only the most powerful and adaptive companies will survive.


One response to “The power of branding, a lesson from Rodeo Drive

  1. great advice, interesting article, and nice presentation…
    i think that there is a level of JEANS that is pseudo-designer in that they are name brands that produce GOOD qaulity so they last longer than a cheaper pair…. those are the brands to buy….

    you make a good point that many hundres of dollars for denim does not make as much sense, but look at the inflation of wages for garment workers and the price of grocerys and perhaps the lower end jeans arent as inflated as you might think….

    levis are probably the most stable commodity of the last 40 years….
    the jeans guru,
    my Designer Jeans
    ( at good prices too. )

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