Branding within the fashion retail industry

By Samanta Jauce
Posted on 10.05.2020

Within this critical diary I am going to be examining branding within the fashion retail sector and how the fashion design industry has changed due to online demand. Firstly, I will gain a clear understanding of identity design itself and I will develop from this by researching, analyzing and contacting relevant sources that will help me analyse this sector. I will then be able to identity and reflect on my own skills and developments needed as a graphic designer. This should also give me an insight on trends, pressures and the roles of an identity designer 
to follow.

Though analysis of the industry, the skill and designer inspired work in the sector I should be able to recognize and reflect on the standards required by the noted industry. I will then see how my skills and assets combine with the sectors responsibilities; and see what I have to further develop to fit in with the industry.

I have chosen the fashion industry as I am interested in the way we perceive things visually and the way that this creates an association to us in our minds though certain visuals. I would like to focus on brand identity/branding for fashion as it is an essential for every fashion company.  

What is brand identity ?   

Usually a company’s brand identity is presented through a variety of elements and materials  such as stationary, business cards, promotions, media advertising , etc., and it can be represented through a unique logo or signage. This is a must in every brand strategy but in the book Marketing Fashion, second edition; Strategy , Branding and Promotion it states that “a brand is created out of a total package including not only the garments, retail environment, packaging and advertising but also the meanings, values and associations that consumers ascribe to the brand.”  This shows that fashion branding is not just the elements that advertise the company, but it Is more about the overall image that is created in people’s minds though a wide range of elements and emotions.

This is supported in a Martin Roll; business & brand leadership article where they have said that “branding needs to be strong and consistent thorough its touch points, convey a differentiated positioning and hold the consumer within its universe ( for example within online and offline channels). Branding is now seen a strong marketing tool as it is able to translate a brands values and attributes though visuals, and as soon as businesses started realizing the status in the minds of people; nearly everyone began forming identities.

Brands now hire graphic designers to do this to in order to gain more consumers to their specified target market, as well as to promote their brand image. It began as products, but we have slowly shifted out priorities from product to organisation. Today a brand has to showcase its aspects in various mediums and forms to represents its corporation. But it states in a book published in 2013 that 

“for fashion retailers and brands, magazine advertising is the most effective 
form of advertising"

- Lea-Greenwood, Gaynor : Fashion Marketing Communications

showing that there has been a huge shift within the industry overall due to online demands and competitors using online based promotions. A huge part to play in this is the shift in how their target audiences who follow mainstream brands
and trends.

Fashion industry impacts 

Factors such as economic, environmental, political and social factors impact the industry. Companies try to claim attributes that will reflect those factors to make a connection with their targeted audiences. It says in ‘how to build a brand in fashion’; you need to have the right product and a vision of where it fits within a wider culture. This shows how culture effects brand purpose and positioning as its harder to place a brand in a market. Hence why we have more eco-friendly companies out there.
H&M  conscious collection - for a more sustainable fashion
The challenges
Within the same article a woman called Katie White who worked in advertising agencies, and also specialized in digital branding for fashion said; “The big challenge for brands that we come across, is that the lifecycle of what is relevant is speeding up." This shows the impact that trends, culture and social media have on branding in general and that it is continuously changing and shaping our world and what people follow.

For example, the retail company GAP who changed their logo design drastically to fit in with the competitors received a huge backlash on social media. This resulted in impacting the industry as consumers shared their negative views for developing new consumers.

The demand for online expectations has risen enormously, this has affected the way branding designers work and they come across pressures like ;demand in social media branding as there is more demand of work to be placed across a wide variety of elements such as web and print. Due to this most fashion brands tend to be simplified, for example Nike, whose logo is easily applied and used across all platforms though its simplicity. This has had an impact as today people have “high sensory driven expectations when online shopping for example. Consumers are looking for brand experiences that can easy transition between platforms and technologies. Hence why most fashion brands use blandified branding as they want to adapt and listen to
their audiences.

What defines the sector? 

“Opening more stores as a strategy for growth is increasingly becoming a thing of the past, with pressure from e-commerce and the rising costs of maintaining an expansive physical presence”. But what defines the process of strong branding now is the focus on trust, sustainable sourcing, community, honesty and value for money. Plus, the cost of maintaining an expensive physical appearance vs a good online experience is huge and this effects branding as there’s more demand for an online experience. Another factor that defines this field are ‘trends’, which are continuously changing, and it is becoming harder to keep up with the target market. So, defining a brand sometimes uses other techniques and trends. Such as nostalgic brand marketing which means a brand wishes to capture the feeling of how it used to be.

How companies apply themselves? 
Gym shark is a great example of the fashion industry now as Gym shark mastered Instagram to drive instant sales. Gymsharks chief officer Noel Mack says

“Instagram is a huge part of our story because of the communities we create, but the challenge is always how to stand out among so many online businesses vying for customers attention” 

This reflects the way the company exploded with success in such a short time period. With the ability to strive in a direction of differentially they drastically changed their image which in return shocked their fans. To do this they produced a campaign called ‘black out’. It reached 16.4m people and a huge number of purchases were made. A vast majority of its success came from its ad spend on Instagram. This clearly shows the high impact that social media platforms have over the fashion industry, and how the fashion industry has changed.

Martin Williams, a freelance designer who designed the gym shark logo says, “image focus brands are a very competitive, demanding and very aesthetically driven”. So Martin follows a simple checklist when designing logos for any image focused brand, which includes;

-Conceives ideas
-Sketches concepts 
-Works up the best 12 concepts as vector artwork
-Writes up a detailed notes to accompany the designs that he presents
-Contact and feedback
-Makes multiple rounds of revision as required
-Refines a chosen concept into a final logo
-Prepares and supplies the final logo files
Agencies have also got to keep up with the fashion trends and changes of the industry. One company that I decided to focus on is Mynt. Mynt is an international brand communication and a retail design agency. Their clients span across a wide range of sectors including fashion and sports. They have different focus points that include; brand Strategy, campaigns + communication, retail + interior and more. They have worked with clients such as Adidas, Lee cooper, Nike and other retailers.

They have a project called ‘shoe gallery‘ where they created deliverables such as branding, logo design, print of sale, packaging and online branding. From this logo design especially, you can see the basic structure of online branding strategy. The use of a simplified design and their high-end colour palette shows that their aim was to have a technology-based brand strategy through the use of nostalgic brand marketing. This is a road a lot of other companies take as they are pressured into competing with other online shopping brands out there. And to present themselves in different formats is a challenge branding designers face as they have to keep up with more upcoming trends. In today’s world most fashion brands use platforms such as the internet to promote their products

Working in the fashion design sector means that you will always be working closely with brands of different styles and target markets. As the fashion industry is ever evolving, and it is an essential for a designer to follow the trends of the industry and have a burgeoning interest within the sector itself. My interests align with this sector as I enjoy working on a wide range of projects that have a variety of different styles and outcomes. 
A specific project I am proud of is my freelance package design as I felt like I could follow a specific message and take this across the brand through the logo. I enjoyed the notion of movement, energy, and success that I managed to drive though the visuals of the package.

I hope further design logos and advertise for fashion sports brands as it will combine the role and the sector that I both enjoy. But to begin a career in branding, a branding designer needs to have a strong set of skills. These skills often include :

- Communication
- Time management skills
- A keen eye for detail
- Understanding of a range of print and online processes
- Ability to express thinking in words and images
- Understanding of conceptual practices
- Skills in Adobe creative.  

I believe I have adapted certain skills though my time at the university of Northampton by time managing projects, showing and expressing my thinking by working on a group project for Elevate. But to further develop my skills I need to work on my communication by leading more team projects and gain an understanding of online and offline printing processes. Which I could develop this by gaining experience though an internship or an apprenticeship, which is also a great way for branding designers to start out. Giving the ability to work on live agency projects across a variety of platforms, formats and environments. This also helps to build a portfolio, which would widen any chances of getting a design job that I want.

Branding designer responsibilities
As well as the skills there are responsibilities for a branding designer. These responsibilities include; “contributing to brand strategies, research into the client and subject, implementation of the creative execution, collaborating with other communities, briefing and overseeing production, hold responsibility for owning shaping and delivering creative projects and well as contributing to pitches.” I have demonstrated some of these responsibilities by taking part in a life client pitch for Goodbody, and by closely working within a group of designers to deliver the outcomes successfully through in-depth research and analysis.

My thoughts
The sector has high competition, and an ever-evolving audience that they try and adapt to through trends. The sector demands more online accessible outcomes and content as a way to adapt to their younger audiences. A way to keep up with the evolution is to keep blogs, visit stores, contact social media outlets and keep on top of fashion magazines. Overall The fashion sector is highly driven on online marketing. This including fashion sales, fashion advertising and their ability to position themselves within the market. Many brands apply a wide range of techniques and supporting platforms to create impact on consumers.
Fashion being so successful it creates many competitors. In return this has impact on the environment as the fashion industry is the second main polluter industry in the world . Many brands don’t consider the impacts highly enough, but I believe there will be a bigger shift within the industry to produce and support materials that build awareness and the willingness to change” ; more companies will try to stand out though this, and more branding designers will have to take this into consideration too.

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