As the year draws to a close, we learned that the fast-fashion and high-street behemoth, Arcadia Group, was yet another casualty of 2020.
Whilst I felt no pang of regret for Arcadia Group (owners of TopShop, Miss Selfridge, Burton and many more) as a whole, I’ll admit to feeling a momentary pang of sadness at the end of TopShop, in the way I feel when a pop-star passes away – another slice of my youth disappearing.
TopShop had a special place in my heart, growing up: it was where I went shopping with school-friends, then with uni mates, the number one destination before a big event, parties or holidays. The experiences were all linked to ‘good times’ for me. As a Gen X-er, brands that supported ‘good times’ had an easy win.
Even in my media days, working in Soho, the flagship TopShop at Oxford Circus was a regular lunchtime haunt, with their more off-beat, recycled collections and designer collabs. By now it was the early 2000s, Gen Y (Millenials) were driving a move towards this more-eco-conscious approach. But this was the flagship store in Central London – it wasn’t yet mainstream.
But it got me thinking about how brands become, like people, inextricably linked to our lives, some for a moment, some for life. And just as with people, we can fall in or out of love with a brand. A brand that doesn’t move with the times or with consumer feeling can quickly lose even its loyal fans.
In recent years the Arcadia Group was besieged by scandalous allegations surrounding the behaviour of its owner Sir Philip Green, his dodgy financial dealings and mistreatment of workers, court cases and parliamentary debates….as I write there is a petition running to strip him of his knighthood.
But the fall of Arcadia Group was not just down to one man and what he did or didn’t do.
In the last decade or so, cheaper competitor online brands have mushroomed in the ‘fast fashion’ space (BooHoo, Pretty Little Thing, Shein, Never Fully Dressed…), squeezing the high-street brands with their lack of bricks and mortar.
At the other end of the market though, there has been a huge awakening and movement against fast-fashion and towards more sustainable choices. To buy fewer items and buy more quality, to buy second-hand, re-purposed and recycled. Fashion with a conscience. Fashion with ethics. Fashion that cares about the planet, the materials and the people that work for the business.
Mintel research indicates that brand values will be increasingly vital for business success over the next 10 years.
By 2030 there will be 8.5 billion people on the planet. Companies have to take responsibility for their actions now, not just in order to survive in business, but to ensure the survival of the planet.
I predict that fast fashion and other businesses who don’t act from a place of good, of conscience will be put under increasing pressure.
The Future of Brand
Brands need to be demonstrating values in as many of these seven key spaces as they can, in order to win – not just in their marketing, but transparently, throughout the business. These are (in no order)
- Wellbeing (physical and mental, putting people before profit)
- The environment (caring for nature, the earth, sustainability)
- Technology (helping us in the physical and digital worlds)
- Rights (feeling respected, protected, supported, cared about)
- Identity (understanding and expressing our place in society, diversity, inclusion)
- Value (finding tangible, measurable benefits)
- Experiences (seeking and discovering; mental, emotional or physical)
It’s simply not sustainable any more to put the pursuit of profit at all costs, above all else.
Last week I was interviewed by Julie Barber of Spark! Consulting, and she echoed these trends: she said that the companies which are demonstrating any of these values are ones that are securing investment right now.
Over the next 10 years, with a new ethical generation of consumers (Gen Z) commanding 40% of all consumer spend by the end of this year, the Future of Brand is clearly in doing the right thing.
My best-selling book ‘Let’s Get Visible!’ goes into more depth on the Inner Brand and Brand Values and guides you through the whole VISION process, to get brand clarity, stand out in your industry and supercharge your business growth. Buy it here.
If you want to create a brand your customers will truly connect with, book a free 30-minute VISION call with me and let’s see what we can do…