Branding for Apparel: 6 Tips for Stronger Fashion Brands
by Matt Ellis
When it comes down to it, apparel may be the industry where branding matters the most. In both high-end and low-end fashion, many customers are buying the brand instead of the actual product. A person’s clothes say something about who they are, so shoppers often choose brands that match their personality. That presents a great opportunity to apparel brands to enter new markets, but also a great challenge to display the right personality.
I’ve reviewed some of the most successful branding strategies and picked out the top five. When your brand sends the right message, your target customers will hear it.
1. Tailor Your Branding Strategy to Your Target Shoppers
First things first. You need to define the best branding strategy for you, and that starts with your target shoppers. Who do you want to buy your products? Is that market viable, and can you break into it?
Once you know your target shoppers, it’s time to really know your target shoppers. What do they like? How do they identify themselves? What do they wear? It’s always better to base your answers on actual customer data than just giving it your best guess.
Next, make a list of adjectives that describe the brand your target shoppers want. Personality traits like “cheerful” or “professional” work just as well as business traits like “affordable” or “plus-size.” This list of adjectives becomes your new branding personality, and reminds you of what characteristics to highlight in your branding strategy.
2. Social Media Contests
Fashion and social media go hand-and-hand. Every time someone posts a photo of your clothes, it’s free advertising. And the more a customer likes how they look in your apparel, the more they’ll want to share it. On top of that, people trust their friends’ recommendations more than an advertisement, so social media is a smart and often cheap way to promote yourself.
You can fast-track a strong social media presence by initiating a contest — anything where the entry criteria is posting photos of your clothes. Offering a prize for posting your content not only increases posts and boosts your account’s popularity, it also makes people more excited about your brand.
Don’t forget to tie it all together with an individualized hashtag to build a sense of community.
3. Referral System
Similar to a social media contest, a referral system capitalizes on word-of-mouth advertising by encouraging customers to spread the word about your brand. In exchange for bringing new customers to you site, you offer special perks like free gifts or store credit.
While this strategy may not work for luxury brands — they must maintain an air of exclusivity — for startups or low-income brands this is an effective way to raise brand awareness with nothing much else to go on. To see how fashion brands have successfully utilized this strategy in the past, read this list of 11 referral programs in fashion eCommerce.
4. Build Up Your Blog
Your blog is the voice of your brand; posting on it has the same effect as speaking directly to your shoppers.
First, your blog lets you address areas of interest for your target shoppers. If your customers are interested in colorful products, you could write a blog explaining the different color palettes and how to use them. You can also clear up some issues specific to your brand, for example, a post outlining the differences in your sizes, or going into detail about your value proposition.
Second, the voice of your writing strengthens your brand identity. A blog written in a hip and sassy tone makes your entire brand seem hip and sassy. A blog using proper grammar and no emojis makes your brand seem more mature and professional. Just make sure to create a style guide so all your writers go in the same direction.
Last, blogs are great SEO tools for incoming traffic. An SEO-trained writer can create posts to help your site rise in the rankings of search engines, and if the writer is skilled enough, your readers won’t even be able to notice.
As always, don’t forget to link to the product page whenever you mention specific items. You can even build entire posts around your products, such as, “Top 10 Styles to Wear This Summer."
5. Work with Influencers
The apparel industry is intrinsically tied to trends, which makes fashion trend-setters extremely powerful. So much of fashion is having the right people wear your gear. Your entire brand identity could change just because someone new is seen in your clothes.
Influencers encompass a wide range of trend-setters. There are top-shelf influencers like celebrities and fashion icons; there are grassroots influencers, like the most popular employees in an office; and then there's everyone in between.
First, isolate the influencers that match your brand identity — everyone else is a waste of time. After that, you can start the reaching out process. You can read a step-by-step guide to attracting and working with influencers in this influencer marketing guide.
6. Protect Your Brand
Monitoring online mentions of your brand as well as reviews for your products is key to long term success. Watch for new trends as well as products that may be reaching the end of their life cycle. Paying attention to what people say about your brand can help you determine whether it's time to add a new feature or create a completely new product to keep your brand fresh.
The fashion industry is lucky in that every new purchase is a free advertising opportunity. If someone buys a power tool or kitchenware or a new bed, the rest of the world doesn’t always know it. But with apparel, everyone that sees your customer knows what kind of clothes they like. That’s why it’s doubly important to choose your target shoppers wisely. Once you become successful enough, your customers will dictate your brand personality — not you!
Originally published on July 10, 2018, updated August 7, 2019
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.