Internet Strong for Fashion Branding

  |  September 9, 2004   |  Comments

Apparel companies with a solid Web presence get big brand benefits, especially if their sites convey strong values.

Fashion has gone off the racks and jumped online, where some brands have become accomplished at differentiating themselves. A Brand Keys study that examined where designers are finding fashion brand success found the Internet was a strong favorite.

The study, which interviewed 1,500 female participants, found that simply appearing on the Internet, cable television and cinema advertising can enhance a brand's awareness and image, and increase purchase propensity. Brand Keys dubbed this type of media "high consonance brand enhancer vehicles".

"What I find interesting is that the three media that were rated most highly in terms of reinforcing brand values are the Internet, where they [advertisers] control their own fate, cable TV, where you get to pick and choose, and cinema advertising that allows control of locale and demography," said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, Inc.

Passikoff noted that the media have an impact on how people see brands, and some media have a better impact than others. Brands that choose the high consonance channels are likely to stand out from the crowd, while also exerting more control over their marketing messages.

"Fashion becomes more and more undifferentiated. The traditional approach becomes less and less effective. The study shows that, generally speaking, fashion magazines don't hurt or help – there's a lack of differentiation," said Passikoff, referring to the "neutral consonance vehicles" the study identified.

In addition to fashion magazines, lifestyle magazines, billboards and outdoor advertising, network television, and catalogs were determined to be neutral media vehicles that neither enhance nor detract from brand awareness and purchase intentions.

The study identified newspapers, transit advertising, direct mail, and kiosks as "negative consonance brand detractor vehicles."

It takes more than establishing Web presence for brands to be perceived as high consonance. The Web sites must also convey strong values, enhance positive connotations, and increase purchase propensity, the study found.

"Most of the time, success in terms of the Internet and the site is defined by the number of hits, which is not a good assessment of whether positive messages are conveyed," said Passikoff.

"An awful lot of money is spent on branding so why not integrate those values into the Internet site," Passikoff continued. "Everyone will say they did but clearly some of the sites are working a hell of a lot harder for the brands."

All but one of the 15 apparel manufacturers that were assessed in the study had independent Web sites. Study respondents were charged with identifying which brands had their values enhanced through their sites. Online advertising was not included.

Calvin Klein had to be eliminated from the assessment, as the company did not have an independent Web site and survey respondents could not readily find corporate information online. A spokesman for Calvin Klein refused to comment on the company's lack of a strong Web presence.

Brand Keys relied on its "Brand-to-Media Consonance" method, which measures the degree of brand awareness and positive brand imagery in the media plan.

"What we know for a fact is where you have consonance there is absolute proof that people will pay greater attention to the brand, remember the brand better, think better of the brand, and exhibit a higher propensity to buy," said Passikoff.

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