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The Story of ‘Classics’: A Classic Marketing Message

Classics. We talk about them all of the time: classic cars, classic flavors, classic fashions. And from a marketing view, classic brands. But what really is a classic? It is something that stands the test of time. Something people continue to like. So, why do some brands last and some fizzle out? It is about brand promise. When consumers know what to expect and their expectations are met, every time over long periods of time, we call these brands classic and consumers reward them for it.

One such classic is Birkenstock. They are a 244-year-old German brand. Their shoes have been lauded as among the ugliest available, but they are still alive. Why? Brand promise. They deliver a high-quality, comfortable product time and again. They are durable enough for adventure and easy enough for every day. Consumers know that when they purchase a Birkenstock shoe, at a premium price, what they will receive. They also know that wearing Birkenstocks makes a statement. In the ‘60s,’ the hippie generation wore them as a counter-establishment message. In the ‘90’s they had a resurgence against the mass consumerism of throw away fashion trends. Now again Birkenstocks are on the feet of our teens and young adults taking further their open acceptance of all lifestyles—a statement of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Levi’s are another example. Again, this 165-year-old company had $4.9 billion in sales last year after only $7.1 million in 1997. If you’ll recall, designer jeans and boutique brands have exploded in the last few decades. So how did Levi’s, a purportedly anti-trend, anti-boutique, anti-throw away fashion statement triumph? Again, brand promise. You buy Levi’s and know that you can continue to wear them; that they won’t fade in and out of being chic.

But who decides what a brand stands for?

It should be the company that owns that brand.

Whether their message is successful is up to the consumer.

Birkenstocks are not unchanged in their 244 years. They listen to consumers and watch market shifts. They relaunch their shoes with new materials, new styles, new colors, but only in ways that reflect who they really are. They successfully placed their shoes onto fashion runways, in pop-up boutiques, and the feet of social influencers. The brand message remains that ‘we’re classic.’ The product; however, changes to become relevant to each new generation. So, too, does the marketing channel that Birkenstock uses to reach each new generation. Consumers respond and by accepting the marketing message (buying the product) and launching the brand forward.

Levi acted similarly. Their marketing message is not that they are cool or trendy. Instead, they have said they are original. They promote their heritage via cowboys, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe. But while they were marketing their ‘original status,’ they were also updating styles, materials, and custom laser fitting techniques. The result? Celebs who tout their own realness and authenticity began wearing the style: celebs such as Alicia Keyes and Snoop Dogg. Consumers follow and Levi’s once again rise all without changing their brand promise—but changing their product and their marketing channel.

Authenticity. Quality. Heritage. These are brand promises shared by both brands. They are messages that resonate as consumers boomerang from being trend forward back to being anti-trend.

The marketing lesson here is that when you establish your brand (your promise to the consumer), you need to deliver on it. Good branding isn’t about fooling a customer into buying your product once. It is about creating a promise that you deliver on by delighting your customers. For example, making a durable shoe. It is also about finding out what your customers want (updated styles and materials) and delivering your message to them on their preferred platform (celeb endorsements, social media, or the local newspaper).

Does this mean that if you sell a service to a local audience or a product to a niche market that you, too, should get celebrity endorsement or spend your marketing budget on social media? NO. It means that you need to know who you are. You need to know who your customer is. You need to know what they want. And you need to know where they spend their time to be exposed to your marketing messages.

When your product resonates with your consumer, when they know about your brand, and what to expect, your brand will prevail. In time, it, too, can become a classic.

If you’d like help answering these questions about your product or service, or if you’re ready to craft messages that deliver your brand, contact BRANDED today. Our brand strategists will work with you to create marketing that gets results.

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