Stella McCartney has always been an advocate for animal welfare and the environment as has her own luxury fashion brand by the same name. In September 2019, she launched a collaboration with Hunter and more recently and perhaps more bizarrely, Adidas and their Stan Smith range.
However it’s not as bizarre as you might think. It’s actually very clever for a number of reasons, especially when you look at it from a branding point of view. There are some valuable lessons here on how luxury fashion brands can think differently.
The luxury sector is going through a challenging time for reasons we wrote about in another article. Essentially, what people perceive as luxury is changing. Yes, it’s still aspirational but consumers are becoming more socially aware and the fine line between vulgarity and reward is thinner than ever. Add to this a fluctuating global economy and the rise of digital and luxury brands are now having to be much smarter.
Heritage only gets you so far. Brands are having to adjust their messaging and work their branding into new areas to stay relevant and ahead of the competition. This requires pushing boundaries and understanding how your brand can fit within these markets without losing what you represent. This leads us to the clever part about the two collaborations Stella McCartney has created.
Central to both collaborations is her brand, imagery and core message - her love for the planet. That’s where the similarities stop. Hunter solidifies her brand whereas Adidas diversifies her brand into a completely new audience. By associating with two different but relevant audiences, she is staying ahead of the competitors and opening up new avenues. The key takeaway here is that Stella McCartney has stuck to the brand ethos but learned to adapt the approach.
Looking at the Hunter collaboration in more detail, a significant part of the Hunter customer base tends to have a good financial background and lifestyle. Being more socially aware than ever, they are worried about the kind of planet their children will inherit. According to the Independent, the Hunter collaboration is the most sustainable boot ever made, with Stella McCartney guaranteeing that ‘no rainforests were culled to farm the trees used and protecting the wellbeing of workers and local communities’.
They are also a much sought after brand in this market. When you combine spending power and care for the environment, you can see how this is a perfect match. Easy.
Now the Adidas collaboration is much more focussed on early awareness with a new audience. Younger generations are more savvy about our planet than ever before. There’s a big rise in vegan and vegetarian lifestyles and people like Greta Thunberg have inspired a generation. With Stella McCartney x Stan Smith, they are getting an iconic trainer that appeals to this younger generation who happen to also be more environmentally aware.
While still fairly expensive, they are considerably lower than the other trainers in her collection. Crucial for this entry level target audience. As these new brand evangelists grow older, they aspire to buy the more expensive items from Stella McCartney.
Interestingly a lot of the promotion has been done digitally too. Utilising the right platforms that their target audience use. Instagram posts, stories, sponsored posts and mailing lists. It sounds simple but it means your branding and messaging must be totally in tune and consistent across even more marketing channels.
It will be interesting to see what Stella McCartney does next and more importantly if the competition can keep up. Though having an ‘elite’ factor, luxury brands are not untouchable anymore and must keep up with what is going on around them in order to stay relevant, or indeed set the benchmark. What this means for luxury branding, is that it will keep evolving.
Design and copy need to be adapted for new opportunities and marketing channels without diluting your brand identity. To do this successfully, you must apply a strategic approach to your branding. Having your core messages and brand values locked down so it influences everything you do is absolutely vital.
Taking on these new opportunities to diversify then becomes less of a challenge as you align with a partner brand with the same values. This allows you to make a bigger impact and always stay one step ahead of the competition.
To give you an idea of how other luxury brands are standing out and what they will need to embrace in the future, we wrote an in-depth article called 'Luxury branding - The audacity to stand out in a crowded market'.
If you are struggling to find ways to stay ahead, we would be more than happy to talk about how we can create impact within your business.