Brands and Their Worlds

by Claire Kidman

There are plenty of brands whose brand stories and identities have got me hooked, even though I’m well aware their products are a world away from my life. It’ll be a while (read: never) before I’m walking around Berlin in Loewe or Mansur Gavriel, but that doesn’t stop me feeling like I ‘get’ their world and their style.

For me, the sign of a great fashion or lifestyle brand is if, while scrolling through Instagram, I message their images to my friends. Don’t give up on me just yet — there’s something to this theory. I don’t use this function to try and sell my friends anything; a cursory glance through my Instagram DMs suggests a 60/40 split of shared posts. The majority are memes (both dog and miscellaneous), but the rest is brand content. It’s not the kind of fashion content most people are used to, though.

Of the brands and fashion accounts I follow, barely any are the well-known high-street names, and absolutely none are department stores — the fashion equivalent of scrolling endlessly through the Netflix home screen before giving up and reading a book. Instead, they’re smaller independent brands, new faces in the luxury world, and high-end names who’ve taken a look around and realized that selling the products is only half of the battle. If you really want to be successful, respected, or admired as a brand, you’ve got to pull up your socks and pull people in.

So why does my opinion matter?

From a retailer’s perspective, if no one else’s, I’m a pretty good catch: employed, no dependents, into fashion, reckless spender, and living in an age with no limits to the brands and stores I can access (thank you internet). Most of my friends fit into the same demographic. The preferences of this demographic when it comes to social media, brands, and spending should be important — to brands, at least.

It takes more than a few “influencers” (ugh) in staged lifestyle shots to bring in the kind of customers who’ll potentially invest in your brand not only financially, but emotionally. This cheesy, tried-and-tested marketing of many big brands is more likely to put me off than encourage me to take notice, let alone spend. It’s lazy, if nothing else. It takes a lot of effort and great creative direction to develop a truly inspiring brand — one that doesn’t fall back on big blogger names to secure its place in the fashion world. Mansur Gavriel, for example.

Suede and satsumas

Take a look at Mansur Gavriel’s Instagram, and while their brand’s style is immediately apparent, you’ll find a lot of the pictures don’t actually feature any of their products. And that doesn’t mean they’re reposting Pinterest images of coffee and palm trees (yet another uninspiring brand tactic). They manage to combine their editorial content with nature, architecture, and shots showing nothing more than an inanimate object, but it’s tied together so well with their brand and the editorial concepts that it creates a sort of branded world that you can — and I do — aspire to live in.

This approach makes sense. Their brand is pretty solid: block colors, clean lines, classic materials. There’s only so many photos of bucket bags anyone can look at before they stop caring, regardless of how nice they are. But Mansur Gavriel have built a story around it — a world where a picture of a peeled citrus fruit gains twice as many likes as the handbag it sits beside. It’s actually a pretty interesting game: which photo has more likes? The lemon or the shoe? The plant or the bag? Save it until after this article, though, I’m not quite done yet. There’s no pattern to which content gets the most involvement, and the brand’s 440k followers never know what they’ll be seeing in their Instagram feed next. They just know it’ll be good.

We can safely say that all of these 440k are not buying a leather bucket bag at 800 euros a pop, but (and this is a big but), all of them want to see what’s next and be a part of the brand. There’ll always be someone to buy your Italian-made leather goods, but it’s just as important to have a loyal group of followers who sing your creative praises to anyone who’ll listen — even if that means messaging a photo of a woman’s foot to your pal. Because when these brand-fans do have money to spend, you’ll be their first stop.

What does this mean for other brands?

It might be a while before the bigger, more traditional retailers come to terms with this. But with more and more brands creating content with a carefully curated and considered identity — one that stands out, and is instantly recognizable — it’s only a matter of time before they have to catch up.

There’s another Instagram test that I find interesting to consider: as you scroll through your feed, can you tell which brand an image belongs to? Some brands have cultivated such a strong identity and online presence that it’s instantaneous, but try it with a department store and chances are you’ll fail miserably.

Sometimes, your brand can just be something people want to show their friends, share for its styling, mission statement, art direction, photography, or just because it looks great. It’s not really about selling the product, but the brand itself — its ideals, its vision, and yeah, you guessed it, its story.

Header illustration by Pauline Daher


This article was originally published at www.edenspiekermann.com, where you can find lots more on what we do, how we work, and who we are.