Stop designing, start branding — an example of what really matters

Arik McArthur/FilmMagic

This weekend I was at Made in America in Philly — Huge concert in downtown Philly put on by Jay-Z. He was headlining this year which was awesome.

I was walking around in the pouring rain on Saturday, soaked, and I couldn’t help but notice this one thing. This HUGE lesson I learned in the streetwear / clothing / branding game was everywhere, screaming. I believe this concept 100% so it was no surprise to me, but I think it is an awesome example so I want to share.

The concept is the fact that How you Brand your product matters way more than the actual product.

This weekend I was at Made in America in Philly — Huge concert in downtown Philly put on by Jay-Z. He was headlining this year which was awesome.

I was walking around in the pouring rain on Saturday, soaked, and I couldn’t help but notice this one thing. This HUGE lesson I learned in the streetwear / clothing / branding game was everywhere, screaming. I believe this concept 100% so it was no surprise to me, but I think it is an awesome example so I want to share.

The concept is the fact that How you Brand your product matters way more than the actual product.

On Saturday, as I mentioned it was pouring all day at this outdoor concert. Everyone was soaked, and only a few people were prepared. Walking around I noticed a few rain ponchos emerging. Some of these ponchos were jet black 4:44 ponchos. At this time in the day, style was the last thing on anyones mind. We all just wanted to stay dry and out of the mud. BUT, all you could hear in the crowd was “yo, where are they getting those four four four ponchos?” and “YOO, that four hundred forty four ponchos is tuffffff fam.” and “that forty four four rain coat is lit my guy” and “where you get that forty four thing yo?”

Let’s break down this demand:

  1. I realized neither myself, nor anyone else knew how to say 4:44
  2. I realized that the reason people wanted the ponchos was not because it was raining (no-one was asking where to get the clear simply functional rain ponchos)
  3. I realized no-one wanted the ponchos because of how they looked — imagine a black garbage bag with 4:44 printed roughly on the left chest
  4. I realized the 4:44 logo is literally just gold times new roman-ish font, that’s it.

There is ONLY one reason anyone wanted the poncho. The same reason anyone was here to see Jay. This reason is the same reason people go nuts for Supreme. It’s the same reason that Kanye can put out any shoe and it’s instantly a hit. These product are in demand, NOT because of the simple athletics of the product (the way they look) BUT because of the brand, legacy, identity, and meaningfulness behind them. The 4:44 poncho example stood out to me so much because of the ridiculously simplistic nature of the logo and garbage bag like fit. Yet, I found myself trying to find where I could gone too. We all wanted one, not because of how they looked or what they would do for us in the rain, (we were already soaked) but because of what they stood for — JAY’s legacy.

Many startup brands work tirelessly on the look of their products. This is important and not to be overlooked, but it is simply not what sells clothes. The story behind your clothes is what sells them. The brand behind the clothes is what sells them. The unspoken words that the clothes say while being worn, are what sell them.

It is simple and very enticing to think that the way your brand’s clothes look is what will sell them, but unfortunately, it matters so little. We are all artists at heart. We create, we edit, we re-work, and tirelessly try to perfect our craft. All I am saying is that the craft we need to be perfecting, is the craft of branding, not designing.

Times new roman-ish 4:44 text mean nothing without Jay-Z. And it could have been literally anything on that album cover and we would love it.

More on branding

-Ben