Tinder-Lessons in Fashion Branding

Why fashion needs to stand for something.

If the number of women describing themselves as crazy on Tinder is any indication of the real world, the world really is not a safe place.

Luckily, most of us would like to be a lot more crazy than we actually are. Not because being us is bad, but because being someone other than yourself is immensely pleasurable.

Just look at the success of Snapchat. If you think Snapchat is about authenticity, about ‘being yourself’, you clearly have never used Snapchat lenses. Snapchat lenses, in fact, are so popular exactly because they relieve you from ‘being yourself’ and allow you to role-play. This roleplaying is so powerful a motivator, Snapchat is the only social platform not relying on “likes” and shares.

This jouissance of recognising yourself as someone else lies at the center of Marc Jacob’s quote:

Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.

Just like Snapchat lenses, fashion gives us this layer around us to release the jouissance of role-playing in our everyday lives. And as such these layers must stand for something, otherwise what’s the point?? This is why in fashion, branding is intrinsically connected to the function of fashion. The semantic feat of making a piece of clothing mean something cannot be achieved by design & production alone, but relies on communication to function.

Thumbstop-ability

The problem with many fashion brands today is that they are trying to copy the fashion bloggers — most of which are trying to copy each other. As a fashion photographer, I’ve seen and experienced this first hand. In fact, my Instagram feed got so bland after a while, I had to stop using it.

In a world where tinder is the de facto standard of dating you simply cannot afford not standing out.

Now, what do you stand for if you copy what is already out there? Worse still: who will look at your work if you look like everyone else? In a world where tinder is the de facto standard of dating, giving you seconds to impress, and Facebook is constantly optimising its platform to retain user attention, you simply cannot afford not standing out. You cannot afford ignoring the fact that you need to create visual content that stops thumbs from scrolling on — a feat comparable to stopping a train in full speed.

The use of harsh shadows in much of high fashion casts a second character from the model, creating a visual tension, which can be used to create micro-stories, conveying meaning beyond the mere visual canvas.

Similar to the way tinder works, you might describe the ideal fashion branding as the following series

Thumbstop: A visual key stimulus that makes me stop scrolling or swiping through the newsfeed. This needs to be bold (!), so the key stimulus stands out. It also needs to relay emotionally, who the brand or item allows me to be.

Swipe: Only once I stop at a picture I will open their profile. Now it is important, that what I read next strengthens the impression I already have. In terms of Facebook marketing: Only when a bold image makes me stop scrolling will I look at what this picture is actually trying to sell me. I will then decide whether what I read in the title/description/posting text confirms my initial reaction to the image. If it does: I will click (or like, or connect, …)

Chat: Usually to secure a date, I will have to write the person I just matched with. Similarly, a fashion brand will have to engage with their potential customers — on their website, through messenger bots ,e-mail,… Firstly, we have to confirm that we are who we say we are on our profile. And secondly, we must convince them that they are going to have a good time with us.

Convert: Well…you all know what happens here, if all the previous steps are successful ;-)

None of this is even remotely revolutionary — which is why I am so flabbergasted that time after time brand are ignoring the importance of thumbstopping and of helping their customers be someone.


I’m a digital first fashion photographer between Vienna and London, whose work has been used by brands like L.K. Bennett, Cadenzza, Public Desire, Bench, Zara, Adidas, Fraternity Royal Collection. A short time ago, I co-founded the digital marketing agency UNIQUE unchained, as part of the UNIQUE network of advertising, public relations, and research agencies based in Vienna.

So get yourself a free consultation to see how you can make your brand even more awesome! ;-) Just write my at martin.prechelmacher@unique.at