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If your current thinking on branding is slapping a logo on the left chest of a sweatshirt and sending your customer off to the company picnic, you might not be as current in your thinking as you should be.
It was business writer, thinker, and management consultant Peter Drucker who said, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” These days, trying to sell embellished apparel the old way is a guaranteed disaster.
The way customers think, the approaches we have at hand to reach them, and the way they ultimately buy are different from the way things were even a decade ago. These days, engaging your customer, rather than selling to them, will be a key to the success of your business and theirs. Following are a handful of possibly new ways to consider your product, understand your customers’ needs, and come up with ways to fulfill them.
Brands with confidence
It takes a big brand to be able to poke fun at itself. Remember the old Absolut vodka ads? The image would always be the same shape, of the Absolut vodka bottle, but would become fascinating, whimsical, elegant, or comical when constructed of items other than glass. Your brain told you it was the Absolut bottle, but you were entertained by that month’s interpretation of it.
While most brands are usually loath to alter their logo in any way, every once in a while, just to make a point, the statement can be so bold and powerful that it is worth the suggestion.
Another approach might be to suggest adding a slogan or verbiage that defines a special event, or combining a corporate logo with a stock design that visually links the two and the implied endorsement. If a bank is donating to a food bank, and celebrating that fact, why not suggest incorporating a loaf of bread into the logo to substitute for a letter, one time only. Or if a restaurant is showing its support for a hospital, suggest the addition of a stitched band-aid to get the point across. You may need to allow extra time for the approval process, but it will be well worth it in added stitches, unique results, and word-of-mouth advertising.
Once thought the domain of “preppies,” monograms, as well as other methods of personalization, have become fair game.
At one time relegated to linens, fine dress shirts, and bathroom towels, embellishments with monograms, names, and nicknames are often seen and encouraged in the retail world. Catalogs, in-home sales of totes and other soft goods, even portable kiosks in malls or at shows offer the ability to personalize everything from dog collars to horse blankets, lunch bags to boat totes.
With upselling in mind, especially so with businesses that are local, schools that promote their hometown heroes, and industries using branded apparel as a “thank you” for their staff, suggest that individuals’ names be added to each item. One of the beauties of embroidery, and multi-head machines is that you can produce in volume, then embellish individually. Again, you are going for unique and memorable.
When it comes to personal branding, your hooping skills will be put to the test. A fashion trend that began in 2015, and has remained, is the personalization of accessories such as shoes, bags, and headwear. When embroidered embellishment was seen all over the runways towards the end of 2014 and well into 2015, many fashion pundits suggested investing in an embroidered accessory, rather than jumping in “whole hog” with a pricey outfit covered with embroidery.
Awareness of your customers’ sense of style when they enter your shop is worth pursuing. Even the customer, who is entering your shop simply to place an order for their business, may not be aware of the capabilities of embroidery to emulate their personal style on clothing and accessories. Have samples readily available and images of what can be done. Bare walls never sold anything, but giving the space over to the possibilities of personal branding will bring you closer to their “aha” moment: “I never knew you could do that!”
Connecting with community
According to the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study, 90 percent of consumers would switch brands to one associated with a good cause, and 84 percent seek out responsible products whenever possible. Here is where new thinking needs to replace the old sell, sell, sell mentality. Do you have a cause? Do you let others know about it? Do you contribute any percentage of your profit to your community? The statistics quoted above reveals that if a customer had a choice between giving you their business, or giving it to another shop, and one of you publicizes your community commitment, that is the shop that will grow, both in revenue and in word-of-mouth advertising.
More than logo placement or stitch count, the engagement of customers in 2016 and beyond includes doing more than is asked. Providing high-quality embroidery at a reasonable price as quickly as possible may be the norm, depending on the competition where you live. Set yourself and your brand apart from your competition by letting customers know that you are larger than the four walls of your business. According to Advertising Age magazine, 39 percent of new car buyers have chosen the brand of car they are going to buy six to 12 months before they purchase. Don’t spend so much time on the brands of others that you neglect your own.
According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites, and the most recent are purely pictorial. Forrester Research refers to 2016 as “the age of the customer,” and heralds the importance of the customer experience. While your customer relies on you for your expertise and service, the current vogue of influence selling is going to come from your customers. If you participate in the creative process, rather than stand behind your counter as an order taker, you will not only win their business but that of others who they will come to influence.
Your customer is a walking billboard and a tribute to your work. Encourage the unique; be mindful of fashion trends; partner with your customer to put them and their company in the best light. Logos that are cutting edge through your use of trending threads prove you can make the seemingly impossible possible, and doing your utmost to make the work you do for each customer a tribute to your creativity and the capabilities of embroidery will keep them and their peers coming back for more.