I love to clean out closets. It’s generally a manageable task, and one that I can complete in a day. (This timeframe does not, of course, apply to the closets of my two teenage daughters.)
As I survey the wreckage of the economy we face today, I can’t help but think that a little brand closet cleaning is not a bad thing at all. Some of this has happened already, with the demise of well-known retailers such as Linens N Things, Circuit City, and others. Another category that is shrinking rapidly is what I call “bling brands”, which grew along with all the other wretched excess that we saw in the years leading up to our latest downturn.
Unlike authentic, luxury brands, which have staying power, bling brands are created in a bubble. I consider luxury brands to include Tiffany, Hermes, BMW, Rolex, Ritz-Carlton, Chanel, among many others. Bling, on the other hand, makes me think of Hummer, an endless supply of $6,000 designer handbags with no recognizable or distinctive style, diamond encrusted watches, platinum cell phone cases, and celebrity perfumes. The stock market calls a certain investment trend during tough times “a flight to quality” and the same is true for high-end consumer/luxury brands. They may experience a dip in volume, but authenticity and reliable, unmatched quality is what lasts.
Finally, what about the endless line extensions and unnecessary variations that have sprung from the feverish imaginations of brand managers. How many flavors of vodka or rum are really necessary? How many varieties of cell phones? Or types of credit cards? Yes, I know, the name of the consumer marketing game has been to dominate shelf space. But in a time when the focus is on essentials, your marketing dollars have to work much harder. I think now is a wonderful opportunity to take a long hard look at the real value of an overstuffed product portfolio.
So one of my New Year’s wishes is for marketers to clean out all the worn-out, poorly-fitting, faddish, or dated clothes–oops, brands–in their closets. It’s amazing what a little extra room on the clothing rod can do for the spirit. It actually inspires fresh new thinking and may lead to true product innovation