By Katie Shuff
Arguably, no sector demonstrates Simon Sinek’s ‘why theory’ (which argues that when leaders and businesses start with, and are driven by, a higher purpose they will more effectively inspire their customers and employees) better than the fashion industry.
Fashion brands, from independent boutique labels to luxury conglomerates, play to consumers’ aspirational desires and sense of self. Whether it’s opting for a Loro Piana baseball cap to show your quiet luxury credentials, or a pair of Balenciaga bug eye sunglasses to demonstrate your allegiance to trend-based fashion, many consumers select pieces based on what that brand says about them, rather than the product itself.
As Sinek deftly puts it, “...people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”.
Yet, when it comes to fashion tech brands, some struggle to articulate their ‘why’ by relying heavily on corporate milestones and product PR when trying to communicate with stakeholders. While championing company successes should form part of a robust and dynamic communications strategy, solely relying on these tactics only goes so far in helping companies cultivate meaningful brand awareness.
Building a fashion tech business with a strong sense of brand belonging requires business leaders to take meaningful action in that space in line with what matters to stakeholders, from customers, employees, supply chain partners and investors. Looking out at the world will help fashion tech businesses hone and refine their ‘why’ while articulating their story in a far more impactful way, just as their customers do.
Fashion tech’s ‘why’ factor
When we think of fashion brands inspiring strong loyalty with action, the first names that come to mind are B2C. For example, Nike with its Dream Crazier campaign championing female sporting prowess, or Hermes’ embodiment of quiet luxury. But this sense of identity and purpose shouldn’t just come from consumer-facing brands.
B2B businesses across sectors can also get in on the ‘why’ action, particularly in fashion. As Sinek emphasizes, “when a WHY is clear, those who share that belief will be drawn to it.” Essentially, your customers want to do business with a brand that aligns with what they believe in. That is as true for B2B companies as it is for B2C brands.
By actively moving the needle on causes that resonate with the company’s core values and having a voice in key industry debates that you and your stakeholders are passionate about - whether that’s sustainability, disability accessibility or the future retail experience - fashion tech companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors while inspiring and building loyalty with customers with shared beliefs. Establishing a dynamic, issues led communications strategy will ultimately support meaningful action while helping to showcase and articulate your ‘why’.
Building the foundations of an issues-led communications program
While company successes and partnerships play an important role in establishing industry credibility, they don’t necessarily inspire. What’s more, journalists (and customers) often find them self-serving if they’re not hooked to the wider news cycle, or themes with a wider impact on the sector or community.
In contrast, tying an issues-led comms strategies to the company's core values and the tangible action the business is taking will demonstrate authenticity to all stakeholders, including media.
For example, if a brand has established its right to play in certain topics, whether that’s ESG or technology innovation, pitching pithy reactive comments or ‘newsjacks’ on a relevant breaking news story, like Europe’s latest sustainability regulation or the upcoming global AI summit, can be very impactful. Talking openly with the media about how these issues affect fashion allows B2B fashion tech companies to continuously lay their stake in the ground and offer clear insight into the brand’s core beliefs.
Similarly, longer form opinion pieces allow fashion tech businesses to elaborate on these beliefs further to give a clear indication of what the business stands for, while controlling the narrative.
These tactics should form the backbone of any ‘always on’ communications strategy but can be dialed up or down depending on the strategy and required outcomes. Third party research to gauge industry or consumer sentiment on a particular challenge can also be a great way to inspire more hard-hitting creative campaign ideas for fashion tech brands.
The important thing to reiterate is if you want to be opinionated on a topic, you need to ensure you’re acting meaningfully in that space before you start weighing in with commentary.
Defining a clear point of view
An effective issues-led comms program relies on clear, authentic messaging (and action) that encapsulates why your fashion tech company exists rather than what your company does. These guiding principles need to be consistent across the business and pillars that your whole team lives by.
Working collaboratively with the C-suite, it’s essential to create a clear overarching umbrella message that articulates the company ‘why’ while establishing more nuanced messaging for specific audiences.
Adopting a ‘now, near, next’ communications strategy also enables fashion brands to consider their why by considering the actions that need to be taken and what message should be served alongside them in the context of the immediacy of today, the possibilities of tomorrow, and the vision for the future. This scalable approach helps maximize fashion tech businesses’ immediate communications priorities while ensuring that activity ladders up to that North Star (the umbrella purpose and message) in the long-term.
While championing corporate milestones is a quick and effective way of establishing credibility with your target audience, these moments won’t inspire them to take action. A considered and robust communications strategy that clearly articulates why your business exists, and what wider societal issue you’re trying to solve (and how you’re trying to solve them), will go much further in attracting like-minded customers.
To be a true tech disruptor across the fashion industry, businesses need to clearly vocalize their ‘why’ through a strategic and issues-led communications program, backed up with meaningful action.
Want to find out more about how Clarity can support you in your journey towards building brand belonging? Contact us today.
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