Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Challenges of Marketing a Clothing Line

Marketing can make or break your business. Most companies fail within the first five years of opening, many simply because the owners do not know how to properly market and promote their product or service. This is especially true for a clothing line. Properly marketing a clothing line is what makes the difference between a fledgling company that eventually fails and a fledgling company that eventually thrives.

The Relationship Between Risk and Experience

In the beginning of any kind of risky venture – as this certainly is – there will be a great deal of work before a return is realized. The elements for success in the apparel industry can be earned (a tenacious entrepreneur who eventually gets it right, undeterred by failures along the way) or they can be bought (an investor who takes a chance on a new clothing line by funding someone who already has extensive experience).

Whether it is designing/selling clothing, or investing in those who do, it all comes down to experience. There will always be risk involved, but this is lessened by the amount of relevant skills and knowledge that are possessed. Louis Pasteur once said "Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés", which is often translated/abbreviated to "Fortune favors the prepared mind." or something similar.

Although the original quote was referring specifically to Pasteur's work and experiences in microbiology (many medical breakthroughs were discovered "by accident"), the phrase applies to just about any pursuit. When you have developed extensive knowledge and experience in an industry, you are more likely to recognize the "next big thing".

So I should note, before you read any further: This is not a post that will tell you how to start a clothing company. This post examines some aspects of starting/marketing a clothing company. Starting a clothing company is obviously not something you just do all willy-nilly. (I know I did not need to write that last sentence, but I really wanted to work in a phrase with “willy-nilly”.)

OK, moving on…

Target the Right Demographic and Communicate

It is key to know what demographic you are targeting before marketing your clothing line. Some clothing lines target a large range of people in order to sell more products, but if you are just starting out, I would suggest just sticking to one demographic to focus on. For example, if you are creating clothes for girls or juniors you need to understand how to advertise in places and ways that would grab that age groups attention. Research the most popular magazines, television shows, websites, etc. of that particular demographic. This way you will know how to reach your client.

Using fashion trends that are popular in these types of mediums will quickly appeal to the clients, but you need to offer something else in your products than what currently exists. This may include better material, an edgier take on the design, or a more creative adaptation of the current trend. Highlight these features when communicating with your market and do not forget to use the most important tool of all - the internet. With all the social media websites out there today, it is downright foolish for a clothing designer to ignore this opportunity.

When it comes to sites like Pinterest and Facebook, you will find that users who like your designs will be more than willing to share them with their friends. If you put the right time into understanding marketing on social media, or hire a company that specializes in this type of marketing, you will enjoy some of the best PR and advertising from a comparatively small investment on your part (especially when compared to traditional media).

It is important to understand, though, that different demographics utilize the internet in different ways -and to varying extents. Keep in mind the time commitments required to do this right; oftentimes rolling out a half-baked social media campaign is worse than not venturing onto these networks at all. If you do not have the financial or personnel resources for in-house social media management, seriously consider hiring an outside specialist.

Make it Appealing and Distinctive

First, ask yourself regularly if the clothes you are marketing are something that your target market would want to wear. This may sound obvious, but it is often overlooked by marketers in any industry. When marketing to consumers who differ in some way from yourself - whether in style, gender, age, education, income, etc. – it can become tempting to think of what you would prefer, rather than what your customers would prefer. The best marketers know their target market so well that they are even adept at thinking like their customers.

You need to create a certain “look” that the consumer could envision for themselves. Styling is everything when it comes to marketing clothes. For example, take notice of the mannequins in clothing stores. The outfits displayed on the mannequins are always the most demanded product in the store – retailers are not just selling the clothing, they are selling the idea of wearing this brand of clothing in a certain way. Not everyone can look at different articles of clothing folded on a table and put together an outfit in their mind, which is why showing how good different pieces can look when styled together is critical to selling your product.

While much of this takes place at the retail level, it is also something you have a large degree of direct control over. Consider how images of clothing lines are modeled on websites, billboards, social media, catalogs, etc. Developing a style – then capturing it in print, image, video, and other media – is the foundation of communicating your clothing line’s vision to your target market. Make your clothing line more than just a clothing line; make it a way of life for the consumer.

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