A brand’s reputation is a major influencing factor on the potential level of success the brand can hope to achieve. Brands with bad reputations will have a difficult time attracting and retaining talented individuals to make up their teams, as well as as have bad relationships with stakeholders which will undeniably have a negative impact on the value of the brand. It is imperative for your brand to build to an excellent reputation. Let’s look at an example of a brand to illustrate the point.
Although a still relative newcomer to the South African market, Cotton On has managed to build quite the reputation among their target market. They are fast establishing themselves as the go-to fast-fashion clothing retailer for the younger, mid price-point trendy market. Established in 1991 with close to 1 300 stores in 17 countries, it employs 19 000 staff and made $1.5 billion in revenue in 2016. A force to recon with.
The Cotton On Brand Portfolio consists of:
- Cotton On – Men and women’s clothing
- Cotton On Body – Women’s lingerie, sleepwear and active wear
- Cotton On Kids – Children’s clothing
- Rubi Shoes – Shoes, bags, jewelry and accessories.
- Typo – Homeware, craft, stationery and gifting
- T-bar – Custom print T-shirts
- Factorie – Youth fashion
- Supré – Party wear
- Free – Tween apparel
- COAR: – Activewear and sportswear, acronym of Cotton On Active Range
Some of these brands are obvious subsidiaries and carries the brand name, while others, like Factorie and Supré, require some insight into the Cotton On brand by the consumer. The five main benefits of a brand portfolio are; creating portfolio synergy, using brand assets, building relevance, creating strong brands and product clarity. The aim of a brand portfolio is to ensure that the brand message is clear and to not create confusion. The Cotton On brand will typically set up multiple shops in the same mall, where shoppers will often buy from Typo, Factorie and Cotton On all on the same day. The brands all work together to create a cohesive whole – filling the gaps where market needs are.
Cotton On’s reputation for quality, affordable, fashionable clothing is well established, but something that in the past few years has made a sizable impact on all fast-fashion brands is the media spotlight on the actual human cost of manufacturing cheap clothing.
The Cotton On Group takes its ethical responsibility seriously. Our Ethical Practice Framework not only guides our policies and actions today, but steers us in a better direction for the future.
The devastating collapse of the 9 story Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013 resulted in the death of more than 1 130 people, and double that in injuries. Although not one of the companies who made clothes at the Rana Plaza, Cotton On (among other retailers) became the focus of an Oxfam campaign to convince the companies to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety accord. Many companies, including Cotton On, signed the legally binding agreement where +- 15 00 factories were inspected and these companies paid for the recommended safety improvements. Cotton On also employed people in Bangladesh to inspect these factories themselves on a more regular basis, and even ran a healthcare van for workers and their children. This, together with the Cotton On Foundation (another philanthropic endeavor that was set up, among other goals, to educate 20 000 people from Southern Uganda by 2020), definitely helped to rebuild and reshape the image of the brand into one that is not just trendy, but also has heart.
Cotton On would do well to advertise and market their philanthropy more, people buy with their hearts and creating a more humanitarian approach may create a more sustainable brand. The brand is growing at a remarkable speed and is continuously adding to their brand portfolio, but they must keep in mind that the smaller parts should build the whole, not detract from it. Critical thinking should be applied when looking at new brands or acquisitions, to ensure that the Cotton On brand goes from strength to strength and not to collapse in on itself.
In the next post I will be discussing brand growth strategies.