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Bob Sheard‘s ongoing contemplations regarding creativity continue with his latest thoughts on product differentiation. Touching on the idea of trend-driven products and how designers have the power to birth a multitude of changes, the candid thoughts draw from both his past as well as his colleagues. For a full account of Sheard’s ideas, read the piece below.
We can predict the future. Here we make ten predictions about Lifestyle and Performance brands.
Bread & Butter, the world’s largest trade show for street fashion, starts next week. Hundreds of Lifestyle brands will be there from Levis to New Era.
One. Most brands will communicate that their brand is the most fashionable.
Two. Most brand design will be centred on validating that strategy by showing their models in a lifestyle portrayal representing the vanguard of fashion or trend evolution.
Three. Most brands will use third-party collaborations in their product design to deliver the notion of “Fashion and Trend Leadership”.
Four. In short, the brand and product design for Lifestyle brands in 2013/14 will be a sea of homogeneity. Homogeneity driven by a common strategy of how to best demonstrate “Fashion and Trend Leadership”
Five. We predict a similar level of homogeneity at the world’s biggest Outdoor Performance trade show, ISPO.
ISPO starts on February 3rd in Munich. Hundreds of Outdoor Performance brands will be there, from Nike to The North Face.
Six. Most brands will communicate that their brand can best protect you from the Outdoors.
Seven. Most brand design will be centred on validating that strategy by showing their athlete conquering the Outdoors in some way.
Eight. Most brands will use third-party branded lamination technology in their product design to deliver “Protection”.
Nine. In short, the brand and product design for Outdoor Performance brands in 2013/14 will also be a sea of homogeneity. Homogeneity linked to a common strategy of how they can best “influence” the Outdoors.
Ten. At both fairs, brands will neglect the power that product design has to differentiate.
So how can product design transcend brand homogeneity?
In the case of British institution Doc Martens, Fresh found a brand that had a strong product identity and plenty of customers who felt affinity with it on that basis. However they were struggling because their designers, like the rest of the competition, were making “trend-driven products” for a “fashion-oriented” customer.
Bob Sheard recalls the project.
“They were designing something which they felt represented fashion but in doing so they were trying to chase the high street. It takes 18 months to bring product to the marketplace and you will never “out-fashion” stores such as Topman.”
“We told DMs that they needed to focus on more enduring trends rather than short term “fast fashion”. We advised them to concentrate on longer term cultural trends, provenance and quality.”
“We observed that in DMs case, the key was not to follow the market in adopting “lifestyle and fashion” trends. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Just create honest product and let your consumers create their own meaning.”
Having been a Creative Director at Converse, Bob understood this mechanism well.
“A pair of All Stars are a blank canvas, they get personalised and develop meaning through whoever puts them on and makes them their own. It’S the same as a Dr Martens boot ‚Äì if a copper wears them, they represent order. If a globalisation protester wears them they represent disorder. If a nationalist wears them they represent the far right, however if a socialist wears them they represent the left wing.”
At DMs the brand doesn’t give the product meaning, people do.
In the lifestyle sector DMs is the perfect embodiment of how product design more than brand design can differentiate.
At ISPO there will be another FreshBritain client who above all others will differentiate via product design.
Whilst the Outdoor Performance sector will continue to attempt to “Conquer the Outdoors”, in the case of the enigmatic brand Arc’teryx, their power resides in their ability to design a product that is “Inspired” by the Outdoors, not designed to “Influence” it.
But that is another story….