I went to the mall with Emelie today and I got to see a bunch of established brands like Cheap Monday (that was the only Swedish Brand I can remember right now). Emelie was telling me how she heard that there was a new Hollister store and that it was making somewhat of a splash with Swedish people. I thought it was sort of funny, but I wanted to check it out to see how it compared to American Hollisters (as well as how it stacked up against Swedish retailers.
I don't wear Hollister, but I sure do admire Hollister. When we walked into the Stockholm Hollister store, I could only think one thing: It was the exact same as the American Hollister store. The smell, the dim lighting, even the greaters spoke English slang that they would say in the US... "seeya later!" . I know that Hollister is part of a large established holding company, but I think that their business should be used as a model for anyone creating a business. Hollister isn't just a clothing retailer; Hollister sells an experience. Shopping at Hollister feels like you are shopping California. You as the consumer are not just buying a colored polo, but you are buying the smell, the aura, the visual experience, and the sense and self esteem. Hollister sells a bundle of sensory experience at a premium price, oh and you get clothes too. And to top it all off, no matter where you are shopping Hollister in the whole world, you can expect the exact same experience. Same Music, Same Smell, Same entrance to the store even! Where some might think this is not creative, I think this consistency is awesome. They have a very finely crafted experience, and they can replicate it where they need to.
I think that any business, start-up or established, needs to have an focused experience, and brand consistency. Something the consumer can always expect. If this experience isn't crafted by a company, consumers might create their own brand associations, and they may not be positive. For example, when I shop at Walmart (which is close to never), I associate the experience with being cluttered and dirty. The reason I feel this way is because there doesn't seem to be a certain flow to the store. There are narrow hallways and a wide variety of things... all over the place. Target crafts a specific experience and customers will pay a premium price for it... even though Target chooses to stay affordable to draw a bigger crowd. Perhaps Walmart has created its in-store experience to feel cluttered an unsophisticated to create the impression of low-low-low prices. Perhaps if Walmart was too clean, people would associate that level of cleanliness and organization with higher prices.
I guess the point of this post is that more premium brands need to differentiate themselves. I find that many of these fashionable brands all become the same, and differentiate themselves by word of mouth. Should premium brands have focused, complete experiences like Hollister? Does that exuberance lessen the value of the fashion to consumers? Should premium brands be able to sell themselves?
I think that clothes of any kind can only reach a certain quality, and then beyond that quality, people buy brands, not necessarily the clothes itself.
I think all these questions are worth thinking about for an entrepreneur who wants to sell a premium service or product. In my personal opinion, Entrepreneurs should deliver the best product or service they can, but they should also make sure that the consumer experience blows the consumer away. The experience and the quality of the product/service both need to be beyond consumer expectations to develop brand loyalty.
Also, just to clarify once more, I do not wear Hollister. I think their brand is focused on a certain target audience (which is good, they need to absolutely OWN their target market). I am not in that target audience.