Making brand trendy

In this article we have taken an example of Lee Cooper how their Brand Director Has turn around their Brand by adopting suitable strategies in different countries and also coming out with different product lines. Global brand director of the British apparel and accessories company Lee Cooper was entrusted with the responsibility of rejuvenating a flagging, fuzzy brand when Sun Capital Partners acquired Lee Cooper in May 2005. The products were good but the brand had no energy admits the director, who, prior to joining Lee Cooper, was instrumental in turning around brands like Puma and Ben Sherman.

Part of the problem lay in the brand’s diffused positioning across geographies. Lee Cooper was positioned as ‘value denim’ in markets like the UK, Europe and France, as ‘mid-market’ in the Middle East, and as a ‘fashion leader’ elsewhere. Also, there was just one product line, Originals, which was sold to everyone including discount retailers. Every country had a different perception of Lee Cooper, so the first task was to reposition the brand with a global relevance. This was the strategy of the Brand Director for repositioning.

Today, Lee Cooper has three sharply-chiseled product lines targeted at different consumer segments: Platinum or high fashion couture, Red Diamond, which is essentially mid-market or mass-premium, and Originals. They are selling in mid-market distribution and are also in Harrods. So the brand stretch is quite unique. Consumers are looking for authenticity, and if products are not good the brand won’t work. You start reinventing a brand through products. It’s taken a long time but it’s starting to work for Lee Cooper and they are far more credible now.

At Lee Cooper’s 100th anniversary celebrations, they planned to show that they are the true global experts in denim. As part of the year-long celebrations, the brand has developed a charitable program to raise $2 million for the Red Cross. To this end, Lee Cooper is collaborating with a dozen fashion designers, artists and celebrities including a celebrated French fashion designer, France’s leading interior and technical designer and former Olympic 100 meter gold medalist to create customized Lee Cooper/Red Cross products. The brand, for instance, has roped in Sir Paul McCartney for a one-off Sergeant Pepper’s jacket made in denim, with his autograph on it. These products will be auctioned around the world, and the proceeds will go to the Red Cross.

Lee Cooper is also supplying denim jackets and suits for over 1,200 members of the British Olympic and para-Olympic team for the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics. All of this is pushing the boundaries of what a brand can do. In fact, the brand is mulling a similar initiative for the Commonwealth Games to be held in India in 2010. It is also collaborating with Apple to produce the first ever “Beatles Denim Collection”, which will be brought to India later as well. The Beatles are iconically cool for young people. They can’t speak English in China, but they sing Beatles songs said the Brand Director Rigg.

Except for a few markets like India, where it has recently signed up McCann Erickson, Lee Cooper eschews conventional advertising and relies on PR and word-of mouth to create buzz.

The brand creates stories that will end up all over the web. They hold parties and gigs, and the next day it’s everywhere. You are not specifically doing these for the web but it’s on the web.

To be a “truly global denim brand” Lee Cooper needs to establish itself in three critical markets the US, Japan and Italy. To that end, the brand is entering the US and Japan, and is hoping to expand in Italy this year. Italy is a nightmare as there are many good quality denim brands which sell at incredibly low prices, and the only option is to enter the market at the top end of couture. The average consumer does not understand denims. They’ll fall for jeans priced at $20 or $60, but a lot of brands will actually rip them off because people don’t know what’s good for them. Lee Cooper believes they have the best price-to-quality ratio in the market, and even at 300 pounds their jeans would be a better bargain.

The brand envisages a similar problem in the US, where Levi’s retails for as low as $15. “We won’t go to the US as a mass-market brand. You can’t be selling branded denims in one of the most sophisticated markets of the world at 15$,” reasons Rigg, while admitting that Levi’s has done a good job in maintaining volumes, and is far ahead of Lee Cooper worldwide even if it “trades in places where the brand shouldn’t be” .

The most important thing for Lee Cooper is to be a strong retailer and it’s the retail brands that are main competitors. A lot of vertical retailers are making denim far better than they were, and it’s up to them to be continually ahead. Lee Cooper is not investing massively in Europe because of the cost of retail.

Brands can’t make money in prime locations of the world. The example is of Carnaby Street in London where a brand would be considered very lucky even if it just breaks even. Very few may be making a profit there, but brands are willing to pay to be there just so that somebody else isn’t. Rigg’s other focus is India, where it is present as a joint-venture between Lee Cooper International and Future Group.

Lee Cooper wants to take its count of 31 exclusive stores in the country to 60 by the year-end . The company will introduce premium lines from French celebrities Lou Doillon and Jean Charles De Castelbajac (JCDC), along with the limited edition Centenary Collection LC100 and X-Fit 360-degree stretchable denims. Lee Cooper also wants to be seen as a complete lifestyle brand in India through product extensions: eyewear (including prescription optics), watches, fragrances, socks and accessories. These will be launched as part of the centenary year.