What Does Fashion Have to Do with a B2B Business?

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One of the problems B2B marketers face is being pigeon holed. This is when we sit at our desks and make beautiful spreadsheets into neat categories – categories that often fail to reflect actual complexities in business transactions that involve two- and often three-step distribution.

One of the ways around this is to step outside your own industry to nose around. Agencies often have this inherent advantage because they deal with a variety of companies that are not always related. Though that is changing because the nature of advertising is changing, agencies learn from this experience. Often, they see trends and paths that are occurring in one industry suddenly pop up in another unrelated industry. That helps build solid strategies.

One of the industries we follow even though we are not involved in it is Fashion. We have always found exciting ideas about business from a source called Business of Fashion. This company has gained a global following by producing content fashion creatives, executives and entrepreneurs in over 200 countries consume. That content is about fashion, but it is really about business. It was founded in 2007 by , Imran Amed, a fashion business advisor, writer and digital entrepreneur.

Most recently, they just released their new 45-page report called “The State of Fashion 2018” and we would encourage you to download it and read it to escape the pigeon hole. While providing a comprehensive view of the fashion industry, it also delivers insights far beyond fashion itself.

For example, the most common words executives in fashion use to describe their state of the industry are: “uncertain” and “challenging.” Those words are exactly the same ones that most industries use to describe their own “state of the industry.” We hear them all the time, but when you hear it here, in fashion, it may surprise you. Indeed, when you read about what these fashion executives are doing about “uncertain” and “challenging,” you may get some ideas on how to handle your own uncertainty and challenges!

Talk to a CEO

Besides, what makes this more valuable to outside-fashion executives in B2B is that the report blends in interviews with fashion CEOs with the report itself – interviews that provide insights and ideas to apply to our own businesses. It’s a kind of CEO-to-CEO panel discussion, and it produces remarkable ideas.

For example, when Marco Bizzarri. The President and Chief Executive of Gucci says, “The most important thing, after identifying the positioning of the brand, is attracting the right people. People are at the centre of everything in the fashion industry, not just in terms of product, but in terms of creativity and business,” it rings through across diverse industries. How many of us realize the importance of our people? Many in the industrial or commercial sectors, for example, would never think about reading what someone like Bizzarri says about the topic because he is in fashion. But he is not talking about fashion: he is talking about business, and therein lies the common ground.

In fact, some may argue that the people ARE the brand! In his book The End of Marketing as We Know It, Sergio Zyman pointed out that If you take apart the entire organization of Coca-Cola Co. and left only its brand name, management could rebuild the company within five years because they have such a powerful “brand.” However, if you remove that brand name, the company would probably die within five years. This is because over the course of the years, “Coca-Cola” has come to stand for everything about the company — the way the soft drink tastes, the way it’s delivered, the way it shows up on the retail shelf. It has become something more than caramel water, and the mark placed on the soda contents is the consumers’ assurance that what’s inside is quality.

The same can be said of Gucci, but in both Coke’s and Gucci’s cases, it was PEOPLE who give it that brand power. And that is true of ANY industry, any product, any service.

Consider some of the points that Chip Bergh, President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. expressed in his interview in the survey and ask yourself how does this apply to your own situations:

  • The industry is seeing massive amounts of disruption from multiple sides. There is channel disruption with the evolution of large, powerful pure play e-commerce players
  • With the transparency that now exists online and the ability to shop by price, the consumer is obviously more informed today, has access to more information more quickly than ever before and has much higher expectations and standards than they did even five or six years ago.
  • There is speed and agility: every company is trying to figure out how to do things smarter, faster, quicker to market, so that they can respond to changing consumer signals in a really timely way, without needing to eat a lot of excess inventory.

Pick an industry, any industry, and you’ll hear these same things. The fashion report actually provides a platform for ideas to apply to your own situation, regardless of industry. The report itself is based on extensive qualitative and quantitative analyses, drawing on industry and proprietary sources. We think it is well worth your time, so download it and sit back and read. Then take some of the ideas an apply them to your own situation.

Some of their own insights that probably apply to your own market include the following:

  • The West will no longer be the global stronghold for sales.
  • The ongoing polarization of the industry with consumers trading up or down from mid-market price points continues to create headwinds for mid-priced players
  • What is new is that the absolute luxury segment is accelerating alongside affordable luxury.
  • Alongside consumers’ adoption of digital are raised expectations of customer experience and a higher scrutiny on convenience, price, quality, newness and a personal touch.
  • Digital-first e-commerce companies are continuing to raise the bar.

Research

According to this report, research is more important than ever. Leading players are creating innovative business models, “using granular customer insights as a source of differentiation and pushing the limits of their end-to-end product development process.” In our own work, we continually find these granular nuggets to be gold, often helping clients maneuver through complexities within markets they totally overlooked. Let us know if we can help you!