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Starting your own fashion brand? Practical tips from a marketing guru

Starting your own fashion brand? Practical tips from a marketing guru
Amadea Choo.
PHOTO: Instagram/xamschoo

Looking to make the jump to entrepreneurship or turn your enthusiasm for fashion into a profitable business?

Especially with the prevalence of e-commerce and digital marketing, a fledgling business now has access to what’s virtually a boundless online community — but that’s if you know how to effectively market your brand.

Amadea Choo, 31, founder of bespoke marketing agency VFPLUSC, knows all about it, having pioneered thought-leadership initiatives for fashion events around Asia such as Singapore Fashion Week, Vietnam Fashion Week and Fide Fashion Week. Now, her boutique agency focuses predominantly on local businesses and SMEs.

“We belong to a digital era where audience interactions are subject to the social media platform’s algorithim and what I have noticed is that many brands are on social media but are not approaching it with a strategy that works for them,” she shares.

We caught up with her on how aspiring entrepreneurs can navigate a cluttered digital landscape (especially during the pandemic), build a distinct fashion brand, and the characteristics of a good marketing plan.

Develop a good marketing plan

Amadea Choo (AC):

The top three things a good marketing plan must have would be:

1) A unique value proposition because it’s always easier to differentiate your product from others if there is something unique about it. Products are a dime and dozen these days so there needs to be a secret sauce to convince consumers to pick your product over the rest!

2) A distinct brand identity. Take skincare products for example, there are plenty of skincare products out there but what sets iconic brands, Glossier or Glow Recipe apart are their distinct brand identities; defined by the overall perception a consumer has of a brand across all their communication channels – and everything from packaging and tone of voice to visuals contribute to that.

3) A clear understanding of a brand’s target audience. To devise a strong marketing plan, you’ll need to know who you’re targeting so you can create meaningful content that would engage, educate and excite them.

On starting a fashion brand and creating a distinct identity

AC: 1. Be clear – with your value proposition by asking yourself, what problem am I solving by
providing my product or service to consumers?

2. Be different – whether it’s through brand values, design, textures, prints, product offer and so on.

3. Be savvy – digital savvy to be precise. As e-commerce is now a highly saturated space, it’s
not just about having an online presence but being able to use the data gathered to inform
your brand strategy.

4. Be global-minded – look beyond Singapore and expand your brand footprint in baby steps.

5. Be diligent in research and keep abreast – of your audience and their habits, your competitors and their strategies. Oftentimes, information about your audience may surprise you if you really look deep into it rather than blindly guessing! A brand usually goes through a few rounds of iteration before its official launch.

6. Be strategic – with your communications plan and content calendar. Focus on the channels and messages that work for your brand to build a following.

7. Be balanced – quite possibly the toughest of them all but having a good grasp of creative and business ends is what keeps brands thriving ahead of the rest for a long run

Important considerations that brand owners often overlook

AC: Brands generally fall into one of two camps. Creative-led brands often overlook the business and strategy aspects of growing a brand as they focus heavily on visuals and how the brand looks to their audience.

On the other end of the spectrum, business-oriented owners often overlook the brand-building aspects of growing a modern brand in today’s digital age as they are highly focused on sales and short-term performance returns. It is always good to be somewhere in the middle of this spectrum where brands balance their creative pursuits and business-oriented goals.

On having a digital-first strategy and maintaining relevance during Covid-19

AC: Rethink brand building to suit today’s world of digital commerce and algorithms i.e. recognising that brand building still matters but there is a need to reframe our approach towards it.

Plan for the short and long term. Brands should refrain from optimising themselves out of effectiveness through conversion tactics that will end up exhausting their current demand.

It is important to create future demand through brand building so that performance marketing is more effective. Before this point, converting customers can be more expensive.

Be mentally prepared

AC: Entrepreneurship is a long and difficult journey with many twists and turns. Despite what others might say, I would not suggest that anyone does this unless they are mentally prepared. That means having the willpower, patience, grit and tenacity to see their brand through all of its successes and pitfalls.

The mental process is also often gruelling. It involves making tough decisions and setting a new standard for yourself each day – and making sure you do your best to surpass that whilst regulating your mental breaks to avoid burnout; it is okay not to meet those standards sometimes too so don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t. Get ample rest so that when you bounce back, you’d be even stronger.

If you decide to start, don’t overthink things. Keep your plan simple and constantly iterate and improve your product or service along the way. Finally, if there is anything Covid-19 has taught us, entrepreneurs should be willing to pivot (yes, the dreaded word). This may mean having to switch gears or steer from initial courses to pursue what works to sustain their brand.

Should brand owners consider an external agency?

AC: Engaging an external agency or consultancy is essentially about tapping into an area of expertise a company may not have or expanding a brand’s resource pool for ideas and execution. That way, brand owners can focus on other aspects of the business without being overwhelmed by leveraging the help of reliable experts to assist with specific areas of growth, such as brand marketing.

Every agency has its own strengths, weaknesses, and focus. Brand owners should do their due diligence to ensure that there is strategic alignment between the agency and brand – and that the agency is able to provide the required expertise to execute the brand’s vision.

Brand owners should also consider the importance of brand-agency fit and approach the engagement in a manner of a partnership – with aligned values, mutual trust and respect, and collaborative chemistry. That way, both the brand and agency can fully capitalise on their strengths to drive brand growth.

ALSO READ: Malaysian comedian parodies the pitiful video quality of so-called online financial gurus

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.

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