GHD – Is it a Billion Dollar Global Fashion Brand?

The rise and rise of GHD is becoming an ever more impressive story. Despite being ultimately a one-product company (the iconic ghd hair straightener, albeit it in various sizes and colours), and despite (or perhaps because of) being headquartered in deeply unfashionable Silsdon in Yorkshire, UK, GHD seems to get as many mentions in the fashion press as a certain Mrs Beckham.

Monique Lhullier, Miss Sixty and many others featured GHD as their haircare partner at their recent Fashion Week shows, with wavy, sea-inspired styles that showed off the versatility of the ghd iv styler.

Perhaps even more importantly the GHD marketing and PR machine that was so effective in dominating the UK market for GHD, is now fully up and running on a global basis with the famous pink GHD promotion now appearing across the globe (with a global network of breast cancer charities benefiting). Other campaigns like the GHD Pure / GHD Dark promotion also enjoyed global promotion

further example of how GHD is becoming a genuine international fashion brand is the unwelcome arrival of large-scale counterfeiting of GHD products. Indeed, major UK-based discount beauty and cosmetics chain, Superdrug, recently admitted supplying its customers with counterfeit GHD hair straighteners, albeit unintentionally [Source: BBC News Website, Friday, 19 September 2008]. This would suggest that GHD counterfeiting is now highly organised and very professional (as it is with designer perfumes and luxury fashion accessories). Of course, no-one at GHD will be happy with fake GHD products being sold, but it does bracket the company in some pretty exclusive company (Gucci, Prada, and the like).

It would appear that GHD have realised from the start that building a fashion brand is not exclusively about sales figures. Turnover, although important, must be conducive to brand building. For that reason, GHD have a famous reputation for refusing to supply to high street names – culminating in rejecting likes of Boots when GHD themselves were only a few years old. Although this policy has been relaxed slightly in recent years (with Boots and Amazon starting to sell directly supplied GHD hair straighteners in the last 12 months), it helped create the exclusivity and allure that any brand needs if it is to become a significant asset in its own right.

Which brings us to the issue of how much GHD might ultimately be worth. When the most recent management buy-out took place last year (just before the global credit markets seized up), the valuation was around $288 million ($160m). One of the reasons given for injecting capital a that stage into the business was to help it strike out around the globe to boost its presence and revenues from the US, Europe and Australasia. Achieving this, particularly in the US, where it was previously an underground cult brand, will certainly see the valuation of the GHD brand soar.

Of course, now isn’t the time to get carried away with valuing privately-held companies, but once the markets have returned to normality in 2010 or thereabouts, and provided that GHD has managed to continue to build its presence globally, then there is no reason why the people of Yorkshire won’t be celebrating the presence of a billion dollar fashion brand just up t’road.

Define Your Fashion Brand’s Uniqueness and Sell More Product

Most fashion designers plan the online sales of their designs in a bit of a backward manner, meaning that they never properly develop an idea of what truly separates them in the marketplace from their competitors. However, if they did, they could guarantee sales and thereby assure the success of their brand.

The way to attract online customers who want and need your designs is by clearly defining what sets you apart from the rest of the fashion industry, which in marketing is called defining the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

In a nutshell, the USP is a quick-but-intense analysis of your competitors, your target customer, and you…and how they all interlock (or don’t). By understanding where your competition succeeds and where they fail, as well as what motivates your target customer to buy, you can become the safety net to catch everyone who your competition cannot serve. In addition, you will differentiate yourself by doing all the same basics your competition does, except one better.

Let me try to illustrate via a simplistic-but-hypothetical scenario of three hypothetical t-shirt designer/retailers. Let’s assume that you’ve already figured out what makes your target customer happy. Let’s say you figured out that your target customers are green-minded, so they want tees in organic cotton. They’re also a bit glam, so they like flashy designs. They don’t really trust ordering online because they’ve had a bad experience before, so they look for a no-hassle return policy. Finally, this target customer is looking for plus sizing.

You’ve also been the smart independent fashion designer with marketing savvy, and your competitive analysis has garnered some key information about what your competition offers as well. You have found out that you each offer tees in organic cotton, as well as metallic embellishments. But you found out that you and Store 2 are the only designers that offer plus sizing. And…eureka! Store 1 is the only one of the bunch that offers a no-hassle return policy.

So what does this analysis tell us?

  • You are just as strong as the majority of the field.
  • You offer one benefit more than one competitor.
  • Only one competitor offers one benefit that you don’t.

So, you go back to your marketing drawing board, and you add on the no-hassle return policy if it makes business sense to you, and you make a big marketing deal out of the plus sizing, since you’re one of the very few that offer that flexibility to your customers.

Suddenly, you’re a designer that offers flashy, attention-getting designs printed on soft, organic cotton especially for the plus-sized t-shirt connoisseur. Oh, and by the way, never be afraid to buy from your favorite retailer or online, because regardless of where you purchased our t-shirt, we’ll exchange it for something that works better for you.

Congratulations! You’ve just created your USP.

So now what? Well, very simply, this message should invade all your marketing materials…your website content, your line sheets, your banner ads, your pay-per-click ads, just to name a few. You are now offering the market something completely different, something that no one else has (of course, assuming you did your competitive research thoroughly). Why wouldn’t online-wary, plus-sized, glam-but-green folks want to buy from you?

Your research will suggest that the market is being underserved in one particular aspect upon which you can capitalize. In this very simplistic example, it was the plus-sized market. The flip side of developing your USP, however, is that it indicates to you how your business should change to be able to meet that demand. It requires some out-of-the-box thinking in choosing which segment of the market that deserves your attention. In this case, even if you, the designer, are rail thin, you’ll now be faced with a decision: to go after the low-hanging fruit in the form of the plus-sized consumer, or continuing to swim upstream and offer what everyone else does. If you choose the latter (say, because you’re not plus-sized), then the only real message you’ll be communicating to the marketplace is “I have t-shirts too!” In that scenario, you could then consider your brand officially “watered down.”

As long as you always concentrate on what your customers want, as well as what your competition is doing, you will never go wrong. You have then developed a captive audience out of a marketing niche, and they will never stop buying your next big thing.

I’m rooting for your success!

Comme Des Garcons – A Global Fashion Brand

Comme des Garcons means ‘like the boys’ in French. This fashion label is the creation of the amazing Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, who has made her mark on the fashion world with her own brand of controversial fashion despite having no formal fashion or tailoring training.

Perhaps it is this lack of training that has enabled Rei to create designs that have caused such a huge stir in the fashion world. She has challenged the notion that fashion must be sexy and colourful . She created designs of clothing that are described by some as avant garde by some. In the eighties, she created her vision of fashion in all black clothing that was almost revolutionary at the time. The technical side of Comme des Garcons is handled completely by her pattern makers who are challenged with transforming her designs into reality. The Comme de Garcons label has it’s own very recognisable signature look. The clothing is assymetical and draped across the body in an almost masculine style and feature details such as fraying and holes.

More recent Comme Des Garcon collections have incorporated loud and garish colours but for spring summer 09 Rei has returned to her favourite black.

The label was extablished in 1969 and has since been instrumental in bringing other new talents into the fashion spot light including Junya Watanabe and Tao Kurihara who have both started sub label under the Comme Des Garcons name . The label has also expanded into a huge empire over the last four decades with stores all over the globe and both clothing and perfume lines.