business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times had a piece the other day that explored how people feel connected to certain kinds of brands, with women equating the severing of ties with certain brands - in this piece, clothing - with romantic break-ups. Both, the story suggests, can come at an emotional cost.

For the most part, the piece focused on women and various kinds of retail clothing brands such as J. Crew, looking at how difficult - but often necessary - it is to break up with a brand that one has worn for a long time. Sometimes, it is because the person’s sense of style has evolved or her body has changed, and sometimes it is because the brand has morphed into something different.

(I can remember years ago having this debate in my household, when Mrs. Content Guy would complain that Gap had somehow changed; I’d simply point out that Gap was targeting the same demographic it always had, and that she was no longer part of that demographic. I was right, but some arguments are not worth winning.)

But the larger point is a good one - that the greater goal for every retail brand should be to establish that kind of relationship with the shopper, becoming an intimate and necessary resource and part of how they live their lives. You want people to feel disconnected, ill at ease and even a little guilty when they visit a competitor ... it means that you are making a difference in people’s lives.
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