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My Friend, J. Crew

This April 2014 Inc. article about super hot branding shop, Partners & Spade is worth a read.

The Spade is Andy Spade, who helped then-girlfriend Kate Spade launch her handbag line in the early 1990s and later brought fashion brand Jack Spade to market. They teamed up with their old art director, Andy Sperduti to form Partners & Spade and work with clients like Ivanka Trump, J. Crew, Warby Parker. They’re even producing their own brands, like a new line of sleepwear called Sleepy Jones.

Why are they successful? Because they allow people to experience brands in a much different way than they have before:

“Spade and Sperduti have eschewed the idea that the best way to sell a product is to tell your customers what they should think about it. Instead, they believe that a brand should speak for itself through its interactions with customers. Those interactions, in turn, must be driven by an authentic and clear brand vision.”

It’s the difference between American Express saying they’re about small business and hosting Small Business Saturday.

Here’s another great example:

J. Crew wanted to launch a line of upscale menswear — a carefully-curated collection to attract style influencers. Rather than debut the new line in stores, Partners & Spade took over an old liquor store in TriBeCa, positioning the clothing alongside a wooden bar and mixing in vintage collectibles. No signage. A cool thrift store vibe. The label simply became known as “The Liquor Store.”

Partners & Spade understood that to create a feeling of exclusiveness, they needed to borrow from the playbook of speakeasies or small venue concerts: Create an intimate setting that only the most dialed-in know about. The “discovery” aspect will speak to trendsetters.

The magic of Partners & Spade’s work seems to come from treating brands as people. Who is Kate Spade? Who is Ivanka Trump? Does she live on the Upper West Side or downtown? Does she drive a Range Rover or a Mercedes convertible (white, definitely white)? Where does she vacation? Etc. So we come to think of our favorite brands as friends. We like what they like. When they do something out of character, it seems inauthentic.

Once you define the personality and characteristics of a brand, it becomes easier to imagine how they’d act across channels: What would they post on Facebook? What TV shows would they watch? What events or co-promotes would they get behind? Etc.

Brilliant article, Tom Foster!

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