Single Minded Proposition
For the past two years, H&M had to witness a major decrease in revenue. The brand had to struggle with extreme competition from Zara and GAP, as well as a decrease in overall image in the eyes of the consumer. While trying to fight the image problem by creating a campaign with Lana del Rey, followed by one with David Beckham and now Vanessa Paradis, they have diluted the brand even more. The high fashion collaborations with Lanvin, Versace or Maison Martin Margiela have not improved the situation either.
H&M cannot compete with Zara’s production strategy, which doesn’t keep stock, and designs one day, while producing the next. The designs themselves are not edgy enough for the targeted millenials. Finally they got lost in their pricing policy because the prices are too low therefore the quality is perceived as extremely bad, and their own costs start to pile up. Some of these issues cannot be solved with just a campaign. Nevertheless, the brand used to be young, simple and reliable. Now the mix of celebrity endorsement, high fashion collaborations and a confusing pricing strategy is failing to attract loyal customers.
H&M has the perfect prices for young people, they could raise them a little and nobody would complain. Their quality is on the same level as Zara, yet Zara managed to get a much better place in the mind of the audience. The right way for H&M is to go back to the roots so to say. They are a brand for young people who want to wear fashionable things but not necessarily be perceived as “fancy” but simply stylish.
I think that H&M has a lot of university students and also young professionals coming in who are still looking for a job. The niche would be a young yet mature audience between 18 and 25. What we are looking at is a smart and reliable image. People who go to university and prefer a slightly smarter look, not necessarily t-shirts with the “music/ hipster” feel, a little more elegant yet still casual. H&M has always been more balanced; the opportunity is to show the audience that they are the ones who could benefit here. There is no need for expensive celebrity endorsements here, a little more people in real life situations. Young people who are going to university, looking for a job, spending some time with family are the ones to look at. The key words here would be relatively young but mature.
Retail stores have tried out different strategies in order to attract the right customers. A great example would be the campaign by Diesel, “Be Stupid”. They were looking at young, rebellious people, who judging by the prices, could afford a crazy, daring lifestyle. Especially now, when many countries are having financial problems, a smart, affordable look would be perfect for a young, smart audience. Our idea would quite literally be “BE SMART”
A weekly or monthly style guide, and more direct marketing would be my first choice. I receive a lot of promotions from the brand “Mexx” but I don’t go for it because the clothes are a bit too boring, a bit too simple, H&M does not have this problem. Don’t just put a sale sign on, email directly those clients that are in the database. I would design special stickers or better pins which the clients gets per mail and can go into the shop and choose the piece which they want to have discounted. H&M has to become more personal, more real; the ads with the super famous models are just not helping anymore. Instead of paying large sums for celebrity collections, have something more useful as an offer, a style advisor in the large shops, going as far as booking an appointment with a real stylist who could show you what would match, figure out some looks for your. This would spark real interaction with the brand. In the end it all comes down to clothes, and people do love fashion.
The idea of the smart look could go even further, on Lookbook people post new looks all the time, how about a competition with the best look for an interview, the best 3 or 4 looks for university, each week a different one, related to the season or simply the weather. H&M has too little conversation with its fans, there are 14 million on Facebook but most posts are about the product but not so much why it is a relevant line? We do not really know what H&M believes in and what wants to be.