Lemmings of The World Unite

“We’re all individuals” shout the crowd in unison. “I’m not” shouts one lone voice. Who could forget this scene from “The Life of Brian” – The Monty Python film about the parallel universe within which both Brian and Jesus of Nazareth lived.

I find it an interesting parallel to the world we live in – the retail world – where most do one thing and a brave few do something different. This is the language of trends.

Trends and their use are incredibly powerful and important things in retail. Trend forecasting and trend management – far from being about picking the right horse – are actually about minimising risk. In apparel globally there are really only three major trend forecasters that are used by the majors. Surprisingly (he said with tongue planted firmly in cheek), the major apparel originators all end up in the same area every season for colour palette, patterns, influence and story.

The net effect of this is that all the fashion editors and influencers swing in behind one set of trends for the season to convince the customers of the playing field and it then comes down to how you have interpreted the trend and made it yours that leads to success for a brand.

Once you understand this, you understand the formula of great brands. Invest in brand iconography, graphic signature and product features that are proprietary and capable of being reinterpreted with each new seasons palette in a way that – while still being in keeping with the new season – is uniquely yours.

The notable exceptions are niche pioneers and brands like Armani (black label) with their own distinctive palette and Muji (the un-brand).

However, if you want to build a brand of your own that can generate substantial growth don’t rip-off another lemming – become one yourself. Understand the trends, embrace them and make them your own through clever adaptation and unique, proprietary brand iconography.