One thing I have noticed recently is an increase in companies whose business models capitalize on swanky locations with certain class or cultural connotations.
The trend to identify class or status through the use of a brandable location might have originated on the bumper stickers that came into prominence 5 or 10 years ago. Written using acronyms these letters and images were strategically placed on the backs of Volvos and SUVs to identify the travelers as people who vacationed in a particular swanky resort town. The idea being that only other travelers who also vacationed there and who also knew the acronym could identify each other ’â€œ almost like an early aSmallWorld.
I don’t see as many of these bumper stickers anymore, but it seems that the use of brandable locations to promote product lines has clearly emerged. For example, JCrew is a clothing store who has long used locational images and verbiage to sell products using Lobsters, Skiiers, etc to indicate that particular products are geared toward summers in Maine or winters in Aspen. The classic example for a brandable location model is LL Bean (even has a new book out). However LL Bean’s products are relatively affordable and seem to have universal appeal…or as I like to say NEE (Not Elitist Enough). Back when I was in high school, the prepster craze was Mount Gay Rum hats only acquired when one participated in a Newport regatta, or bought on for $100 on eBay. Also popular then and now are Blackdog t-shirts.
What is different is that today I am seeing stores whose entire business model is based on one brandable aspect of an extremely wealthy location. Unlike an LL Bean whose product line is diverse and lower-cost, these new stores are truly focused on the wealthiest 5%. These products in many ways operate like social networks because people who see someone wearing one of these location-specific fashions immediately recognize ’one of their own.’Â�
Stonewall Kitchen is a very upscale kitchen supply store that focuses on Maine culture, featuring blueberries, lobsters, moose and pine trees perfect for the York and Camden crowds. Vineyard Vines sells uber preppy ties, belts and shirts and uses its pastels to appeal to the flamboyant prep school crowd summering on Martha’s Vineyard. Cloudveil (a personal favorite) started with high-end performance fabrics for ski-bums in Jackson Hole. Finally, Murray’s Toggery Shop is the home of Nantucket Red pants, the must haves for anyone serious about attending Georgetown.
Overall I think this trend is one with staying power especially if someone could combine this offline branding with online social networking. Also, there are numerous locations still without identifiable brands (think Aspen, Chamonix, etc) and thus, this list is likely to grow.
What am I missing? What do you think?
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