Yet more marketing hype

I found a book review of Why Customers Do What They Do published in Tuesday’s WWD (subscription required). Purportedly, the book “reveals secrets of consumer buying”.

While I haven’t read the book, one would hope that the author considered an aspect of price deflation -a general reduction in the level of prices- as related to continued growth of outsourcing and push manufacturing strategies. However, according to the WWD article, the author Marshal Cohen attributes the price deflation of apparel to declining number of women in the workplace and subsequent drop in household income. While I don’t know about that, I’d weigh this more heavily:

Besides swings in women’s employment, the apparel sector, for one, has been hurt by a consumer who is increasingly frustrated in her efforts to find the products she wants – the impetus, Cohen said, for him to write his book. Part of the problem is that “manufacturers are on a quest to produce products based on a search for better profit margins, rather than satisfying customers

I concur, it seems that most mainstream manufacturers are on a quest to produce products based on better profit margins rather than building better value but then he contradicts his position, destroying the argument with:

As a result, he said marketers ought to focus on selling a brand rather than simply selling a product. The best way to do so, Cohen maintained, is through what he calls the five Es: educate consumers about the product; explore who the customer is; help people elevate their lifestyles; entertain, whether informing about a product or providing a shopping environment, and evaluate one’s progress with one’s customers

When the above comment is weighted compared to his first comment -that manufacturers are questing to produce products based on profit margins rather than product quality and value- it is obvious that Mr Cohen is a marketer, not a maker. The reason why apparel prices continue to drop is due precisely to over marketing of brands as opposed to equal priorities on product features and quality -to say nothing of the relationship between provenance and price. There is a relationship between provenance and price (see Label Conscience) -and with declining fit and durability, I can readily understand why consumers expect their cut on the deal, hence the downward pressures on pricing. As I’ve always said, if everything you have to pick from is crap, consumers will pick the cheapest crap. In the race to the bottom, brand marketing leads the pack. Just what has happened to good old fashioned product integrity?

One can only imagine the push manufacturers of the world using this book as their bible. You can read more from Marshal Cohen here, much of it obvious -or is it just obvious to me? For example, here’s a short article discussing one of my beloved topics, that of apparel for mature adults. Mr Cohen describes targeting this market as “silver selling” which goes hand in hand with my uncle’s suggestion that clothing designed to fit this market be described as “silver sizing” (and no, you can’t copyright that phrase if I’m already using it). However Mr Cohen seems to focus on marketing rather than making. What of pattern cutting for changes in body type? The apparel industry has long cut for the front end of human scale (infants and children) yet, the industry has ignored human variation at the far end of the continuum. Seniors aren’t stupid and they’re past buying products -if they ever did- just because some celebrity’s slapped his name on it. Mature adults want and need apparel that reflects the physical changes of their bodies and marketing isn’t going to cut it. Regarding pattern cutting from The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing:

This is more challenging because as someone ages, their center of gravity shifts farther down and forward, This is most noticeable in men since their center of gravity is in the upper body and loss of muscle mass is normal. If the man is very fit, this will be less noticeable or negligible. By very fit, I mean weight lifters, distance runners or cyclists. It doesn’t mean “normal”, “healthy” or a good cholesterol count.

The fronts of older people will still be larger than their backs but it won’t look that way due to Kyposis (dowager’s hump) and because the lumbar vertebrae lose flexibility and straighten causing the back to lengthen and the front to shorten proportionately.

Aging affects joint flexibility in two ways. the first is limited mobility of the joints themselves. This is largely attributed to deterioration of the operative mechanisms of the joint. This is minimally described as diminished muscle mass and subsequent work capacity as well as degeneration of the joint material (cartilage). This affect is noted to the degree of obviousness.

Less obvious but equally important is entropy of muscle mass throughout the aging process. Converted muscle mass has to go somewhere. In the average course, muscle breaks down into body fat which tends to pool in the joint flex ares, further restricting mobility.

Intelligent design dictates that drafts must be shifted specific to the needs of an increasing population who’s needs are determined by chronological maturation.

I haven’t read Mr Cohen’s book (although I suppose I’ll have to add it to my Amazon wish list), as I said most of his material seems rather obvious –he states for example:

Many industries raise prices due to regular increases in the cost of living; however the same can’t be said for fashion. In fact, an extremely competitive landscape in the apparel industry has actually caused price deflation. Mass merchants and discounters are competing with the upper end of the market by offering higher quality fashion at lower prices. In fact, many consumers who traditionally shop in high-end luxury stores are now shopping at value stores as well. More than half of all consumers who shop for clothing in department stores also shop the mass channel. With the discontinuation of quotas for production, the fashion industry will also see pressure for retailers to offer product at lower prices. While all the cost savings will not ultimately be passed on to the consumer, consumers can expect to see the prices of some commodity items become even more competitive in the coming year

I’d think one could read or extrapolate as much from Paco Underhill -if not the daily newspaper. I don’t know about you but continual marketing hype is making me very weary. I’m really tired of manufacturers who depend on marketing to push products rather than expending their efforts on developing products that fit and wear well and thus warranting marketing. These days, it seems the race is based on who can sell the best, not who makes the best.

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  1. I concur with your opinions. I normally fashion all my garments, but life snapped at me this summer, so am wearing oldies, but I digress: This October I spent a day shopping with a friend in Indianapolis, IN, and I never saw or tried on a garment which I would take home (one I purchased at Nordstrom, but did not like style after getting it home). All the garments I perused at Nordstrom, Coldwater Creek and Talbot’s were made from substandard fabrics with substandard construction practices. All were made in China or Vietnam and the retailers had not taken the time (or manpower) to steam and sharpen the image of the garments. All the stores had large mark-down areas which looked like bargain basements. Is this a sign of times to come?

  2. Reader says:

    Muscle doesn’t break down into body fat. My understanding, and I’m no expert, is that muscle atrophies and existing fat cells expand.

  3. Miranda says:

    I think this is even more prevalent today. Every clothing brand and store has a facebook page, twitter account, instagram, email lists, and every other media outlet that can be had but their products are still total crap. Maybe even more so. Seems like everything I see is some poly/spandex monstrosity made in Bangladesh.

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