Brand Liz Claiborne is dead

by Tony Fannin, CEO/Partner, BE Branded  |

It’s the new year and things have already begun to start anew. Liz Claiborne, owner of brands such as Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand, Kate Spade and their own namesake, is changing their name to Fifth & Pacific Cos. Once a fashion brand powerhouse in the late 70’s to the mid 90’s, Liz Claiborne has seen their brand erode away into irrelevance. As a result, their bottom line reflected their loss. Their move is to signify Fifth & Pacific is going to focus on their current three brands that have the most relevance in today’s fashion world and their customers. In essence, Liz Claiborne is changing from a Branded House into a House of Brands.

So, what happened? Why did such a powerhouse brand fall into an unwanted commodity? Liz Claiborne’s brand was centered around working women who appreciated the blend of comfort and affordability from a respected fashion brand. They sold fashion to the working class. They were pioneers, such as the first to sell all of their clothes in one section instead of the common practice of spreading them out based on garment type (Pants are in the pants area. Blouses are in the blouse section. etc.). Because of their success, Liz Claiborne began to buy up some three dozen up-and-coming brands. The problem was they never had a true portfolio strategy. In other words, knowing your brand and acquiring other brands that reinforce and extend your position of strength. Instead, Liz Claiborne bought brands based on what they liked instead of following one of the oldest tenants of fashion: buy what fits you great, not what is currently trendy. A bad portfolio strategy will lead to sameness and commoditization. That will kill just about any brand. As a result, over the last ten years, Liz Claiborne has lost their brand and their customers along the way.

What are the lessons? Here are a few:

• A brand is special and can be magical. It’s hard to obtain, but easy to lose.
• Know what your brand is and stay true to who you are. Resist the temptation to be everything to everyone. Once you try to please everyone, you are commodity.
• A brand must fully embrace the yin-yang of pursuing new ideas and concepts at 100% while staying true to your core brand at 100%.

It will be interesting to see if Fifth & Pacific has learned from their lessons being Liz Claiborne.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

One Response to “Brand Liz Claiborne is dead”

  1. Fifth & Pacific is the intersection of our intrinsically American brands. It is where California cool meets New York chic. It is the fashion destination of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and the open, casual feel of Malibu. From New York City, to the coasts of Los Angeles and Shanghai and beyond, Fifth & Pacific telegraphs who we are today — a brand-focused company serving our customers across the globe with high-quality, imaginative, and inspired products.

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