Fashion Hungry: IMO By Molly Rowan Hamilton

Every brand on the planet wants to feel like they’re part of a consumer’s lifestyle, and not just a product to mindlessly consume. But finding relevant ways to connect is getting harder and harder. As traditional advertising increasingly fails to stick in the minds of consumers, especially with GenZ, brands are looking to new ways to connect.

The old joke when expanding a brand’s logo outside of the product was always ‘throw it on a tote.’ But by the time you have 8 free giveaway totes in your closet, do you really need another? Gone are branded coffee cups. Mouse pads are dead to me. Brands have started to think outside the box…

Enter stage left the merger between CPG / FMCG and.. wait for it… fashion. The merchification of brands is one of the more humorous trends we’ve seen evolve in the last year. From Oscar Mayer to Panera, from Burger King to SunnyD, brands across the US are creating their own range of craveable, and crucially, WEARABLE fashion lines.

It’s important to note what kind of fashion we’re talking about here. Streetwear was always subversive in its origins, but has come to the fore in the last few decades. And as an advertising tactic for CPG / FMCG brands, it’s equally as subversive today. Notably, it puts the power of writing a new narrative, a new style, a new interpretation of the brand directly with the consumer. The brand is in their hands, rather than a more dictatorial space of billboards or conventional ad campaigns.

These new streetwear lines from unexpected brands aims to poke fun at a fashion industry that can often take itself too seriously and all these lines have humor at their heart. Shooting the Oscar Mayer campaign amongst the haute couture of New York Fashion Week, underpinned the idea of not taking ourselves too seriously and this irony is distinctly on brand for Oscar Mayer. None of these brands with streetwear lines are trying to be ‘fashionable’ or ‘cool’ per se.

The other key factor is the limited quantity of each line. The merch is often ‘dropped’ and ‘hits’ but never stays or is really sold. You can win it through fervent dedication to the brand. But you can’t buy it in the traditional sense. This creates a frantic sense of hype around the launch which only bolsters the cool factor.

But to be successful, a streetwear line like this can’t just be about the hype. To create true value for the brand, it needs to reinforce something about the strategy at its heart. Burger King’s new clothing line is deliberately designed for food to fall all over it. Reinforcing their message that their menu is gorge worthy. Chipotle’s avocado streetwear line (made from over 300million avocado pips) reinforces their brand’s upcycling approach. Arby’s line showcased their belief in only taking themselves (not their product) too seriously.

In essence, yes these new branded clothing lines seem like fun. But they serve a function too. They get the brand into the hearts and minds of consumers in a new and engaging way – subtly reinforcing a core brand message. My advice is to get your hands on a signature piece now. I’ll bet that 20 years from now you’ll make a fortune on ebay.