For Steve & Barry’s, backwards thinking works
Just the other day I noticed the old Wayne State University t-shirt I was wearing to the gym. Gosh this thing is old and it doesn’t show any wear-and-tear at all. It’s been in my workout rotation, I would estimate, for about eight years. (Please, no jokes asking how often I actually hit the gym)
Today, after reading this article in the New York Times, I thought about that t-shirt again and realized it’s the oldest workout shirt I have—by far. Many of these shirts are free giveaways, but this particular one cost me $5 at Steve & Barry’s. At the time, I’m sure I thought cheap shirt, but it’s only $5.
Maybe it wasn’t such a cheap shirt. Let’s call it inexpensive. Or better yet, let’s call it priced just right.
You may be saying what does this have to do with branding? Until a couple years ago, Steve & Barry’s spent very little in advertising and quite frankly they still don’t. However, they have signed on some pretty big celebrities and are selling clothing lines with their names behind it. Big shots like Sex and the City actress, Sarah Jessica Parker, and basketball star, Stephon Marbury. (check out the post I wrote last year about his very affordable basketball shoe that he actually wears in games)
The truth is, Steve & Barry’s has created an outstanding brand with rather unconventional methods. I don’t necessarily identify with the company’s logo or its in-store merchandise displays and presentation and I don’t see any advertising. But what I do see is buzz. Take a look at the article and you’ll see how Steve & Barry’s gets creative in keeping their prices low while still providing a quality product. They cut corners where, frankly, corners can be cut. From second- and third-hand office furniture to a non-existent advertising budget, just hearing that they sacrifice those expenses in order to pass along the savings to the customer is the best way to build a solid brand position in their niche.
Great branding isn’t accomplished by following the same recipe for every company. While messaging, identity and design are huge tools to carry out a strong branding strategy, a deep understanding of your business and what you want to accomplish is the best place to start with any brand. Like marketing, PR and advertising, pricing is a tool.
In Steve & Barry’s case, it’s about looking at the retail price first and then figuring out how to produce a quality product that will allow the company to thrive. IKEA has also built its brand in a similar fashion—working backwards from the price tag.