Propel Day… Why brands need an authentic narrative


March 2, 2016

Late last month, I took a train to sunny London to attend fashion tradeshow Pure London, where designers showcase their collections to trade buyers.


I’m not a designer or a buyer so you might be wondering what was in it for me?


Well, I graduated from London college of fashion with a BA in Fashion marketing and, last year, hosted a seminar on the main stage on how brands should be working with bloggers, alongside Navaz Batiwalla of Disney Roller Girl and Atosa Nikkah of My Bubba And Me.


We used the results of a Propellernet survey of 100 fashion bloggers as the basis for a discussion about what types of collaborations bloggers love most, as well as those going out of vogue.


This year, I was simply a spectator, there to soak up knowledge from various sessions including ones on branding, funding, buying, trend forecasting, merchandising and marketing.



My favourite seminar was hosted by Simon Middleton, founder of lifestyle and menswear brand Shackleton. His ‘A Guide To Building A Breakthrough Lifestyle Brand’ covered the three areas he believes are crucial for business success (and not just in fashion).


Brand: The creation of a great brand requires a distinctiveness of purpose and an authentic narrative


Shackleton is proof of this. A strong heritage brand, it is named after explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton who got trapped in the Antarctic in 1915 when his ship, the Endurance, sank. The compelling story hooks customers who are interested in the Shackleton story and not just the logo.


Interestingly, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s granddaughter the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton is a shareholder in the company and its brand ambassador.


Product: Whatever story the brand tells, make sure it’s authentic to you


Every Shackleton product are manufactured in Britain to ensure exceptional style and quality and Simon emphasised that, “we’re not about transient fashion but about timeless style”.


Shackleton’s clothes are replicas of those worn by Ernest Shackleton and his crew. While Simon isn’t a designer he was passionate about the idea, taking his jumper design and photographs of the original Earnest Shackleton jumper to a manufacturer to have it designed and made.


Simon’s key point was that, no matter where or how you manufacture your products, ensure the story is authentic to your brand. If it’s fast fashion, you are not probably are not going to shout about product quality, but you could highlight how trend-led the products are.


Endurance and ‘True Grit’


Before Shackleton became a menswear brand it was a banjo manufacturer, simply because a banjo was the only item saved from the Endurance (and signed by the crew).


Launched on Kickstarter, the Shackleton company was in the top 2% of Kickstarter campaigns in the UK and USA. Customers loved the Shackleton story so much they were purchasing banjos not just to play them but also to buy into the Ernest Shackleton story.


In conclusion


What really grabbed my attention, apart from Simon’s amazing storytelling, was the fantastic black and white photographs taken from Shackleton’s expedition and this got me thinking…


While a lot of brands have a distinct sense of purpose it’s the authentic narrative, the ‘storytelling’, that really gets people buying into a brand. So, what brands have used an authentic narrative to influence you to buy something recently?


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