Monday, December 22, 2008

Little black book

They say it's not what you know, it's who you know, but in this case salon owner and hairdresser, Richard Stepney has combined what he knows about great shampoo with the creative skills of some of his top clients. He asked the architect John Pawson, designer Tom Dixon, artist Brad Lochore, and sculptress Sophie Smallhorn to each design a label for a special edition run of 4th Floor shampoos. With the following smart-as-you-like results.

The technique of brand alignment is, I feel, hugely underused. Especially by smaller, niche brands. Modern consumers buy in patterns - creating families of brands that, in sum, define who they are and how they like to live. Those families of brands re-enforce consumers' own sense of self and their projection of themselves to those around them.

An excellent example of brand alignment is Marylebone High Street. Here, the street's planners consciously choose a mix of shops that would appeal to a carefully defined group. This group (30+, prosperous urbanites, 'foodie', European, penchant for boutiques) were already buying their kitchenware from Conran, their sheets from Descamps, their french cotton tees from Agnes B, their dinner party gifts from Rococo, and having their hair cut in Aveda. It made perfect sense to offer it all on one street and attract one of the wealthiest, most conspicuously consuming sectors of London society.

Over the years Richard, at 4th Floor, has earned a clientele who are creative, culturally astute, aesthetically intelligent and who rely on him to provide the haircut, the look to project those qualities. By becoming a veritable expert on his clients' lifestyle he has been able to create a brand that fits perfectly into it. This new, limited edition shampoo, which fuses leading-edge creative names with 4th Floor, represents another step in the maturation of Richard's brand.

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