Why-SL?

To the fashion fanatics out there, this is extremely old news, but I wanted to put a post out there that addresses Yves Saint Laurent’s controversial name change to Saint Laurent Paris. When I first caught wind of the rumor that the legendary fashion house’s new creative director, Hedi Slimane, would be dropping Yves from its name, after decades of building a luxury brand around the moniker YSL, I was completely flabbergasted. At the time, I was living in NYC, interning for Harper’s Bazaar, and my fellow interns and I were oddly devastated. All of a sudden, a fashion label whose accessories and apparel we handled on a daily basis, which we pined after with desperate longing, was forever changed. My point comes to this—after years and years of financial stability and iconic collections, why would Slimane choose to rebrand such a legendary label?

As a college marketing major, I have learned that rebranding an existing product or company is among the hardest marketing feats to pull off. The new branding strategy must encompass everything the company is about, including the brand as an organization, product, person, and symbol. The company has to live and breathe its strategy, via its brand position, in order for consumers to believe them. What really puzzles me in the case of Yves Saint Laurent is why the creative director felt the need to introduce change. And why leave the famous company logo (YSL) intact? According to the press, Slimane was attempting to introduce a brand overhaul, yet looking at his latest collections for Saint Laurent Paris, the overall aesthetic of the clothes is almost entirely unchanged. Perhaps I’m a stickler for believing in the old adage “don’t fix what isn’t broken,” or perhaps I’m averted by change, or maybe it’s the marketing major in me, but I believe it was the wrong marketing move.

Or was it? The brand management student in me has begun to think on a more abstract level—can’t rebranding be used specifically to generate buzz around a particular label? Ah, the revelation. Slimane’s decision to change the label’s name was not accompanied by drastic changes in the genre of clothes he produced, nor the design sense they exuded. Even the brand’s logo remained unchanged. So what was the point? At first, I believed that enacting such a change merely confused customers and made loyal consumers susceptible to brand-switching, and I still believe that, to some extent, this holds true. But I now also believe that the whole thing was just to get people talking about a fashion house that had been around for decades. And from that perspective, I think Slimane was an absolute genius; he had the fashion world in an uproar! People were devastated, confused, angry—yet they were all talking about the label with great fervor. The YSL rebranding taught me a very valuable marketing lesson—sometimes it’s the small changes that lead to the biggest results.Image

Source: Dandy Diary

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