Yesterday, for the first time in about ten years, I walked into a Coach store. Truthfully, I was looking for a different store and I wandered in accidentally, missing the large, bright COACH sign that lit up the store’s entrance. As I looked around at the clean white surfaces, well-lit store, and leather items that adorned the space’s shelves, I was shocked. This was not the Coach I remembered.
As I browsed, I didn’t see a single article emblazoned with the once-signature “C” pattern, and even the sales associates were trendier. I spoke for a while with an employee who was dressed in all black and pulled off an avant-garde pixie hairstyle. She told me that the company’s new Creative Director, Stuart Vevers, is taking the brand in a more “European” and “classic” direction.
As I walked around the store and looked at a few items, I noticed a few things: (1) this company’s products are a lot more expensive than I remember and (2) the product quality is better than I remember. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the company is trying to reposition itself as a higher-tier luxury brand; gone are the days when every thirteen-year-old girl would sport a Coach bag, wallet, and keychain (all matching, of course) to go to the mall with her friends.
Remember when almost all Coach bags were colorful and sported the brand’s signature “C” pattern? This bag retailed for $248 in 2008. You can get it for about $85 on eBay today.
The thing is, that although the quality and pricing are higher than ever before, it’s going to be hard to change people’s perceptions of a brand that was once wildly popular. I can distinctly remember walking by Coach stores in the early 2000s that had lines out the door and security guards standing at every entrance. And because that phenomenon happened, it’s going to be hard to change how people remember the products and the brand that they experienced during that time.
While this handbag still has a sassy print, it’s not what people would generally think of when they hear the name “Coach”. This calf hair bag retails for $1,200.
So, how do you reach out to a demographic completely different than the one you used to target? How do you get in touch with people who used to scoff at your brand for being too accessible, or associated it with preteen girls? More importantly, how do you make it so that your products appreciate in value over time? Well, the answer to those questions isn’t so simple, and often involves in-depth strategies and large budgets. For starters, the company’s going to need to get its product in front of its new audience and actively show why it is different and how it has changed. Once they can do that, they’re going to need their audience to actively engage with product, view it to have high value and high desirability, and start to recognize it as a good investment (think Louis Vuitton or Nike).
The next time you’re out shopping, pop into a store that you haven’t visited in years. How has it changed? How has it stayed the same? Has it successfully shifted its audience, if that was the intention?