The much-criticised singer-turned-televangelist Junaid Jamshed may not be politically and religiously correct and has had his fair share of highs and lows, but the brand J. has consistently enjoyed strong sales over the last decade. This was evident when on September 3, the company announced that many items in their collection had sold out and customers were therefore requested to first confirm the availability of their item through an online request. This was not quite what may have been expected after Jamshed was accused of making misogynistic remarks about women in July.
Yet, a closer look at the brand’s core strategy suggests that the franchise is not totally built upon Jamshed’s celebrity but is backed by a solid business model with a strong value proposition.
Here are three vital lessons from J.’s success story. Lessons that demonstrates what it takes to separate winners from losers and how J. has used good design and in-trend fashion as a medium to influence the way consumers feel, think, and act towards patronising its stores.
Lesson 1: Swim in Blue Oceans:
People’s choice of clothes is a statement about themselves, their values and identity. However, in the case of Pakistan’s clothing industry, the value curves of most of players are virtually identical. So the real challenge for a fashion house is to remodel the market boundaries and break away from the competition.
J. has found the ‘Holy Grail’ of fashion by targeting a unique segment of middle-class customers who are both conservative and fashion savvy at the same time.
The company has successfully created a demand for Shariah-compliant designer outfits, with all the clothes approved and co-designed by religious figures such as Mufti Najeeb. This particular business model has given the brand a sustainable competitive advantage as existing fashion brands cannot imitate this model. Moving to an ‘Islamic’ mode would not only erode another brand’s original customer base, the fact is that this particular niche market is not lucrative enough to support multiple players. With such barriers in place, J. can continue to enjoy swimming in the clear blue waters of new market space for years to come.
Lesson 2: Branding is a dynamic process:
Many run-of-the-mill fashion houses perceive consumers as passive recipients of their brand message. This does not make sense in the context of a complex business environment where brands need to evolve in response to changing consumer perception. J. was quick to realise this when they coined their tagline 'Soully East' last year to emphasise their tilt towards eastern values. This has helped the company to design creative marketing campaigns (they have a policy of not showing faces on their billboard advertisements). Most of their advertisements depict designs of their prints superimposed on other objects such as yachts, vintage cars and flowers.
Lesson 3: Word-of-the-mouth sells:
J. save a lot of money by not having to hire expensive models for their photo shoots, nor do they rely a lot on TV commercials. Jamshed, as the primary face of the brand himself, subtly promotes the business by participating in various TV shows.
Furthermore, the house rarely advertises its gold and silver card customer loyalty programme, and frankly it doesn’t need to as at present, the loyalty programme has over one million customers. Such is the power of word-of-the-mouth marketing!
Jamshed, as the primary face of the brand himself, subtly promotes the business by participating in various TV shows.
Final word: Jamshed is not the Richard Branson of Pakistan but his personality traits have strongly influenced the J.’s brand personality. Until now, the brand has thrived not because of his charisma but because of an inherent strong business model and a unique branding strategy which is difficult to imitate. Fashion branding is all about multimillion-dollar budgets, celebrity endorsements and creating media hype – however it also involves telling a compelling story.
Jamshed’s misogynistic comments and misadventures call for a decoupling of the brand from the image of the veteran singer himself and give a strongly independent identity to the brand. After all we believe that every brand has a story to tell and J. is no different, but the most important thing is to tell the right story the right way — one that provides value to the consumers.
The writer is a Cambridge graduate and is working as a management consultant. He tweets at @faranmah