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‘The Brand is a Personification’: Why Storytelling Matters in Building Trust

Trust is critical in the shopping process, but building a brand that resonates with consumers so much that they want to keep coming back is hard. While the argument about whether today’s consumers are more or less loyal to brands rages on as shopping habits continue to shift, one panel of experts during the Texworld USA Virtual Edition established why they believe brands matter more than ever, especially in an era where consumers may need a sense of familiarity in their lives.

The value of brands, particularly designer brands, has always been in their storytelling capabilities and establishing a vision for what a consumer’s lifestyle would be like among wearing or using their product, according to Stacy Garcia, founder and owner of design and licensing company Stacy Garcia Inc.

“I think the brand is a personification no matter what,” Garcia said during the panel. “It either represents the person who’s at the helm of the brand or represents the promise that the brand is going to bring home to that end consumer. It represents to that end consumer, a high-performance textile and something that’s going to move with you. Ultimately it’s about the story that brand is telling and what that brand promise is.”

Janee Ries, an executive merchandising consultant, noted that department stores still carry relevance if they know how to leverage their employees correctly to accentuate the brands and products that they’re carrying.

“Recently, when the stores started to open in New York City and I texted a sales associate on a sales floor in one of the well-known department stores that I needed a lightweight down comforter,” Ries said. “She immediately texted me back and said, ‘I’m calling you.’ She said, ‘You don’t need a lightweight down comforter, you need an all-season comforter,’ and she went on to take me through four different brands before saying, ‘This is the one that I really think would suit you. I think you’ll be happy with it.’ I ended up buying the product because of this associate.”

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On the other hand, Ries noted that direct-to-consumer brands have a different approach to maximizing their brand proposition since they largely have to do all the work on their own. She highlighted the importance of visual content in making these brands work, whether it was the image or the graphic presentation, which can convince the consumer to more deeply exploring the product.

Accentuating the brands and building a sense of trust also come directly from reviews, even if some of this customer feedback might be sponsored or incentivized by brands.

“It kind of doesn’t matter, particularly if the review was well written, and it appears to be a real authentic review with some content behind it,” said Donna Vance, former executive vice president of home private brands at Macy’s Home Textiles. “So I think it ended up being a real deal changer in my view in terms of how important reviews are. No one buys anything without looking at a review.”

Reviews have permeated the retail industry to such an extent that Garcia believes it’s almost the brand’s job to undersell the product and instead let the top consumers’ best reviews do the talking for them.

“It’s so critical that when the customer receives what they’re ordering that they’re wowed in some way that it’s really the best review that you can get, that when they open it up, it’s better than what they thought,” Garcia said. “Because if it’s not, if you go into an oversell and what they get is not quite that…it’s a killer at this point.”

In the end, the reviews matter to the suppliers, too, for research purposes.

“What’s the customer looking for?” Vance said. “What do they value the most?”

In developing private brands at Macy’s, Vance noted that her team excelled at putting on their blinders and staying in their lane to develop products that became a great fit for the overall Macy’s brand. And often, the team wasn’t bringing the first product idea to market, instead continuing to build on it if it didn’t fill the consumer need they initially anticipated.

“We would have exercises where we would talk about this product, and say, ‘This brand is going to look like this. This brand and product needs to look like this.’ We didn’t always get it right. And the first time out we didn’t get it right. We had traditional styling and detailing and embroidery, with a more modern expression, and that wasn’t right. But I believed that if we cleaned it up, and then built into that white space even more distinctly, we were going to be special and that’s really what has happened.”