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    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Brand Hosts and Reincarnation - Nau 2.0

    Nau, a clothing company which mixed high-fashion with high sustainability and regard for the environment underwent a metamorphosis as of late. The products were highly tailored and often made of recycled goods. It was even dubbed "Prada meets Patagonia".

    First it launched, wasn't that successful, but garnered much praise and following.

    Then it folded.

    Now it has been acquired and will be relaunched.

    Treehugger, has an in-depth article looking at the rebirth of the beloved brand. Distribution will apparently be more widespreadm including wholesale. This was apparently severely limiting growth, by being too niche and relying on the brands few boutique outposts (brands usually get distribution wholesale before launching their own channels). Fatal mistake! The brand had a few sustainability and philanthropy programs which may or may not continue. Also apparently revenue was off the charts during the 50% off sales, even more so than regular sales. That might beg to a too high of a premium pricing. But the brand is widely known, or so it states, for its influence amongst the broader outdoor market.

    Certainly acquisitions aren't new and Its nice that it is coming back, but it begs a few questions:

    - Is Nau really being incarnated or is it a different brand?
    Horny Toad apparently stepped in and purchased the assets. While the brand is different, they do share some ideals. Its quite interesting to see the brand acting in a "big brother" capacity. Could we see more like-minded brands operating together in the future? Probably not if they aren't connected financially, but its an interesting notion.

    -Can a brand's philosophy be bigger than a "brand" itself?
    Nau failed for a reason, but remained popular based on its innovative and blend of outdoor-urban sensibilities. While there is some baggage with the purchase, it seems that HT is in fact accepting the ideals of a more popular company. This is to interpret that a brand's essence can define a brand more so than the brand itself? It really beckons towards strictly the strengths of the emotional equities of the brand. Consumers are ultimately more motivated by emotional values than the functions of products themselves. Or are they? A brand encompasses everything facing-forward about a company from products, to image to dialect. So what are the consumers connecting with? In this case its outdoor activity or urban sensibility. And experiences are certain bigger than brands themselves, and lend themselves most to creating emotional equity. Its difficult to pinpoint, but Nau seems to be perfectly balanced to deliver on style and substance. It's an ideal situation for HT, to take on a brand whose emotional equities outweigh the pull of its actual products. But it still has to sell the products come sunset.

    -Is it possible to be a brand "host"?
    This is the question which first popped in my head upon hearing this. Can brands curate other brands (not in the sub-brand type of way)? Is HT taking Nau on as a separate entity? Only time will tell. Many brands have swallowed others over time, but have brands "presented" other brands? Collaborations in the streetwear scene come to mind, with one brands almost always living off the other's coattails. It's a somewhat parasitic relationship. But it begs me to look at the inter-brand relationships. Is the connection via consumer values? Or is it brand values? Which matters more?

    Ultimately it may not matter. Consumers invest their values through the products they buy, and if a corporation doesn't reflect it, they simply go elsewhere. Nau is living due to the overwhelming resonance of consumer values. The true test will be if consumer's behaviors actually match their stated values. In this case it seems potentially that distribution was truly limiting this; but will the masses care? Almost as important is the manner in which HT presents Nau, being the new curator and torch bearer. Consumer behavior didnt match consumer values. HT bought a brand based on its values and must live up to consumer's expectations by allowing the values to breathe.





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