A great piece I stumbled upon, published in Napa Consultants’ Language of Luxury that talks about the need for brands to have a soul, and how in the case study of “gotta get my hands on” sexy Christian Louboutin high end shoes… have both sole and soul!
The essence of a personal or company brand… could be considered the soul of your brand. It is the meaning and the emotion that the brand evokes in the minds of your target market. A feature can be imitated… But, they cannot duplicate the soul of your brand.
Christian Louboutin whose trademarked red soled shoes made its mark in the popular show, “Sex and the City”, is now suing two other companies who have had the audacity to color their soles red. The red sole is a just a feature it is not the soul of the brand.
The first is Yves Saint Laurent whose 2011 spring shoe collection has suede shoes with matching soles,( red shoes with red soles, green shoes with green soles, etc.). Yves St Laurent responded with its own lawsuit claiming, “Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz. YSL also alleges that Mr. Louboutin was fraudulent in his trademark application claim that he had ‘exclusive’ use of the red sole.”
The second is a Brazilian shoe company, Carmen Steffens, who is willing to provide evidence that their shoes had red soles before 1992, when Louboutin filed for the trademark. The company finds it “surprising that another brand is trying to reserve the rights to any color.”
What this example clearly illustrates is the futility of competing “solely” on features. In this case, competing on color alone is ridiculous.
An authentic market leading brand cannot be copied or imitated. It has an unfair competitive advantage by virtue of the fact that it occupies the top-of-mind position in the mind of the buyer. A great brand possesses an emotional differentiator which creates an added value that often escapes the confines of logic.
Tiffany & Company as a brand has very strong added emotional value. Tiffany sells diamonds as do many other retailers, such as Macy’s, Costco and a myriad of jewelry stores. We can assume that all the stores buy from a reputable dealer, and we know that all diamonds are graded by the standards of the Gemological Institute. Upon sale, a certificate is issued to validate the diamond’s quality. Logically, any retailer can sell the same size stone, with the same clarity (features). However, some recipient will feel that a diamond from Tiffany’s inherently has more value than a diamond from Costco or Macy’s. Is it the Tiffany blue box?
The famous robin’s egg blue color has been copyrighted by Tiffany. In our travels, we have seen many imitators, but no lawsuits, to the best of our knowledge have involved the imitation of the use of their signature color. Although, Tiffany’s blue gift box is just a feature that can be imitated, it has tremendous meaning to the recipient. And, that meaning is the soul of the brand not the box itself.
Inspiration: Napa Consultants’ Language of Luxury