Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: PETA Must Regroup to Make Fur Fly

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: PETA Must Regroup to Make Fur Fly

Article excerpt

What a difference a decade makes. Back in 1994 Naomi, Claudia, Kate and Elle were at the height of their supermodel powers, naked as the day they were born and united in preferring to be that way than wear fur.

Sales of fur had been flat for years and many furriers had closed their doors in despair.

Fashion is, unfortunately, all about change, and today, supermodels are actively clothed in, and sponsored by, the very material they once denounced.

Vogue is filled with the latest celebrities modelling the hottest labels, featuring the finest furs. Designer brands such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Alexander McQueen have all recently featured fur in their run-way collections. Now, high-street fashion brands such as J.Crew are following suit.

More worryingly, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is beginning to lose its strong influence over the fashion world. Today, its message is sponsored not by Paris or Nicole, but decidedly B-list celebrities such as Heather Mills McCartney and ageing rock band Motley Crue.

Its tactics are growing increasingly predictable and, therefore, ineffective. Creaming Anna Wintour, the fur-loving editor of Vogue, with a tofu pie may have made the headlines, but it was hardly likely to influence her editorial stance.

No picture better captures PETA's waning impact than photographs from its recent invasion of McQueen's runway show. While campaigners hold aloft banners proclaiming 'Fur kills', the British designer laughs wildly at the commotion and mugs for the cameras. PETA's approach was not only ineffective, it probably added to the notoriety and, therefore, popularity of the McQueen brand.

The problem for PETA is a common one: ignorance of brand equity. Brand managers often attempt to build brands generically, using the same tactics that worked on the previous brand they represented.

This is a strategic mistake. A brand is the opposite of a generic, which means the tactics and approaches that worked for one brand will inevitably fail on another.

In PETA's case, the same logic applies, despite the fact that it is trying to break brands, not build them. The weak spot of any organisation is its brand equity, but to hurt a brand, first you must develop tactics specifically attuned to its particular equity.

In the 90s, lesbian activists, unhappy at their lack of representation in Nike advertising, created an alternative brand called Dike. …

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