Kanye West has been stirring up a tweetstorm lately, including claims that his shoe and apparel business, Yeezy, has 160 job openings popping up. We can’t help but wonder if his re-emergence in the Twittersphere was part of a larger brand-building strategy. Meanwhile, Macy’s acquires Story and employs its founder as Brand Experience Officer. Is a renewed focus on strong brand taking center stage in the fashion world?
One of the things that makes Yeezy footwear unique, beyond its design, is its sense of exclusivity. Most Yeezy shoes, price point aside, are strategically produced in small batches. Following the Nike Air Yeezy collection from 2007 – 2009, owner Kanye West joined Adidas and dropped his first new collaboration in 2015. It was made available only to those who made reservations via the Adidas app in advance.
As time went on, however, new lines have been released to the global public, moving the brand into more of a mass market appeal while still maintaining low volumes.
After a notable hiatus, in April West re-entered the Twitter-sphere with fury, just in time for the announcement of 2 new albums and a host of developments ongoing at Yeezy – from new shoe designs to the launch of his latest apparel collection.
The recent whirlwind of Twitter-tainment has been complete with controversial theories about slavery, vociferous support for Donald Trump and some hefty projections for his fashion brand. By the end of the year, he claims, Yeezy will break $1B, well on its way toward becoming a decacorn. According to West, this makes it the 2nd fastest growing band in history. Notably, he also says the team currently has 160 job openings.
Following the trail
Anyone in this larger space – including rival collaborations at Nike (Yeezy’s former home) like Air Jordan – will want to watch Yeezy’s breadcrumbs closely to determine what the rapper has in store. If he truly wants this to transform into a brand for the masses, it will take a host of beefed up branding power. In addition to hiring data, a close look at keywords purchased, geographies of focus for online advertising efforts and social buzz can indicate next steps well in advance.
Is it fake news?
GQ ran a quick fact check on some of West’s recent claims. The results, however, were…less than definitive.
Yeezy’s economics are nestled comfortably under the wider Adidas umbrella and within Kanye’s own brand, leaving it difficult for anyone to get a real idea of how it’s doing on its own, nor how much he himself has made off of the brand.
In terms of the massive jump in staff, West did in fact hire Gap’s former head of supply chain, Deborah Palmer Keiser. She also has experience at William Sonoma and All Saints – both international mass market brands – indicating West may be looking to beef up the supply chain to handle larger volumes and move away from the brand’s previous strategy around planned scarcity.
His claims about billion dollar projections and 160 job openings have yet to be substantiated (a quick check on jobs boards and the Adidas website signal only 2 potential openings). But they also haven’t been proven false. While some may call fake breadcrumbs, if these claims do ring true in the future – particularly when it comes to job openings – that means big growth for the brand in a hurry. Particularly, looking at the types of skills he’s hiring for and specific geographies can tell competitors a lot about how he intends to reach “decacorn” status.
If recent insights about his greater mission can be seen as indicators, he’s committed to moving away from the brand’s exclusive place at the top and reaching as many as possible:
“At Adidas, I have Yeezy, but it’s a namesake brand. It’s my nickname. We do these sneakers that sell out and we get, ‘Oh, this is the number one brand on Women’s Wear Daily.’ And I don’t wish to be number one anymore, I wish to be water.”
At the end of the day, Yeezy as a brand is built almost exclusively on West’s persona. It begs the question – are outbursts like his recent Twitter stream-of-consciousness all part of the strategy?
Branding takes center stage
In today’s hyper-competitive world, brand perception is key. No one understands that more than celebrities like Kanye West, which is often why fashion brands will jump at the opportunity to collaborate with them, borrowing from the individual’s cool persona and targeted fan base to elevate the perception of the brand as a whole.
There’s no denying the impact Yeezy, and by extension West, has had on Adidas. Once struggling to remain relevant, the sports brand made several big moves starting in 2015 to turn its perception around. It’s working. Since signing Kanye, Adidas received a massive boost, citing “unrivaled” and “unprecedented” demand for the line.
Macy’s acquires Story, announces new Brand Experience Officer
While Adidas is doing just fine thanks to Yeezy and its owner-come-brand chief, other incubaments like Macy’s have been struggling significantly. Chief Brand Officer or Brand Experience Officer wasn’t a title we saw much of 20 or 30 years ago. Today, however, in the hyper competitive fashion space it’s becoming more and more common. This week, Macy’s made a move to acquire Story, a New York-based concept store, and in the process appointed Story founder Rachel Shechtman as its Brand Experience Officer.
This move indicates a new strategy focused on improving Macy’s in-store experience. Other brands like Walmart have found recent success with acquisition of successful brands like jet.com and Bonobos in an attempt to solve their own issues with digital relevance.
The bankruptcy of major retailers like Toys R Us has begun to cause a ripple effect impacting everyone from Nordstrom to Macy’s itself, and these brands are beginning to realize significant change is needed – starting with brand perception.
Perhaps most interesting to note here will be the team they build under Shechtman. Competitors should keep an eye on job postings coming from Macy’s in the months that follow. New hires here can indicate where they intend to focus resources, and in which geographies they will focus.