|Marketable Branding: What Works and What Doesn’t
By: Corinne MacInnes
When I worked at a bakery in the Gold Coast of Chicago, I saw a lot of variety in the customers of the area. Sure, we got our fair amount of angry Texan tourists with screaming children and plenty of flustered, young Japanese girls Instagramming every morsel of pastry, but we also got a loving batch of regulars. Some lived in the building above us, some worked in a nearby office building, some came from the countless nearby hair salons, and some had just gotten their silks cleaned and repaired at the dry cleaners next door.
From the window in the back of the bakery, I could see into the front door of our neighboring laundry. The minuscule shop was run by a tall, quiet Russian man while his ancient mother spent hours bent over knit socks and Egyptian cotton undergarments. Their plastic, blue A-frame sign sat out through the snow and rain, telling each passerby, “Oh! You do have a hole in your sweater!”
In comparison with this picturesque, old-world label, Bloomingdale’s loomed across the street, an eight-story giant of gleaming silver, gold, and glass. The contrast of these two businesses, opposite points on the conglomerate food chain, was stark. This difference may seem quite obvious, but even beneath the 144 years of the Bloomingdale brothers’ expansion, their marketing dogma, and import genius, there is another reason for this retail king’s success: the brand.
Despite the lovely thought of having a kindly babushka mending your clothing like your own grandmother, the Russian dry cleaners next door doesn’t fit the face of a truly marketable brand. “Oh! You do have a hole in your sweater!” is a one-of-a-kind sign for a one-of-a-kind business, too intimate and unassuming to emblazon its face across buses, magazines, and billboards.
Bloomingdale’s, on the other hand, has triumphed in seizing its chance at a marketable brand. The company was founded in New York, but now stretches nationwide with 43 full stores and 13 outlets. It revenues over $1 billion USD, has served great figureheads like Queen Elizabeth, and entertains its Manhattan flagship as a tourist attraction.
The basic difference between the Russian cleaner and Bloomingdale’s lies in the brand and the brand’s abilities in the mass market of today’s media. As an essentially faceless brand, Bloomingdale’s can work like a machine on the market — a complex advertising system, so unlike the simplicity of a babushka darning knitted sweaters.
Corinne MacInnes grew up in Albion, MI. She attended Kalamazoo College and graduated in 2015 with a B.F.A. and concentrations in Spanish, English, and Art History under her belt. Today she works from Chicago doing freelance writing, creative writing, and event planning
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