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Branding in a post-marketing world-part two

October 15, 2004

Howies clothing company is the brainchild of an ex-advertising creative and his wife. A business where the main motive is the communication of values, rather than making money. Howies make clothing for the extreme sports crowd and have adopted an approach similar to Patagonia: they use organic cotton wherever possible, they give 1% back to environmental and social causes and they have a highly readable catalog.


http://www.howies.co.uk/main.html

The major difference between the two companies is Howie’s youthful target verses the Patagonia’s boomers. This tough, cynical crowd responds well to the anti-establishment ethos inherent in the brand. The brand was actually born a series of sloganeering t-shirts one of which included a photograph of a dollar bill and the word slave written above it.

The brand is clearly interested in doing more than making money; it encourages its employees to take time off to mountain bike or surf when they don’t feel like coming to work and they lend books on politics and sustainability from their library to any consumer who wants to borrow them.

Despite the brand’s ethical dimension, the most interesting thing about them is the products themselves. It’s clothing designed to defy the concept of fashion, as it is both functional and durable. In this sense, the products speak for themselves.

Howies is a hybrid that’s found inspiration from the likes of Patagonia and Benetton. However, unlike these or any conventional company, not being driven by the profit motive, is highly unusual. The founders truly believe that creating a real company is a long-term effort and that it might be 25 years before they have achieved something meaningful, but slow growth is a stated goal. They don’t want to expand too fast, they look for retailers who support their cause and have turned down offers for investment and opportunities to expand distribution.

While clearly both these examples cannot be replicated by big brands, elements of them can. Of critical importance is establishing an ethical dimension, trying wherever possible to think about sustainability and finally bringing a humanity to the brand with an approach that’s honest and personal.

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