Comme Des Garçons’ Marketing Activities

Executive Summary

The report provides a comprehensive overview of Comme des Garçons’ marketing activities. The brand was established in 1969 by Rei Kawakubo and currently has headquarters in Tokyo and Paris. It is a luxury brand that regularly presents collections on the catwalk, yet is also highly appealing to streetwear lovers due to its original avant-garde style. Regardless of limited advertising, it has a large base of dedicated fans. It strives to create unique purchasing experiences for consumers by focusing heavily on the design of its stores. Moreover, Comme des Garçons actively collaborates with other fashion brands and artists, using this approach as a primary promotion tool. Overall, to foster future growth, it is recommended for the brand to digitalize its operations and strengthen its social media presence.

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Comme Des Garçons’

Background

The Comme des Garçons (CDG) label was created by a Japanese designer, Rei Kawakubo, in 1969. The company, with the same name, was then founded in 1973 (The Cut 2015). The brand is characterized by a “radical departure from fashion norms” and a unique “apocalyptic,” grotesque, avant-garde aesthetics (Sunnucks 2017, para. 1). A strong accent on the creative and artistic side of clothing differentiates Kawakubo’s work from others in the luxury fashion sector. The brand competes with such names in the world of fashion as Alexander McQueen and Yohji Yamamoto. One of the company’s main aims is to maximize positive purchasing experiences and produce extra value for its customers (Yuen 2017).

Current Performance

CDG experienced a significant profit growth of 30% in 2017 and is enjoying rapid global growth mainly triggered by high consumer demand. For instance, the brand’s CEO, Adrian Joffe, stated that they are continuing to expand into the Asian markets, including Singapore because the brand is particularly popular among local buyers (Yuen 2017). Significantly, new CDG locations usually emerge as part of the multi-retailer store, Dover Street Market (DSM), owned by Kawakubo (Yuen 2017). CDG currently has a presence in Tokyo, New York, London, Beijing, Singapore, and Los Angeles. In addition to this, the brand has independent outlets across many countries and works with retail distributors from different regions, including Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Target Market

Geographics

The brand’s style is more relevant to large urban areas with well-developed art scenes, nightlife, and other platforms for self-expression and where non-orthodox lifestyles are welcomed and accepted. The climate does not matter since CDG produces summer, winter, as well as midseason collections.

Demographics

CDG customers tend to range in age between 15 and 35 and are any gender. The brand is more oriented towards single individuals or socially and professionally active couples from the middle or upper class. In terms of occupation, the brand’s customer may be either a student or employed as a creative artist, designer, fashion journalist, or musician, for example.

Psychographics

A person buying from CDG has an active lifestyle, is focused on self-development, and values self-expression and creativity. They are open-minded, innovative, and are always willing to explore and try new things.

Behavior

The potential customer has divided brand loyalty and mixes CDG clothes with other similar brands, including Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, and Vetements. They regard the purchase of a garment as an investment and do not come to a store frequently. They prefer visiting offline stores as they seek socialization, fulfillment of aesthetic needs, and so forth. They are technologically savvy and use social media as one of their primary communication tools.

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Pen Portrait

Pen Portrait
  • Age: 27
  • Work: Illustrator
  • Style: Creative and eccentric
  • Favorite brands: Yohji Yamamoto and CDG
  • Hobbies: Art collecting
  • Leisure: Travelling / Partying
  • Favorite Cities: New York and London

Competitors

Table 1: Summary of CDG and its main competitors’ features.

CDG Yohji Yamamoto Alexander McQueen
Product Range Women and men apparel, shoes, perfume, accessories Women and men apparel, shoes, perfume, accessories Women and men apparel, shoes, perfume, accessories
Average Price point The US $1000 The US $1500 The US $2000
Market Couture, premium Couture, premium Couture, premium
POD Designs are mostly in black. Targeted at a narrower group of upper-class consumers.
Outlets are designed in more classic, elegant ways.
POP Unconventional, “Japanese” approach to design.
Combination of streetwear and luxury features.
Approach to advertising as a form of art.
Product promotion through collaborations.
Fashion is an art form.
Couture designs embed architectural, “dark,” highly innovative elements.

Macro-Environment Analysis

Table 2: PESTEL Analysis for Global Luxury Fashion Industry.

Political “Geopolitical instability, terrorism, Brexit, and stalled trade deals will all increase a pervasive sense of uncertainty” (Pratap 2018, para. 2).
Economic While consumers buying power has increased in recent years, economic volatility is present in many regions, including China, Russia, and India (Pratap 2018).
Social Present-day luxury consumers value quality more than convenience. Millennials, whom the fashion industry targets most, are also interested in experiences more than objects (Figure 2) and they purchase luxury items mainly to make good impressions on others (Shankman 2017).
Technological Information technology has affected the way consumers explore information about brands. Consumers like to be engaged with brands on social media and interact with them in meaningful ways.
Environmental There is a significant interest in environmental sustainability among consumers and they are demanding the fashion industry reduce its negative impacts on the ecology.
Legal Along with changes in international trade laws, compliance with labor laws and ethical management principles is the main legal concern in the fashion industry.

It is clear from this analysis that changes in the technological environment and consumer tastes are among the most influential in the industry. A significant percentage of people are now evaluating luxury brands in terms of ethics and sustainability (Figure 1) and, as this trend is expected to rise over time, brands considering these concerns will gain significant competitive advantages. Additionally, economic turbulences may considerably affect sales of CDG and close assessment of economic factors should thus drive its further international expansion decisions.

The percentage of millennial luxury customers exploring ethical and sustainability endeavors of brands
Figure 1: The percentage of millennial luxury customers exploring ethical and sustainability endeavors of brands (Shankman, 2017).
The percentage of millennial customers who prefer experience over a luxury item purchase
Figure 2: The percentage of millennial customers who prefer experience over a luxury item purchase (Shankman 2017).

Micro-Environment Analysis

Table 3: SWOT Analysis for CDG.

Strengths
  • Unique style, combining artistic and streetwear features.
  • Strong collaboration portfolio (including Nike, Gucci, Converse, and Supreme).
  • Exclusivity and limited availability of clothing.
  • The popularity of the logo.
Weaknesses
  • Does not have a strong social media presence and e-commerce platform.
  • Limited advertising activities.
  • Brand positioning is associated with a degree of uncertainty.
Opportunities
  • Expansion of e-commerce capabilities and social media presence.
Threats
  • Political turbulence (such as recent riots in Paris where the brand has headquarters) can affect work processes.

Marketing Mix 7 P’s

Product

Currently, CDG offers a great variety of products produced under a plethora of sub-brands (Figure 5). At the primary stage of brand development, Kawakubo created clothes for strong, independent women. Later, she added basic items and male attire to her collections. When designing for men, Kawakubo pays attention to the originality of the cut and the overall look as well (Figure 3). Along with this, she creates experimental collections in which innovative materials, such as aluminum pipes and fabrics that glow in the dark, are utilized (The Cut 2015).

CDG Homme Plus Fall 2019
Figure 3: CDG Homme Plus Fall 2019.

Moreover, the brand sells unisex fragrances with unconventional compositions, featuring notes of “burnt rubber, lettuce juice, and dust on a lightbulb” (The Cut 2015, para. 17), and offers a multitude of accessories, bags, wallets, cases, and other similar items. It is also worth noticing that CDG continuously collaborates with numerous brands working in distinct niches of the fashion industry from the mass market to luxury, sports, and streetwear (Figure 4).

Items developed jointly with Vans x Supreme and H&M.
Figure 4: Items developed jointly with Vans x Supreme and H&M.
CDG hierarchy of sub-brands and lines
Figure 4: CDG hierarchy of sub-brands and lines (The Cut 2015).

Price

The pricing for different items and sub-brands varies significantly. For example, original avant-garde pieces (Figure 5) may cost within a range of a few thousand US dollars, while basic pieces (Figure 6) may cost around the US $300. Thus, the products are affordable to an extended group of consumers. It is also worth noticing that Black CDG was specifically created in response to the 2008 financial crisis and prices in that line are 60% of the main collections (The Cut 2015). Such an approach indicates that the company adjusts its marketing practices to environmental changes.

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Prices for clothes in the main CDG collection.
Figure 5: Prices for clothes in the main CDG collection (Farfetch 2019).
Prices for clothes in CDG PLAY collection.
Figure 6: Prices for clothes in CDG PLAY collection (Farfetch 2019).

Place

Products are mainly sold through DSM stores and CDG boutiques. Additionally, the brand works with multi-retail stores to sell some of its items, including perfumes and accessories. Online sales are extremely low and limited to the PLAY collection. They are carried out through the DSM website where garments by other brands are also sold.

People

The brand’s founders emphasize the significance of customer experiences (Yuen 2017). However, users’ feedback regarding their experiences in DSM London on Facebook is controversial. Some customers praise the friendly and quick-responding staff, while others complain about employees’ negative attitudes and other problems, including delayed refunds and delivery of products ordered online (Dover Street Market 2019). It means that the company still has a lot to improve regarding customer service.

Processes

Production processes are mainly located in Japan, especially for the couture collections. Moreover, several items are sewn by hand to control the quality of clothes. At the same time, casual items are produced in other countries such as Turkey and Spain. While it is noted that the CDG senior managers often use their gut feeling to make strategic decisions and do not compose long-term business plans (Yuen), their approach to production is still very controlled and value-driven, which results in the avoidance of unnecessary waste.

Physical Evidence

The brand puts a lot of effort into designing the physical spaces of its outlets. For instance, DSM “is known for its innovative visual merchandising and in-store art installations” that are redesigned every second year (Lieber 2017, para. 27). Moreover, when it comes to CDG pop-up stores, they are designed even more creatively and freely than permanent locations and are turned into artworks (Figure 7). This approach helps to achieve positive impressions on visitors and increase customer satisfaction.

Design of a pop-up store.
Figure 7: Design of a pop-up store (Gerlach 2016).

Promotion

Table 5: DRIP model.

Differentiate CDG prides itself on being different and unique. The brand is appealing to both luxury and streetwear fans for its universality and expressiveness.
Reinforce The brand’s vision is mainly manifested in extravagant and innovative CDG designs, as well as unusual approaches to marketing. Kawakubo sees fashion and styling as a form of art and, thus, the aesthetic side of purchasing and wearing her clothes is emphasized.
Inform The major communication and advertising tools for CDG are word-of-mouth and recommendations from fashion-savvy individuals and influences, as well as collaborations with big names in the fashion and art scenes. The brand also uses pop-up stores to promote its products, placing them in popular, gentrified urban locations that attract many individuals interested in art, design, and fashion (Gerlach 2016).
Persuade The main messages on the official CDG website include: “Wear your freedom” and “Wear with feeling” (Comme des Garçons 2019). Apart from that, the brand puts little extra effort into persuading consumers to continue purchasing its products. At the same time, it has a large base of fans who are likely to remain devoted to CDG as long as its original aesthetics are preserved.

Recommendations and Conclusion

The low levels of online activity, combined with highly visible negative feedback regarding customer services in the brand’s outlets, are the primary areas of concern for CDG, while digitalization and increased social media presence would certainly open up opportunities for attracting new consumers. Even though the brand aims to be unique, it could implement further innovation capacities to engage in online marketing more actively.

For instance, CDG can collaborate with artists to create digital art and, in this way, greater value will be added for the targeted consumer group. As for the issue of poor customer service, it seems that the organizational culture of CDG is insufficiently human-oriented. It is important to find the right balance between accessing the aesthetic side of the purchasing experience and improving the quality of human interactions in stores. Thus, more attention should be paid to the organization-wide culture and value of development activities.

Reference List

Comme des Garçons 2019. Web.

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Dover Street Market 2019. Web.

Farfetch 2019, Farfetch UK Limited, London, UK. Web.

Gerlach, B 2016, ‘How Comme des Garçons changed retail with its pop-up stores’, FIB. Web.

Lieber, C 2017, ‘The vast, mysterious empire of Comme des Garçons’, Racked. Web.

Pratap, A 2018, ‘PESTEL/PESTLE analysis of the fashion retail industry’, Chestnotes. Web.

Shankman, S 2017, ‘5 Factors That Influence Millennials’ Luxury Spending Habits’, Skift. Web.

Sunnucks, J 2017, ‘Everything you need to know about Comme des Garçons’, Dazed. Web.

The Cut 2015, ‘The Comme des Garçons empire in chart form’, The Cut. Web.

Yuen, S 2017, ‘Comme des Garçons CEO: Others may like 5-year plans, but I don’t’, CNBC. Web.

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