Part Three: Mission vs. Niche

This article is part three of a five part series entitled “Building A Successful and Authentic Brand.”

Mission-driven Brands

Image courtesy of  gc2b

Image courtesy of gc2b

For many brands who start out with a strong mission, building their core customer profile is quite straightforward and often very personal. These brands often start when a need is identified by a real-life customer. This is particularly true of fashion brands that are emerging to meet the needs of disabled people, the LGBTQIA+ people, and other communities that are not typically catered to by national, mass-market brands.

A typical genesis story for a mission-based brand might start with parents who are supporting a young teenage daughter in the throes of a gender transition and in need of chest binder. After a lot of research, they realize there is nothing in the market specifically designed for a teenager’s growing body in mind. And so, out of desperation, they create something on their own. Word soon gets out in their local LGBT community about the binder they’ve developed, and soon they are getting requests and orders. Before they know it, they are developing a brand, setting up a website and selling their product. In this scenario, the customer is clear, the product is clear, everything is in alignment from the get-go, and yet the business is limited by its own focused mission.

Shifting to Niche Marketing

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A company that starts with such a signal minded mission misses the opportunity to fully consider the needs of their customer. They have yet to fully build the core customer biography discussed in Part Two. They are so focused on one product, that they miss the larger needs of their customer.

Building on the above example, the teen who needed the binder also wants to live a “normal” teenage life, wearing trendy styles that fit over the binder, or finding jeans that fit their broader hips. And the parents-turned-retailers are realizing that they now have a business to run and bills to pay, which is impossible with just one product. They wonder if it’s possible to keep their much-needed business afloat with such a single-minded vision, and they begin to consider how they scale their business while staying true, and authentic, to their core customer.

For mission-driven businesses, a shift to a niche-marketing mindset can make all the difference—considering the larger possibilities of their customer. This starts quite simply with filling in the details of the customer biography discussed in Part Two. And what makes niche-marketing different than mission-driven marketing, is that it allows for overlap to happen. A teeshirt that fits over a binder, might be the perfect fit for another customer who doesn’t wear a binder. The design details of the jean, might attract a female customer base that likes a more masculine fit and deeper pockets. And in all of this, the brand stays true to its roots, and provides room to scale for profitability. After all, a brand that goes out of business, is no longer able to serve anyone.

Concentrating all marketing efforts on a small but specific and well defined segment of the population. Niches do not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them.
— Business Dictionary

—Joshua Williams, Chief Branding Officer, QueerCut

Building a brand for queer customers was more fully discussed in the recent blog post Queer Brands Seeking Engaged Customer Marketplace.

Part Four of this series explores the realities of building a fashion brand in the current marketplace.