I am all about brand integrity. Whether it is a person, a product, or a company (including my own), my dedication to building and sustaining the integrity of a brand is uncompromising. And a brand is not just about the logo; maybe it used to be in the “old days.” The logo certainly needs to make a statement, send a message, tell a story. I talked about this in a previous blog, “With branding, less may not be more” about several logo debacles from well-known brands. But in this digital age, branding reaches across all digital platforms and encompasses not only the logo, but service levels, how well companies respond to customer comments on social media outlets, how they handle crisis on the world’s media stage, and the list goes on.
Nieman Marcus is an iconic brand. When I first moved back to Dallas in the summer of 2011 I lived in the Mercantile building right next to the original store, founded on September 10, 1907. I used to imagine the rich oilmen going into the Mercantile Bank while their wives shopped at Nieman’s. Can’t you just picture it?
Many words come to mind when describing the Nieman Marcus brand: luxury, traditional, service, chocolate chip cookies, and the much anticipated holiday windows. Last year I was so excited to see the unveiling. It had been years. They were spectacular and I invited everyone I knew to visit. I was as proud as if I had designed and installed them myself.
This year, I had friends visiting from out-of-town, and we had a fantastic day spent downtown touring the museums. I had been talking about the Nieman’s window for weeks and couldn’t wait to show them. It never even occurred to me that these friends, who travel the world to Milan, Paris, Stockholm, and New York City would be anything less than impressed. My disappointment in this year’s window displays was astounding. “This can’t be!” I said. “There must be some mistake!” Cardboard cutouts hanging from a string? No real story or theme. No intricate mechanics. No beauty in design. Certainly no story. I found myself apologizing. “They must be having an off year. It happens every 100 or so.”
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…we walked around the corner and saw this window. “Why does that look like the Target logo?” “Oh,” my friend said, “Nieman Marcus and Target are partnering for the holiday season.”
Is it marketing genius or is it a serious case of brand compromise? I’ll admit it’s marketing genius on both sides with obvious benefits. I might even buy something—I’m a big fan of Target! But the execution from Nieman’s was disappointing. There was so much hype leading up to the release of the collection. A smart social media strategy would have done the trick. Target was definitely trading up, and should have capitalized on the partnership. But Nieman Marcus didn’t have to so obviously trade down. Don’t bring it to the window displays.
Don’t cheapen up a century old brand that’s always been about class and style with a cardboard cutout of the Target logo. In this case, leave it to Target to be loud about the partnership, and leave it to Nieman Marcus to be quiet and sophisticated…with absolutely smashing holiday window displays.
Published by: Connie Glover in Branding