Niche Brands: Understanding how niche fashion startups connect with Millennials

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Joseph Wharton Scholars
Generation Y consumers
Brand consciousness
Consumption motivation
Brand influence
Brand loyalty
Niche brands
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Mandarino, Kahle

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate and understand how niche fashion startups brand toward Millennials. Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are becoming an important segment of the global population. Specifically, this study is designed to investigate if niche fashion brands successfully target and brand to Millennials consumers compared to mass-market brands on the following brand traits: brand self-congruency, perceived quality, brand prestige, brand loyalty, brand tribalism, and brand user image congruency. Design/methodology/approach –Two online surveys were conducted to compare Gap (mass- retailer) and Everlane (niche brand) on the seven brand components, and 46 valid surveys were collected. Findings – The study revealed that Everlane performed better than Gap on three branding elements (brand tribalism, brand user image congruency, and brand prestige suggesting that not only the Integrated Marketing Communications efforts taken by Everlane are targeting Millennials, but that through IMC, Everlane is crafting brand equity among the cohort. This study provides a model to study other Millennials and analyze the company against a comparable mass-market competitor. Research limitations/implications – Limitations for this study come from three sources: (1) the representativeness of the sample, (2) limited sampled brands, and (3) influence of other factors. Implications for brand managers, marketers, and retailers focus on strategies that influence the social and self-motivation for luxury consumption and level of brand consciousness. Originality/value – This research is unique and significant because it focuses on understanding the consumer behavior of Millennial consumers, an important segment in the market that is growing in market power. The study is the first to analyze new startups coined as ‘niche brands’ that are targeting Millennials and compare them to mass-market retailers.

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