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business models, strategies and technologies

Rethinking Lindbergh and the style mantle

Brand identity and fashion style can come from an authentic core – or just be an attempt at a Hogwarts mantle of blatant deception

Fashion supplement

I sat over a long Saturday breakfast, and flicked through one of the “advertorial” magazines that increasingly accompany our newspapers, all desperate to force a way through any tiny chink in our media awareness.

There was a mega-big section for the Danish menswear brand that bears the proud name of Lindbergh, and my eternal search for sartorial elegance caused my jaundiced eye to dwell. To explain for non-Danes and non-men, it’s a brand name used by the Tøjeksperten (“clothing expert”) chain.

Tucked-away explanation

What ended up really catching my eye, however, was a little, tucked-away explanation about why they use the Lindbergh name as the “capsule” for the brand identity of this mid-level high-street clothing chain. In my translation, their Danish words were

The story about Charles Augustus Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic, is cool and at Lindbergh we always strive to be the same

They then carefully explained that they deliberately mixed in other elements from American military and sports styling, and a whiff of Italian sleekness.

Lindbergh shoes (not mine!)

Thanks for the clear, up-front explanation, guys, but it’s also a kazinger reminder of the fundamentally faux nature of this whole brand identity. They’re laying out the contours of how they want to be perceived to generate sales success – standard-practice stuff, no surprises there – but they’re also explicitly mapping out the intrinsic fakeness of it all – with no attempt at justification or explanation except “cool by association” – with the coup de grace of flaunting their calculations about the exact degree of brain-dead gullibility they expect from their customers.

Several years ago (before I realised it was a chain brand) I bought a pair of very nice shoes that happened to bear this Lindbergh name, and I distinctly remember feeling consciously insulted that Charles Lindbergh’s venerable name had been so pecuniously pirated. I only bought the shoes because it was easy to take the brand label off.

Just one in a crowd

Another weakness of the Lindbergh brand name is that it’s only one of many (a whole 24 in March 2016) brand names hawked by the Tøjeksperten chain on its website.

When the company itself so casually relegates its in-house brand name to the bleachers (Lindbergh doesn’t even have its own website!), how convincing or persuasive can such an avowedly “fake” brand identity ever be?

Cheap shots

All this is an easy/obvious criticism, one of the best-known wonky bits at the heart of the current marketing religion of “branding”. Many are the prayers and the profits built around this marketing mecca, and I ain’t enough of an expert or pundit to delve into deep discourse on this complex subject.

It was this company’s explicit admission of their fakery recipe that caught my eye, rather than the “fakeness” itself – it’s standard practice in the messy world of mass marketing, and nothing special for Lindbergh.

Authentic alternative?

I can’t help wondering whether companies like this would get a whole lot more traction for their marketing budgets  if they opted for an intelligent, customer-centric approach instead of spending vast sums on a sumptuously photographed 16-page section in one of Denmark’s most expensive lifestyle supplements, whose explicit intention is to “fool” their customers into adopting an admittedly “fake” style. They end up with a “one in a multitude” brand identity that no one’s ever going to feel any loyalty to.

And I can’t help seeing an exciting communication opportunity for an authentic alternative – customer-wise, I would love it if a high-street chain could develop and market a “brand” (= consistent. ongoing range of clothing, if we drop the smart-speak) with a distinct identity that actively addressed my real fashion/clothing/self-perception needs – in a way that registered and respected my concerns rather than so forthrightly informing me they only consider me (and their other customers) mere marketing fodder.



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