Consistent Quality- Consumers love a good deal. But it’s only a deal when the product has both efficacy and longevity. This sheds a new light on the word deal and expands the term, not limiting it to a monetary qualification. In fashion oftentimes we will look at cost per wear. So- called investment pieces can be reduced to a couple of dollars per wear because of the high quality. Quality also decreases turnover, saving both aggravation and the environment. Quality also builds loyalty. As mentioned, the brands with which you have built a relationship are the brands you will start with when searching for a new product.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Adjani Jensen.
Adjani Jensen is a Digital Marketing and Brand Specialist. The majority of her career has been spent as a freelancer and independent contractor, allowing her to learn and hone a variety of skills and create a niche for herself. Her new agency, Adjani Design, offers branding, styling, and creative direction, working largely in the fashion and entertainment industry. In addition to her marketing work, she is a fashion lover and spends as much time as she can styling for individuals, runway shows, and editorial spreads. She is a fashion writer and has contributed to publications such as The Garnette Report and hosts an Instagram page dedicated to fashion called @Every_Day_Armour.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My focus throughout my undergraduate years was squarely on communications, particularly PR. My ultimate goal was to end up in fashion PR. But my career has taken many twists and turns since. I did, however, stay connected to the fashion world, working in and around the industry for years, wading in the waters but never truly taking the plunge. Being a freelancer or independent contractor gave me the freedom to work where and when I could while still having a “day job”. I found that this was not an uncommon practice. On the contrary, most of the individuals I worked with were IC’s themselves, for a variety of reasons. I started noticing certain questions that it seemed everyone was asking. “Have you heard of this or that agency?” “Do I really need an agency?” I,like others,felt I was not “together” enough to be “represented.” Another issue I was hearing was “despite being represented I have no focus.” It was like we were not quite “there.” I felt it was the equivalent of taking my daughter to school in my pajamas. Yes, I’ve shown up. But I’m not in any position to present myself to the world at large. So that led me to ask some more questions, and these I had the power to answer myself. What are the steps I want to take before seeking out a traditional agency? Who am I and what do I want to do with my talent and voice? What can I be learning now that I may not have a chance to later? And the answers coupled with my experience in digital marketing and branding led to a business plan for my agency, Adjani Design.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
You get excited when you are starting out. Everyone tries to run before they really know how to walk. So when I was ready to dive in, I dove in. I shot for the stars, literally contacting some of the biggest people in the fashion industry and was unreasonably discouraged when, shock, they didn’t call back wanting to immediately work with me. I knew where I wanted to end up and rushed through the steps to get there. There are no shortcuts. And you need to learn to work through the silence. Rejection is hard enough but being ignored can be devastating.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I love the arts. I love fashion. I truly believe in its value to the point that I believe it is worth all of my time and efforts to promote and illuminate art and artists. I feel connected to their stories and want to tell them. And I feel my background is the perfect combination of technical and creative to get those messages across to the world.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have been researching some of the “failings” in the fashion industry, namely sustainability and culture representation. I have been working with a designer who represents fashion from all over the globe and I’m creating a series of articles, possibly even turning them into actionable steps to introduce real change.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
I think about it in terms of need vs. feeling. When you need a product, price and quality are what matter. When you think of brand marketing, if you have a connection to a brand, that is your starting point. You will look to the brands you like for the products you need. Building that kind of relationship is where brand marketing differs from product marketing.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
It’s a relationship. Relationships take time and effort. But the payoff is exponential. If you are taking the time to connect with your customer, you can start to anticipate their needs and create ways you can meet them. The loyalty you receive from that customer is what is going to keep you afloat in hard times, like a global pandemic.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
1)Honesty- I think of food labels. I love reading a food label with 4 ingredients, all of which i recognize and can pronounce. You can use all the buzzword labels you want but when the details don’t match, you lose faith.
2)Transparency- This point was inspired by Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index. Public disclosure of business practices is not wholly new but the demand for them by consumers is rising. There is a growing movement surrounding the hashtag WhoMadeMyClothes, showing that the next generation of consumers will be calling companies to account before supporting them with a purchase. Branding has come to include what you are doing behind the advertisements. With so many similar products competing for the same space the “how it was made” is becoming more important than the product itself.
3)Common sense above dollars and cents. Manufacturing in the United States is not a cheap prospect. But by digging a little deeper you can find it not only economically possible but prudent as well. Companies like Indie Source in Los Angeles have processes in place for a fully integrated concept to distribution model. Manufacturing closer to home provides a sustainable option that gives the brand more control not only of the product but of their narrative. Being that involved in your brand is what consumers have come to look for. Accountability builds trust and a loyal customer base.
4)Effective brands make deliberate choices and perfect them. I think of designer Rebecca Minkoff. She started small with an idea for affordable luxury and a very particular aesthetic. Through the years she has doubled-down and has been able to build and expand a very loyal base because she knows why her customers keep coming back to her. In a recent interview Minkoff actually mentioned a misstep in trying to replicate some recent fashion trends that did not match her aesthetic. She very candidly shared that it was a mistake, reiterating the importance of sticking to your mission and staying true to your brand.
5)Consistent Quality- Consumers love a good deal. But it’s only a deal when the product has both efficacy and longevity. This sheds a new light on the word deal and expands the term, not limiting it to a monetary qualification. In fashion oftentimes we will look at cost per wear. So- called investment pieces can be reduced to a couple of dollars per wear because of the high quality. Quality also decreases turnover, saving both aggravation and the environment. Quality also builds loyalty. As mentioned, the brands with which you have built a relationship are the brands you will start with when searching for a new product.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
There’s a designer I really admire for the way he has built his new brand: Ben Taverniti, designer for Bureau de Stil. I hear him describe his process and the things that led to the development of his new line and it is all very organic. Sustainability is the movement of the moment but it truly is a better way of doing things. It simply makes sense and this is how Taverniti operates. He has been in the industry for years, seen successes, and where processes can be improved and that is how he built this new brand. It’s very genuine and honest in addition to being a consistently high quality product. Brands can replicate this by doing the research and have a willingness to change. This willingness must be a core component in their business model;everyone needs to be on board!
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
Success in branding is about community, consistent sales, and customer experience. Drawing again from the fashion industry, you are releasing new products every couple of months. This requires an immense amount of loyalty from your customer. You may see a nice dress on a red carpet or magazine and buy it. But isnt it better that you hear the narrative of the collection, who was used as a muse, a commitment to size and ability inclusivity, and now that narrative is demonstrated on the red carpet or magazine. The story behind it builds intrigue and if you are an unrepresented person who sees yourself represented, chances are you will remember this designer and seek them out the next time you need something.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Brands have been built entirely from social media engagement. Arielle Charnas of Something Navy was a very successful blogger with a relatively small but highly engaged following. Because of this influence she was able to start a clothing line that continues to thrive. Direct to consumer retail is a new and very successful frontier that is taking off in large part due to social media. And social media is the optimal place to cultivate your brand, its message, and its aesthetics.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Staying honest and true to yourself (and your brand) are keys to maintaining a love for what you are doing. When you believe in your message and your brand it is a lot easier to sell it. Trying to compete with whatever is new and trending is a sure path to burnout. If you have built a loyal base, those are your people. Speak directly to them and keep your focus simple.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Brands must focus on their workforce as much as they focus on their consumer. I would love to see brands invest in real changes not just hire a consultant to put forth the image of change. Diversity at the higher levels is crucial for this. It’s a movement that is popular now but the turn over in diversity and inclusion officer is huge because brands are not truly willing to change. The optics are more important than the end result.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In the words of the late, great John Lewis “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone-any person or any force- dampen, dim, or diminish your light. Release the need for hate…Hold only love, only peace in your heart.”
It’s a reminder that what I do matters, whether it is just for me or it affects the entire world. When I do something for me the result is my own happiness and well-being. That leaves me inspired and able to help others. And that is important. Sometimes we don’t take care of ourselves as we should but we are a light, as Mr. Lewis says. Every person can effect change. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, dim that light.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
I have always admired Andre Leon Talley. He is a legend in the industry. His insights are invaluable.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My website is adjanidesign.com
My business instagram is www.instagram.com/adjanidesign
My fashion instagram is www.instagram.com/every_day_armour
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.