Whether by design or by strategy, one thing is undeniable — Matilda Jane Clothing is a true brand success story.
What makes this brand so successful? How did a couple moms meeting in a kitchen become such brilliant entrepreneurs? These are questions I think about all the time as a brand designer. I love to see a brilliant design and brand strategy played out to grand slam success, even when I’m not the designer behind the plan.
Sure, I wish I could take credit for branding this company; unfortunately, I had nothing to do with it. Am a little sad about it? A little, but the fact remains that the owner, Denise DeMarchis, and her foundation of designers, family, and friends have done a phenomenal job of building a great brand that really stands out. This company truly has brand personality.
I first became introduced to the Matilda Jane clothing line when I noticed my wife was fanatically buying kids clothing and then freaking out with excitement when she received the item she was after. Then I noticed my daughter’s closet filled with clothes that just… seemed different. Every piece was unique and every piece was absolutely adorable, but you could also tell that they were all of the same brand.
I may be a guy, but I am comfortable enough in my masculinity to admit that I found myself saying “ooh, where did you get that? That’s the cutest outfit ever.” The fact that I was so drawn to this clothing line got me asking more questions about it, and the more I asked my wife about it, the more intriguing it became to me. I kept asking my wife, “what do you mean they don’t sell online? You can’t just buy their clothes off their website? Trunk Keepers? What the hell are those? What, you mean you can’t always get the items you want to buy? Hmmm…”
Over the past year, I’ve read several interviews and features about Denise DeMarchis, owner of Matilda Jane, and there are some really fundamentally solid things that she has done to create a brand that resonates with people. Her core philosophy is to “create clothing for little girls that keeps them looking like little girls.” Frankly, she had me at that statement. If you’ve been shopping for girls clothing lately, you’ll realize clothing like that is actually pretty hard to come by. It’s true that the Matilda Jane clothing line is adorable, but it’s the company philosophy based on personal interaction that contributes to this strong brand. Matilda Jane isn’t actually sold in online retail shops. Shocking right? – more like brilliant! They have trunk keepers, and the entirety of their sales hinges on personal interaction, whether it’s through social media or direct contact.
Matilda Jane is clearly a well designed clothing line, and I mean from the patterns to the production, but the strategy (which I just LOVE) is so simple: create demand. It might be worth noting that for entrepreneurs tempted to be just like the other guy, by being different like Denise DeMarchis, you become memorable and it makes your product much more valuable to people. Matilda Jane Clothing isn’t cheap, but it’s in high demand and their strategy keeps people coming back for more.
Their collections are strategically designed to showcase a line up of beautifully designed cloths that mix and match, but some items are inevitably going to be the clear cut popularity winners for each release. Well, those really popular items are also limited release items and this doesn’t even get into their Platinum Collection; where at random, Matilda Jane will upload limited release items to their platinum site. Try to buy one of those – I dare you! They’re up and then they’re gone — poof. What does this do, besides piss my wife off? Well, it creates demand. My wife is a great example illustrating this point; she keeps going back, watching, waiting, anticipating. It’s like an addiction and she’s passed it on to all of her friends like a little clothing crack pipe. To those unfortunate husbands, I am sorry.
Their strategy, based on creating demand for beautifully designed clothing works wonderfully on several levels. First, the design is not only beautiful, each piece is very unique which motivates Moms to buy not just cute clothing but cute clothing that none of the other kids are going to be wearing. Secondly, Matilda Jane limits the availability of these items to ensure that there aren’t a billion mass produced pieces going out everywhere. This ensures that the new releases remain unique and it also creates a fevered demand for more. When moms don’t get all the items they want, they come back earlier and order more to make sure they get a bigger selection of items that they’re after. Brilliant! Lastly, this strategy establishes a brand name that’s actually worth something. Many moms resell used MJ clothes on eBay and often times for much more than the retail price. Talk about brand equity; when you can resell items for more than retail because the demand is that high — ya, I’d say you’ve done a great job at building a great brand.
My company is always telling entrepreneurs to step outside of the box, to not follow in the footsteps of a hundred other companies; which by-the-way, isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you want to build a brand, you have to be different, do things different and have the confidence to know that’s what is going to make your brand a successful brand. My hat’s off to Denise and Matilda Jane, an entrepreneur that started in the kitchen with a friend and created a recipe for building brand success.
Author: Chris London is the art director for Pixel Productions Inc., a strategic graphic and web design company where his focus is to continually find creative and innovative strategies to implement with businesses who need brand design and marketing with impact.