News & Views

Opinion / Brands Take Back The Power

by Contagious Contributor
Alex Hamilton, strategic planner at brand design consultancy bluemarlin, explores the brands that are taking back ownership of their product and services, relinquishing control from the savvy consumer and returning to the old conviction that they know best.

The Clove Club menu and meal

At the Clove Club in London, patrons are presented with a specially designed tasting menu with no offers of additional sides and a specific drink selection. As experts in gastronomy, the Clove Club is presenting an experience beyond a mere meal that opens the mind as well as the palate. Stray from this menu based on your preferences, and you miss out on the opportunity to be surprised and delighted, to taste the unique fusion of flavours, and go on the journey that the experts in the kitchen have carefully crafted. And patrons accept this because they understand the exchange, they are intrigued by the notion of a meal experience and willing to participate with open minds because they trust that the chef knows what’s best for them.

Today’s consumers are spoiled when it comes to brand choice and have been able to dictate many-a-brand’s offering. Social media has given them direct influence on a brand’s fortunes, showing that brands cannot get away with falseness or ambiguity. Furthermore, it’s opened the door for consumers to have a voice in creating the experience that brands offer. Thus, the rise of customisation and personalisation.
However some brands are now rebelling by taking back control; standing by their convictions and telling their consumers what their brand represents.

These braver brands are curating experiences that they refuse to compromise to meet the whims of consumers. The happy by-product of taking a stand is that it can actually serve to strengthen the bond between consumers and the brand as it develops a relationship of respect.

Using tactics that create exclusivity and making consumers wait, or even asking them to prove their loyalty, can do a lot to nurture intrigue and desire.


Premium clothing brand Everlane is a great example of a brand doing this well. Earlier this year, they created a private Instagram account (@EverlaneStudio), which users have to request to follow. The company only accept requests from 100 followers per day, specifically selecting who they allow through their gilded social media shop doors, rather than letting their brand be instantly and always accessible.

Hailed as an experiment by Red Gaskell, head of social media, this is a clear indicator of a brand wielding its power to create intrigue and desire. Selecting those that they want to buy their products through this channel creates a digital version of the private sale, with the additional benefit of receiving the data from a select focus group.

When high end fashion brand Proenza Schouler debuted its new collection back in December 2015, it made the drastic move to ban all photography and reviews. The reasoning behind this decision was intuitively simple – how are customers expected to maintain the craving to purchase for six months after they’ve been bombarded with images of the collection online? Rather make them wait for the collection to officially launch, have their curiosity peak and allow them to be surprised when they finally get to see the line. Whether this works or not, Proenza Schouler gained some real respect for going against the status quo to protect its brand and maintain control over the consumer experience.

From discounts to gifts to invitations to special events, there are numerous ways for brands to reward loyalty – what keeps brands from asking consumers to prove their loyalty?

Peak Performance 

In 2015 outdoor brand Peak Performance put its consumers to the test when it opened up pop-up virtual “Magic Hour” shops in surprise outdoor locations, including mountain tops, golf courses and even a lighthouse on a small island. Navigation to these remote stores were published on a website and free clothing provided to those adventure hungry consumers, offering the ultimate customer experience. Whilst on one hand this can be seen as a bit gimmicky, on the other we see the true benefit of making consumers really work for their rewards. In creating an unforgettable brand experience, Peak Performance attracted and rewarded its real consumers, the likeminded ones that live the brand’s adventure values and were more than willing to play for the privilege to purchase.

Brands brave enough to say no to the consumer, to make them wait and truly prove their loyalty will have the opportunity to enjoy a more mutual relationship with their consumers. One based on respect as well as honesty.

Consumers may not get to personalise and tailor their experience with these brands, but if they are willing to accept its expertise and be receptive, they may have the opportunity to be genuinely surprised and delighted again. As for brands, they have the opportunity to stay true to who they are, provide rewards to their most loyal consumers, and build brand love in a more meaningful way.