Branding: The Integrated Shopper
The folks at J.Jill have always done a good job of keeping things simple — simple clothes and accessories presented in a simple way, wrapped in a very simple aesthetic. I admire that. In fact, if I were to give one piece of advice to any brand today, it would be simplify. Simplify everything, from your merchandise to the execution of your catalog and website to the entire shopping experience to your brand story. Trim the fat, get rid of any excess baggage, weed out the stuff you don't need and simplify. A good lesson in life as well.
On the cover of J.Jill's catalog I was greeted by a friendly model in a natural pose along with a cute puppy. Who doesn't like puppies? The J.Jill brand has always had strong photography — natural-looking models in comfortable settings with soft, natural lighting. There's a natural ease to it. When I opened this particular catalog, I saw more of the same. Nothing over the top or groundbreaking, just simple apparel presented in a simple way.
J.Jill's website is a nice extension of its catalog. There's no question that you're on J.Jill's site — same photography style, same color palette, same typography treatments. One of the things I liked about the catalog — the J.Jill Wearever Collection, a guide to getting dressed in five minutes and looking great — thankfully appears online as well, although it's a bit buried. J.Jill announces sales and promotions on its site, but does it a bit more tastefully than Coldwater Creek. It tells you about the sales and promotions without screaming about them. The result: a more upscale feel.
J.Jill's retail store was my favorite of the three I visited. It truly felt like the brand had come to life. The store design was very tastefully done with the signature neutral color palette and simple furnishings that I've come to expect from J.Jill. The sales associates who helped us were even a nice representation of the brand. The way they dressed, talked and carried themselves was very J.Jill. Even the music playing softly in the background felt like there was some thought put into it, and it certainly helped create the overall experience that I'm sure J.Jill wanted you to have. I left the store thinking that the experience I just had was pleasant, natural and simple, just like the brand. These things don't happen by accident. Are you paying this much attention to your brand's total experience? Well done, J.Jill. You get an A!
The lesson here? There's no detail too small or too insignificant to overlook. Everything you do, everything you say, everything you are — and I mean everything — is a direct reflection of your brand. All of these things need to be managed and controlled, but in a way that doesn't seem managed and controlled. Sound difficult? It is. That's why so few brands actually do it well. A quick nod to my late, great hero, Steve Jobs. He was often criticized for being a control freak. He wanted everything to be perfect, down to the last detail. And he made sure it was. The result was the greatest brand ever created. Lesson learned.