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When Is A Pair of Jeans Worth $300?

May 12, 2014

ImogeneThere’s a place in my neighborhood called Imogene + Willie that sells jeans for $300/pair. For $65, you can get a t-shirt. A baseball cap is $50.

How is it possible to charge premium prices like this?

Let’s take a look…

7 Marketing Lessons From a High-End Clothing Store

1. Tell The Story – Imogene + Willie is personality-driven and its marketing is based around the couple who started it.

The denim used is made on an old-fashioned loom.

The store is an old gas station.

Get the full story here.

Everybody has a story like this, but most people don’t know its power. That’s because we take our stories (and our experiences) for granted.

We think, “Doesn’t everybody know this?’

No, they don’t.

The “story” turns something normal into something extraordinary.

2. Cool Ass Logo – People will argue all day that they buy $300 pants for their quality, just like they buy Tesla cars because they’re eco-friendly.

But would anybody buy either if nobody would find out?

If you’re going to spend $300 for a pair of jeans, you want people to know it. Like white headphones on an iPod, a recognized logo gives buyers a boost of prestige among others.

“Marking” what you sell is half the battle of actually selling it.

3. “Custom” Solution – Imogene + Willie isn’t made-to-measure, but it’s not the “off the rack” clothing you’ll get for $13.99 at Costco either. When you pay $300, you get something tailored just for you.

“Custom” is easy to do and offering it, or something considered custom, will bring in people willing to pay higher-than-normal prices.

How simple it is? It’s as simple as leaving a pickle off the hamburger you sell when requested, taking set appointments rather than giving four-hour windows of time to when called to repair an appliance, and setting up “breakout” sessions during a seminar you hold for people to learn about something more specific than what’s taught in general sessions.

“One-Size-Fits-All” = Wal-Mart

The only way Wal-Mart can compete is on price.

You are not Wal-Mart, nor do you want to be.

4. Make People Work For It – Take a look at the Imogene + Willie website and you’ll notice that they don’t have everything in stock.

Like this t-shirt…

NashvilleTee2ndEdition 1024x1024

Note the copy…

last year, matt snatched one of our t-shirt samples and went to work making it his own. that night, he texted all of us on the team saying, “i just made the best mistake!”

what has come to be known as the backwards “nashville” t-shirt, was a mistake he didn’t take off for days.

we released the first edition run last july. it was hand-carved from a woodblock and printed one by one by matt. it sold out in one day.

now they’re back. the second edition is screen-printed from the original artwork on american made, 100% cotton, vintage inspired t-shirts.

The shirts were a “mistake.” Because of this, there were only a few.

The first run sold out in a day.

Too bad.

But now they’re back… Ok, not really. They’re out of stock again. Restock is approximately 3-4 weeks.

Bottom line… You don’t get $65 for a t-shirt that everybody else can get and the more you make people work for something, the more money they’ll be willing to pay.

How about the jeans?

Yeah, there’s a delay on those too. You can order some today, assuming they’re in stock, but once Imogene + Willie gets your measurements, you have to wait a couple of days (maybe more) for the alterations to be made.

Remember, this is a “custom” product.

And while you’re waiting, you can tell everybody you know about how you just spent $300 for some jeans and start getting the ego boost that comes with them, even though you don’t actually have them yet.

Smart move, Imogene + Willie!

As business owners, I’m sure you’ve heard, “Make it easy for people to buy.”

And that’s true.

But it’s also true that the more you make people work for something, the more they want it.

5. Exclusivity – There are different ways to do this. Imogene + Willie does it with a high price.

Nobody wants something everybody else has access to. We want what we can’t get. It’s why people jump through hoops to get “rare” t-shirt and it’s why women you didn’t know were into you suddenly come out of the woodwork the day after you get married.

6. Quality Product – There is no doubt that Imogene + Willie has a quality product. But is a $300/pair of Imogene + Willie jeans 2100% better quality than the $13.99 pair of Kirkland jeans for sale at Costco?

Probably not. Still, “quality” is arbitrary and having it helps justify getting a higher price for what you’re selling, because few will admit the real reason they’re paying so much for what you’re selling.

7. Flexibility and Innovation – The biggest blue jean companies manufacture millions of pieces of clothing. Levi’s 501 style is the best selling item of clothing in the world.

If Levi’s wants to change the design of the 501, which contrary to company folklore, has happened a few times since the first pairs were manufactured in the 1870s, it’s not that easy. The company has over 16,000 employees and 2800 retail locations. Lots of things, from manufacturing process, to raw materials needed, to retail signage and advertising, would need to change.

Imogene + Willie is different. They’re a small company and customers have direct access to key people via their main retail store in Nashville, TN. If you want to talk to the guy who designs everything, it’s possible. And is something needs to be changed quickly, either to make it better or meet customer demand, it’s not impossible.

This type of speed and innovation may not seem like much, but think about what’s happened to companies, like Kodak, who didn’t have it.

If you want to stay in business, you must be flexible and keep moving forward in a changing market.

Final Thoughts

Recession or not, there will always be some people willing to pay high-end prices for high-end goods. If it can be done successfully in what’s basically a commodity business, like jeans, it can be done in your business.

Good luck!

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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