For the past 5 or so years, I have worked very closely with a firm out of California, simply known as – “Made In Heaven.”
“Made In Heaven” is unique line of Women’s clothing. The product is geared towards professional, older, or women with busy lifestyles that enjoy the convenience of stylish clothing that is easy to care for or travel with. The product sets itself apart from the competition with its pricing structure, wide variety of colors, style selection and sizing that is made to fit smallest to the curviest woman. Additionally the clothing line carries the label “Made In The USA” and is only available in the COSTCO clubs around the country ‘” via traveling road-shows. The partnership between the clothing line and the giant retailer makes for an extremely beneficial relationship. The club members are the only consumers that have access to these ‘” extraordinary products. With the guarantee on the clothing line that is backed by COSTCO ‘” in other words, consumers are able to return the product if anything goes wrong with it ‘” and the retailer will in turn deal with the manufacturer.
At a time when consumers are watching jobs leave the United States, manufacturing sector shutting down and outsourcing leading the way, that “Made In USA” label on every piece of “Made In Heaven” clothing design has been a great marketing/sales tool in the market place. Consumers view the purchase of the clothing line as an act of patriotism because it is saving American jobs. Additionally, since the fabric is very similar to a well known competitor (not made in the USA), consumers are saving ‘” while promoting this idea of Patriotism. Surprisingly, even a customer visiting from China in a recent sales event was excited to purchase these pieces ‘” because of the rarity of finding items that carry the label “Made In The USA.” To my Chinese customer, The Made In Heaven Collection proved to be a great “souvenir” item and perhaps even a commodity rarely found in today’s marketplace – to take back home.
Additionally, by hiring a sales team across the company and requiring them to wear the clothing while representing the line, that return over the years as a Manufacturer’s Representative establishes a relationship bond between the brand and the consumer. The sales team gets to know each customer over the years and is able to help each woman solve her style challenges – thus creating a great degree of trust over time.
As the line has grown along with demand, one customer is glad to share positive experiences with the line, “evangelizing” about the features and benefits of the collection, spreading the word to other women (and men) who come in to buy the product ‘” consequently creating this “band-wagon” effect. The key to overcoming any possible sales loss is that the product is comparable to the higher end ‘” competition but is offered at half the price with a much larger variety of color, patterns and designs. An added bonus to this clothing line is the fact that because everything is made from the same fabric, it is a cost savings as consumers can buy a few pieces and build a very large wardrobe. The wash and wear feature also cuts down clothing dry cleaning costs because whether someone is traveling or at home, their entire wardrobe can be washed by hand or in a washing machine.
There are risks however to this strategy, as there are difference in tastes and in various markets. Additionally, there is concern that the product might not arrive on time for specific “show-times” and thus the opportunity to sell could be missed. Finally, counting on sales people to represent the brand from a wide variety of backgrounds could prove to be successful or a failure depending on the skill set of the sales team. Additionally, because the sales team has to be well seasoned and be able to work with both the consumer and the retail partner, any mistake or relational problems could affect the long term success of the brand in any given market. The challenge is more critical in the beginning stages ‘” when the product is being introduced in a specific market.
Therefore as businesses consider markets – it is important to take this concept of Network Externalities into consideration as it can be positive or negative. A positive network externality exists if the quantity of a good demanded by a typical consumer increases in response to the growth in purchases of other consumers. If the quantity demanded decreases, there is a negative network externality. The “Bandwagon effect” and/or “The Snob” effect are both factors in determining a positive or a negative product growth. This reinforces the fact that as companies work to re-establish and thus utilize this concept of “MADE IN THE USA” – care must be taken to represent quality, innovation and integrity.
As target markets expand and the relationship with its retail partner, Costco deepens – evidence shows that despite any possibly negative network externalities, the business formula and strategy is successful which is a positive indication that the nation and world are craving items that are “Made In The USA.”
So, what is your unique “Made In The USA” innovation – that could bolster the economy both in the USA and abroad?