November 1, 2016 brandlogik

Paul Smith and the power of a simple brand story

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There will hardly be any Paul Smith customers unaware of the simple, yet powerful ‘origins’ story of the Paul Smith brand. A 17-year-old with a driving desire to become a professional racing cyclist, Smith had a serious accident and ended up in hospital for several months. While in hospital he made some new friends involved in the local art and design scene in Nottingham. So young Paul started to take an interest in their stories about the Bauhaus and contemporary design.

As the story goes ‘with the help of his then-girlfriend (now wife), Pauline Denyer, who was a Royal College of Art graduate, and a small amount of savings, he opened his first shop on 10 Byard Lane, Nottingham in 1970 named Paul Smith Vêtements pour Hommes.’ With no formal design training and having never gone to art school, Paul Smith still became one of the great English fashion designers, developing his own ‘classic with a twist’ style which has evolved for well over forty years.

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The Paul Smith brand story is simple, but compelling. It’s the story of the thwarted athlete who still becomes a world beater. It’s the story of an outsider, not a fashionista, who makes interesting and enduring clothes and accessories with taste and quality. You don’t have to be one of the elite to be able to afford them. It’s the brand story of an everyman, which everyone can relate to.

I once ran into Giorgio Armani in the basement of a Covent Garden vintage men’s clothes shop. He’d sent his trend-spotting oriental assistant down first to check out the terrain and followed along with his overcoat draped over his shoulders and a bodyguard close beside him. You’d imagine such ostentation wouldn’t fit with Paul Smith, who can apparently still be spotted alone early on a Friday morning checking out the fashion rails at Portobello Market.

A simple brand story helps you grow your brand and grow your business

The Paul Smith story tells us that simplicity works best. You can be sure that the lived reality of Mr Smith’s life is unlikely to have been so simple and so clear. But the story is clear and easily understood. This simplicity along with the elegant ‘twists’ of the Smithian style, has helped the brand thrive in the Japanese, French and other international markets and create a range of brand extensions with companies as diverse as Caran d’Ache and Land Rover.

A simple brand story helps you grow your brand and grow your business. When other brands suffer setbacks the Paul Smith brand is more likely to endure. Give it some thought. How simple and easy to tell is your brand story? And how well do you tell it?

Eugene Burns


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