"It's very Anthropologie": Claiming your territory as a brand

I was at Paper Source in Soho helping a friend shop for holiday cards. We made our way to the middle of the store, which had a table full of boxed sets.

He picked one up. At first glance, it looked decent. Textured rustic brown cardstock with snow-covered trees and red robins printed in silk screen. Cool, slightly imperfect on purpose.

Then I said, “It looks kind of Target.”

And we knew I was right. There was something about the cards that smelled like a mainstream retailer taking shortcuts to make a luxe aesthetic for the masses. The paper was a little too thin, the shape of the robins bordering on kitschy.

If you’re going to spend $25 on a box of 10 cards, it might as well look like it came from a specialty store. You should buy things that look more expensive than they actually are, not the other way around.

I pointed at another boxed set.

“This one is very MoMA.” Bright, graphic typeface, minimal.

“That one is very Kate Spade.” Gold foil polka dots, tongue-in-cheek copy, champagne-colored background.

“This one is kind of Thomas Kinkade.” All-American, nostalgic, conservative.

Do you know what every brand should aim for? Having customers see something when shopping, whether or not they’re in your store, and say, “That looks like it’s from [insert your brand].”

That’s when you know that you have a strong enough perspective that it actually translates to the customer.

I often find myself saying “That looks very Anthropologie,” at which point I probably buy the mug or dish towel I’m holding, because it would be a good deal comparatively.

Or I’ll say, “That looks Cost Plus World Market,” which is usually a bad thing. I’ll put the imposter hand-made yet mass produced item down.

The risk is that some aesthetics are easier to copy. For example, some Jonathan Adler patterns look very Target. On the other hand, you have the white porcelain muse candles, or ceramic dauschund match stick holders - and those are very Jonathan Adler. 

It actually doesn’t matter if a customer thinks the item which reminds them of your brand is good or bad.

The point is that your brand is consistently recognizable. It’s a gold standard to have a strong enough perspective that people know what you stand for, to the point of other things reminding them of you.