Lush illustrations? Check. Top quality print production? Double Check. All round weightiness? Yup, all present and correct. But there’s more to getting a brand book right than big production values, as we discover when we interviewed Anderson and Sheppard’s vice chairman, Anda Rowland.
A great brand book is one that is read and cherished by customers and therefore cannot feel like just another sales brochure. It must be interesting in and of itself. This can only be achieved by working closely with a skilled editor and agency that not only knows the brand inside out, but is also detached enough to tell stories and express qualities that may not be apparent to the management team.
It’s an approach we took with our book, ‘Best of British’ which features text by Simon Crompton of Permanent Style, one of the industry’s foremost brand experts, and photography by Horst Friedrichs. Best of British brings to life hitherto hidden aspects of the companies profiled and also highlights what makes them relevant and contemporary. It has a point of view and a sense of humour.
This ‘editorial’ or ‘storytelling’ approach is epitomised by Anderson & Sheppard’s 2011 title, ‘A Style is Born’ curated by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and writer Cullen Murphy working closely with vice chairman, Anda Rowland. By using the best writers, photographers, editors and illustrators, most of whom were already customers, Anda Rowland and her team were able to create a title of lasting value to Anderson & Sheppard’s clients and also to the company.
Here Anda Rowland tell us how she did it, and what the impact of ‘A Style is Born’ has been on the Anderson & Sheppard business.
Work With The Best
Work with people who share a passion for the history of the brand and who are genuine fans of the company.
“We decided to work with people who really appreciate Anderson and Sheppard. We realised that lots of the best people in the industry were already our customers. Graydon Carter, Jonathan Becker, and Andrew Wiley, and so we wrote to them. They all agreed because they liked the company.”
A Sense of Humor
A Style is Born serves up historical gravitas with a lightness of touch and a side order of wit. It is shot through with funny stories from customers and tailors.
“There’s a section for comments at the end and lots of them are quite fun and silly. Again, that’s different to many books about Savile Row which tend to focus on grand history. Ours was quite fun and tongue in cheek, which is a reflection of the house. It doesn’t feel stuffy or archival, it has a lightness of tone.”
For brands with a story to tell a book can become a covetable item in its own right, taking pride of place in people’s homes for years to come. This was certainly the case for ‘A Style is Born’.
“We printed 5000 and sent 3500 to our existing customers as a thank you, and we also sold quite a few. There’s quite a lively secondary market for them. They start at about £200 on Amazon.”
Create an Archive
If it is not preserved history can disappear and with it a powerful marketing tool. The production of a book is often a chance to create an archive for the very first time.
“When we moved in 2005 we realised that we didn’t really have an archive. Now of course archives are all the rage, but they really weren’t 10-15 years ago. So it was equally important that there was a something which told our story. There’s huge benefit in going through all the material and it’s a very good brand exercise. It really is a reflection of who we are.”
Not Just History
‘A Style is Born’ features portraits of existing customers shot in their natural environments: on their yachts, in their clubs, parks and apartments. The decision to include ‘real’ people in what might be be described as Todd Selby-esque ‘street style’ portraits gave the book contemporary feel, but entirely on its own terms.
“Unlike a lot of books of this kind which focus totally on the past, we featured portraits of our existing customers. So as well as businessmen we have writers, such as David Kamp who writes for Vanity Fair (who also wrote one of the essays featured in the book), and members of the Ballet Russe. It let people see that we are not just a ‘heritage’ brand but also contemporary and relevant too.”
The portraits of Anderson and Sheppard’s ultra stylish clientele which includes everyone from comedian Fran Lebowitz to designer Calvin Klein, as well as past icons such as Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper, helped deepen the company’s relationship with existing customers, providing the inspiration for repeat orders – vital for brands of this kind.
“In terms of marketing we didn’t expect to gain new customers but it did deepen our relationship with existing customers and orders did definitely go up. Lots of customers use it as inspiration. So they say oh, ’I like the lapels on his suit, or that cloth’ which I think is important in menswear because it often involves taking existing classic styles and combining things in a different way. It prompted people to order and try different things.”
What we think
Few forms of what is known as ‘Content Marketing’ are as covetable and as enjoyable for customers as a well produced book. Even fewer will take pride of place in their homes for years to come. A brand book’s objective is to inspire, educate and create desire among the readers. It’s not just about heritage either, a book can help to place your brand firmly within the present and also position it for the future.
We have acquired a wealth of experience in this space over the years both independently and in collaboration with publishers. Often viewed as a labour of love, we have come to believe the brand ‘ambassador’ book is an essential tool in any marketers arsenal.
“We got a lot out of it. It really is a reflection of who we are and there’s a huge benefit in going through all the material, especially for our customers. It made them feel more connected to the company.” Anda Rowland