My main aim for focusing on the branding and marketing side of the African fashion and beauty labels is to 1) Gain an understanding and increase my knowledge on this field. 2) Create a reference point for all these new brands cropping up every day within the industry thereby giving them tips on how to brand their business as well as show existing ones what their competitors are doing to enable them to also focus on developing a strong branding and marketing strategy which should grow their brand.
I only ask of you 3 things! Please read, share and comment (or drop me feedbacks at email@example.com ).
Founded in 2005, Mustafa Hassanali Couture?* is renowned for its elegance, style, flamboyancy, glamour and glitz that has made it one of the most sought after labels in Tanzania and Eastern Africa.
Most of the pieces are made from Khanga, Kitenge, Bazein as well as other fabrics including chiffon, lace, silk and organza.
The Mustafa Hassanali designs reflect the deeply embedded cultural heritage of Tanzanian society along with avant-garde, hip and contemporary styles.
*Note: unsure if the label name should be Mustafa Hassanali or Mustafa Hassanali Couture? The outward perception of a brand is paramount and this is heavily influenced by its branding strategy. The MH** team need to decide what the brand name should be and ensure it appears correctly whenever the brand is mentioned or talked about in any medium (see below notes on brand identity).
Mustapha’s love for fashion was incited at the age of 6 when he became fascinated by stitching, an insight made possible by his mother. He would initially use the remaining remnants of his mother’s fabrics to recreate his own unique pieces and then at a later age, he acquired a doll and went on to create fashion pieces for the doll.
He is a qualified medical doctor who whilst at medical school juggled these two opposite sides of himself so soundly that he gained his doctor’s license and has gone on to emboss his name on the African fashion cornerstone.
Brand Target Market:
Independent women aged say 20-65 are the ones who love my clothing. They love to feel feminine and gorgeous; my clothing makes them feel a million dollars. (Mustapha Hassanali).
Traditional – Fusion of Eastern African fabrics
Feminine – Fluidity
Flamboyant – Vibrant/Colourful shades
How does Mustafa Hassanali add Value?
The MH brand was given a mega boost when world renowned supermodel Naomi Campbell wore one of their dresses for her Fashion for Relief event held in Tanzania in 2009.
From the lack of information available reporting on this association, it very well seems that the Mustafa Hassanali PR camp failed to capitalise on this unique opportunity to get interests and coverage from major worldwide publications.
PR should be used to keep the association and communication of your brand to your target market. Celebrity association like this will not only make your regular clients to continue to believe more in your brand but will also drive potential clients to become regulars. This will therefore increase sales volume which is very important for the positive growth of a business.
This was definitely a big opportunity for the Mustafa Hassanali brand to gain new territories by entering the minds of fashionable leading ladies who constantly grace red carpets and magazine front covers all over the world.
If Naomi Campbell is able to wear a Mustafa Hassanali dress so could Sarah Jessica Parker, the queen of fashion trendsetting! Imagine a Mustafa Hassanali dress on a scene of Sex and the City! Major product placement for the brand, major recognition, major boost and overall major sales! For any brand development, this is paramount.
The main headquarters being situated at Kilimani Road, Dar Es Salaam, seems to be an affluent area with offices, private resorts and even embassies. This rather exclusive address adds value to the brand as the Mustafa Hassanali clients in Tanzania are wives and affiliates of top government officials and wealthy Tanzanians/Eastern Africans.
Nonetheless, the Mustafa Hassanali label needs major re branding to ensure that every aspect of the label fits well with the overall image of high end luxury that it is appearing to be in their design pieces.
Brands create competitive advantage by perceiving or discovering new and better ways to compete in an industry and bringing them to the market. In the fashion industry, brands rely heavily on using their image to differentiate themselves from their competition.
How is MH differentiating itself from its competitors?
The idea of fusing East African fabrics with mainstream fabrics gives the MH brand a certain degree of separation however with other Eastern African designers on the rise such as Chichia London; this differentiation will become questionable and will not create a real differentiation from its competitors.
What is also evident in MH pieces is the touch of Asian influence. Mustapha then needs to now strengthen this influence to ensure that the MH pieces are recognisable wherever they are seen. He also loves to accentuate and show off the female body in his fluid dresses so again a real focus on his cut and the parts of the female body he loves to accentuate in his dresses should give MH some differentiation from its competitors.
So far Naomi Campbell has been the only mainstream celebrity to be seen in Mustafa Hassanali.
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done here in terms of rigorous advertising and promotion of the label to bring it at a level where some targets in mainstream society who are seen to be influential are “papped” or seen in an MH piece. Should the label need to add value to its branding, this is definitely one way to go.
Advertising and promotion
Advertising can be defined as a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products or services with the desired result being to drive consumer behaviour. In 2010 alone, more than USD 500,000,000 was spent on advertising worldwide. How much this relates to Africa and indeed the African fashion industry is questionable.
Various traditional media include mass media such as newspaper, magazines, television, radio, outdoor advertising (bill boards) and direct marketing. New media refers to online and text messages.
What Methods of Advertising and Promotion does MH employ?
The MH brand have been heavily relying on social mediums sites (Twitter, Facebook) which is understandably the most cost effective and direct marketing strategy of the moment. They have been featured in some blogs (Shadders, FashionFad, Afromix) and online magazines (Ladybrille, Bella Naija, Haute Fashion Africa) – most of these being very popular instruments within the African entertainment and fashion industry.
Nevertheless, almost all the online postings on the MH brand were mostly picture coverages of participation at fashion events with some extracts of the bio copied directly from the website. Whilst this is okay, it does not really provide an in-depth insight into the MH label itself. There is no information about the future direction of the label, no plans or strategies for growth, nothing!
The MH team have not yet realised the viral potential of the World Wide Web it seems and are not doing enough to add value to the brand and market it to target consumers outside of Tanzania. There is still an element of “emerging” from this label which for a label that has been around for 6 years, it should be more ahead on its marketing and branding strategies than what it is at present.
Jewel by Lisa is a great example of a label that is determined to stand and be noticed amongst the many fashion labels in Africa and winning the designer of the year award at Africa Fashion Week 2011 proves the status of the brand as well as gives us a glimpse into the future of the fashion house. The MH team could do with researching the JBL brand as a case example for their growth purposes.
What other means of advertising and promotion could they employ?
What seems to be lacking within the African fashion and beauty market is their emphasis on advertising and promotion. Whilst some brands are making the effort to look for alternative ways to reach their target markets and expose themselves, most are still doing nothing and/or are relying heavily on word of mouth or only social networking sites.
The latter is where the MH brand is. The team need to do a lot more in terms of developing and implementing their advertising and promotion strategies. They need to understand the importance of PR and use every opportunity that comes their way to the advancement of the label.
The team has to go back to their drawing board and firstly; build up an image for their brand so it becomes easy for them to advertise and market that image. Secondly; they need to ensure 100% promotion of the brand to gain major recognition outside Tanzania.
The tools they could then use to advertise the brand for now are:-
- Online media: The viral nature of the World Wide Web means it is a very essential and cost effective medium to promote a new brand and enter a new demographic or targeted segment of the consumer chain. The label has just taken part in the Fashion for Business event in Angola and this could be the gateway to showcasing the collection from that event by sending a press release and at the same time getting the head designer, Mustapha, to talk about the label and its future plans. Since as the label is widely interested in social issues in Tanzania, this is a chance for them to use the media to shout about their CSR projects and make known their contribution to their society. Online mediums to target are: Bella Naija, Haute Fashion Africa, Shadders, African Fashion Guide, Ladybrille, One Nigeria Boy etc.
- Fashion Publications: fashion magazines inform target readers about products, services and new brands in the market. It is a cost effective way for a new brand to enter the minds of target consumers in other territories and boost sales and brand recognition.The label has just been featured on a poll in the New African Woman magazine which is now a bi monthly and since as it has a huge African following, they could target the magazine for a solo feature on the label and its head designer. Another magazine would be FAB, FabAfriq, South African publications such as Elle, Cosmopolitan. Nigerian (the biggest African consumer market) magazines such as Genevieve, True Love, etc
- Product placements – is when a product or brand is embedded in entertainment and media. Nigeria being the biggest consumer market in Africa is the ideal place to implement a branding/marketing strategy. What MH could do here is provide some dresses for some leading actresses in the Nollywood arena since as this is Africa's biggest export in film production. Stephanie Okereke, Ini Edo, Mona Lisa Chinda, Uche Jumbo are leading ladies the brand could consider.
- Celebrity branding – is a type of advertising focuses upon using celebrity power, fame and popularity to gain recognition for their products. The brand specifically pays the celebrity to be seen in their product. In this case, the right celebrity has to be vetted to ensure that they are in keeping with the primary focus of the brand. I would suggest Nonhle Thema, the South African presenter who is very popular within the South, East and Western Africa, Kate Mensah, past winner of Face of Africa or they could take it a step further and raise the profile of the brand by going for internationally renowned models such as Alek Wek or Ubah Hassan who has fronted Ralph Lauren campaigns.
By increasing its advertising and promotion mediums, the MH brand should definitely become more visible and become more of a recognised brand in the target consumer’s mind. It can also enable the MH brand to enter new market territories which will eventually boost sales.
Product distribution is one of the four elements of the marketing mix. It is the organisation or a set of organisations (go-betweens) involved in the process of making a product available for use by a consumer.
From my research, it seems there are no distributors as yet for the MH brand.
This lack of retailers hinders sales and hinders brand visibility. The target consumer is not aware of the brand nor of their products and therefore cannot translate this recognition into sales which then means the brand cannot achieve growth within the consumer market.
This has got to be a top priority for the brand to get resellers in strategic territories. East (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda), South (South Africa, Zimbabwe), West (Ghana, Nigeria), Middle East, Asia, Europe and US.
There is a need to stress that the importance of a functional website to any business is paramount. It is the first point of contact between your brand and potential customers. It advises (about brand), connects (contacts), displays (products – collections) and informs (events/press) the public about your associations.
The label’s website is overall very poor. It does not represent the quality of the fashionable pieces they create nor does it help to promote the high end appeal of the brand.
The pictures on the homepage should be removed, instead, they need to hire a top model and recreate a high end photo shoot that will truly mirror the image of the brand. The “about us” page needs to focus more on the brand itself and not on the designer and what shows he has participated in. The “media page” should focus more on providing the public with magazine features to add appeal to the brand’s image.
The website needs re-branding. It needs a structure, the information presented needs to be relevant and be consistent with the brand’s image.
A new look website that is clean and carefully designed to ensure that the surfing experience is enjoyable and easy for their clients is highly needed.
Where can the MH brand go from here?
These are my ideas for re-branding which is essentially needed before the brand can move forward.
- Identity: the outward expression of a brand includes name, trademark, communications and visual appearance. This reflects how the owner of the brand wants the consumer to perceive the brand. Effective brand names build a connection between the brand personality as it is perceived by the target audience and the actual product/service. The brand identity needs to focus on authentic qualities – real characteristics of the value and brand promise being provided and sustained by organisational and production characteristics.
- Create a brand image: this is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people, consisting of all the information and expectations associated with a product, service or the company providing them. This is more psychological and is developed over time through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme, and is authenticated through the consumers’ direct experience.
- Create a brand personality: the way that a brand speaks and behaves. It is nothing but the personification of a brand and is the result of all the consumer’s experiences with the brand. It develops brand equity, it sets the brand’s attitude and it is a key input into the look and feel of any communication or marketing activity by the brand. This personality will become unique and long lasting.
- Create a brand experience for their target market: this is the brand’s actions perceived by their target market. It is what happens each time a consumer is exposed to a company’s efforts to communicate or fulfill its brand promise. It can also be thought of as the total sum of all the consumer’s interactions with the brand. The 4 key areas that create brand experience are: Products, Environment (physical surroundings, in MH’s case their headquarters in Kilimani Road if they conduct sales here), Information (what is communicated and how? What impression does it leave to the consumer?), Behaviour (personal interaction between the consumer and the person who represents the brand). Brand communication must be consistent, both in form and content. And all personnels should be trained to behave consistently towards the customer in every interaction. This consistency must be maintained over time, or customers will become confused or feel uncomfortable.
- Brand management: this seeks to make the product or services relevant to the target consumer. It includes developing a promise, making that promise and maintaining it. It means defining the brand, positioning the brand and delivering the brand. It makes customers committed to your business. A strong brand differentiates its products from the competitors and it gives a quality image to the business.
Overall, there is a lot of work that the Mustafa Hassanali team have to do in relation to rebranding the label to ensure that every aspect of the brand fits one image - the image that they want to portray of the label and the promise and experience that they want their clients to have when they come in contact with the label.
By focusing on the all the aspects I have listed above, the brand should thereafter enlist the services of a good PR agent to communicate their brand to the consumer market.
Below are some of the images from the "Rosa Nera" collection previewed at the Fashion Business Angola show in Luanda this year.
Mustapha Hassanali (designer/owner) with Naomi Campbell at the Fashion for Relief show in Tanzania in 2009
So, there goes my second analysis. One last thing I would like to mention to all fashion designers and beauty label owners is, please, please, please, TALK about your brand!! The African fashion and beauty industry being on the developping side is still lacking in availability of relevant information for analytical purposes. The main source of information is online so please TALK, TALK, TALK some more about the growth of your brand and its future.
**MH = Mustafa Hassanali
All images from Facebook and by Simon Deiner (SDR)
Follow me on twitter: @Brownschuga
Until the next post!