Thursday, March 20, 2008

Swanndri Style

When I heard about this “rural clothing company” way down yonder – New Zealand – I thought, here’s an outfit that ought to have stores in Texas. I guess I got excited about the headline.

Swanndri has been kickin’ it in Kiwi-land since 1913, based on a waterproof work shirt made from 100% New Zealand wool. The company expanded its line over the years; I must have seen some of this stuff when I visited a sheep station above Christchurch area back in 1971.

Because the country was/is so rural (“Lord of the Rings” giving you a good overall glimpse), you can understand that Swanndri became symbolic of a lifestyle – and the company took itself in the same direction that Levi Strauss did here in the States.

Then, in 2005, new owners picked up the company and went to a local ad agency, Simon Inc, to rebrand the firm: to emphasize the position of Swanndri as a great, iconic Kiwi brand, reinforcing its reputation among the core rural market and bringing it to the high street throughout the cities of New Zealand and Australia. Simon did a great job – take a look here.

Nevertheless, as you look through the excellent company website, you’ll notice a growing similarity to other world brands that emphasize the outdoors. I suspect that the new, 2005 owners decided to expand the company’s appeal way beyond Kiwi farm-and-ranch gun-toters.

Then, this past November, Swanndri sold up to Longbeach Holdings Ltd. The outgoing chairman, Bryan Pearson, said in a press release: We all felt the time was right for a company like Longbeach to come in and take Swanndri to the next level.

If other such buyouts (e.g., Mambo Loud Shirts) are any example, the quality of Swanndri clothing will maintain its high level – I hope – but the brand’s going to go broad and urban in its appeal. That Texas-style headline is just a vestige of its past. Too bad.


trancepass said...

kind of urban living, island style?
was there any liable market study to shift that positioning?

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Trancepass - thanks for your note about Swanndri and Longbeach. As far as I am aware, there's no research on this particular subject in that part of the world. But I'm really not close to the account at this point. I suppose I could check in with Simon, Ltd., and find out. In fact, since it's Sunday here and Monday there, I will forward tour question to them - then we'll both know.

Simon Cohen said...

Hi Richard. Thanks for your email and for your interest in my work.

With regards the Swanndri re-brand, I actually did this work while I was working as head of design for an Auckland-based ad agency called Publicis Mojo.
Although I was responsible for the design of the visual rebranding and associated collateral, I was not involved in the strategic planning.

I have since left Publicis and formed Simon Inc and am no longer involved with Swanndri.
To find out more about the strategic thinking and research that went into the project I suggest that you contact a woman called Anna Murray, who was project manager for the process.
She has also recently left PublicisMojo, but I will find her new contact details for you and send them on. Cheers...Simon