If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’ve briefly discussed the New Age of Marketing & PR in terms of social media marketing and up-and-coming business opportunities. But what if I told you that new isn’t always best in the marketing world? In this post, I'll explain the concept of Iconic Advantage written by Soon Yu and Dave Birss and how this concept can be applied to any established brand (yes, even your own!). I highly recommend that anyone interested in a modern point of view of the business and marketing world reads this book, so I left an Amazon link at the end of the post for you.
The Idea of Iconic Advantage®:
One of the main ideas of Iconic Advantage is to innovate the “old”, not chase the “new”. Meaning that companies that remain true to their original values and iconic traits will have more success than companies constantly changing with the times. Coming from a socio-psychological standpoint, as humans, we constantly desire and seek out consistency (APA,2020). For all humans, consistency acts as a filter for our behavior, which is why companies must be consistent with their brand values and ideas, not just their plans to gain revenue.
The Strategy of Iconic Advantage:
So what exactly is the Iconic Advantage strategy? In the authors’ own words “Iconic Advantage is a strategy that focuses on building timeless distinction and relevance so businesses can rise above their competition, and build stronger emotional connections with their audience” (Yu & Birss, 2018). In simpler terms, companies need to have a distinctive product or product line that is relevant and meaningful to their intended audience and universally recognized. Prospective customers of these iconic companies need to feel emotionally compelled to not only buy into the product but also into the brand values. In this age, consumers have an instantaneous mindset, loyalty is less abundant due to a constantly evolving market. What the Iconic Advantage explores is how companies can stand out to consumers as the constant and standard choice instead of as a trend or fad.
Important Points of Iconic Advantage Strategy:
The Iconic Advantage strategy requires creating noticing power, developing staying power, and building scaling power (2018). Although these terms may be unfamiliar to you now, the ideas are fairly simple. Creating noticing power refers to your brand’s distinct product or service, that will garner attention. Developing staying power refers to maintaining relevance with your consumers by consistently enhancing the competitive advantages that your brand has. Building scaling power refers to the expansion and creation of awareness of your brand. This is what leads to the iconicity or universal recognition of your brand.
An Exemplary Iconic Company:
Urban Outfitters, a highly popular lifestyle retail company, is a great example of the Iconic Advantage strategy. President and CEO of brand portfolio URBN, Dick Hayne started his standalone clothing business called “Free People” in the early 1970s. His business was aimed towards expressing the reflection of freedom through clothing, especially for young, college-aged adults (Urban Outfitters Inc., 2021). As his business thrived, he opened a second store and changed the name of the stores from “Free People” to “Urban Outfitters”. Eventually, Hayne realized that some of Free People’s original imagery had been lost over time and decided to make Free People and Urban Outfitters separate entities (URBN US Retail LLC, 2021). During this time, Hayne recognized the relevance of his original brand’s values and attributed meanings. Hayne’s Free People brand was loved because of its emotional relevance to the brand persona of an affluent and adventurous millennial woman. Urban Outfitters took on the persona of a young, hipster, alternative adolescent.
The company (Urban Outfitters) now acts as a younger generation’s department store. What distinguishes UO from other retailers is that UO is not just clothing, it's a lifestyle brand. Customers can buy clothes, beauty products, music, decor, and home appliances that all align with the notion of their free-spirited lifestyle. Not only does UO offer a unique product line, but the brand name itself is also distinct in the sense that a large portion of their website is comprised of UO exclusive products. In addition to UO having major success, CEO Hayne added other brands to URBN’s portfolio such as Anthropologie, Nuuly, and Terrain (check out these websites below). Part of Hayne’s success with these brands can be attributed to the fact that he has stayed true to his Iconic Brand Language™(2018). Meaning that all of these brands have the common factor of a persona that is young to middle-aged, affluent, free-spirited, and somewhat environmentally friendly. These brands have stayed true to their original values while taking advantage of evolving technologies and products, which is why they’re so successful in expanding and arguably iconic. Likely, you’ve already heard of, visited the website of, or purchased from UO multiple times before, and it's not just a coincidence.
Now that you know the premise of the Iconic Advantage strategy, will you employ it in your business model? If you’d like to learn more, I recommend that you give this book a try (click the link below!). If you have any questions or inquiries, feel free to reach out on the “Contact” tab of this website!
American Psychological Association. (2020). Consistency Theory. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved November 14, 2021, from https://dictionary.apa.org/consistency-theory.
Urban Outfitters Inc. (2021). The First Store & Mission. URBN. Retrieved November 14, 2021, from https://www.urbn.com/who-we-are/history.
URBN US Retail LLC. (2021). Our Story. Free People. Retrieved November 14, 2021, from https://www.freepeople.com/help/our-story/.
Yu, S., & Birss, D. (2018). Iconic advantage: Don't chase the new, innovate the old. Savio Republic.
https://www.urbanoutfitters.com (Urban Outfitters)
https://www.freepeople.com (Free People)
https://www.amazon.com/Iconic-Advantage®-Dont-Chase-Innovate/dp/1682615405 (Amazon Book Link)