This season, Allen Solly ready to wear brand of apparels has unleashed a kind of color revolution. Take a look at its advertising campaign, ‘Catch a color and we’ll match it’. A print ad released in news daily shows a young man donning oversized shades on his nose, in twenty something is shown to be confidently crossing a road with his head turned to his right (looking at the traffic or onlookers) against the background of a Victorian structure. The picture of the model in the ad shows him in a close up shot from tip to toe with a accentuated focus on what he is wearing- mosaic of colors- red jacket, sky blue shirt, peacock blue pocket handkerchief, mustard trouser, light brown socks, and blue shoes. Allen Solly has launched ‘the color app’ which can be used to ‘create your signature colour’ which the company will dye for customer. It certainly is a step forward for a brand which brought the concept of ‘Friday dressing’.
Ready to wear apparels came in fixed sizes and limited range of colours. This new strategy introduces a paradigmatic shift in the way ready to wear apparels are produced and sold. As a marketing strategy readymade brands gave customers value by way of providing something ready to wear (instant gratification) but it came with a severe limitation of limited color choice (production constraint). This strategy involved reconciling two opposing forces that reside in any business- production seeks efficiency by reducing variety (larger production cycles of limited range) but marketing seeks effectiveness by offering what customers want (customer differences push for choice). Hence a business organization is typically pulled two directions- the internal forces create pressures in favor of mass production of one thing but external reality (market) seek production as per individual customer’s needs/wants.
It is for this reasons the strategy of market segmentation is called a compromise between efficiency and effectiveness. Customer would be best served when he or she is provided with a product or service crafted or created according to his or her unique needs. That is each customer becomes a segment of ‘one’. The other extreme is when one product is offered to all customers irrespective of differences in them. This is exemplified by the classic statement that Henry Ford made “Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black.” Getting close to customer requirements is inevitable in competitive markets. The best insulation against competition is to serve customers better than competition by getting closer to his or her requirements.
Industrialization which gave birth of large corporations dismantled the one to one marketing that prevailed in old era characterized by craft (furniture, buggy, shoe, jewelry). Consider tailors of the past who provided custom fit service or shoe makers who designed shoe as per feet size. This direct relationship was broken apart with the arrival of industrial mass production. But it arrived with a compromise; product and production instead of customer began to assume central position in the business universe. As competition began to intensify, business tried to juggle opposing goals by adopting a strategy called ‘mass customization’. This is an attempt by firms to deliver variety (customization as per customer needs) retaining the mass production model. The mass customization strategy may come in different shades- made to order/ build to requirements (enabled by modular production, FMS, computerization) to giving customers an opportunity to individualize non-core aspects of a product (common in cars, houses).
Allen Solly’s strategy follows a co-creation model (also followed by Levis) by which customer is given opportunity to collaborate in production process of product by which he can create wardrobe in colors of his unique tastes and preferences.
Looked at differently it is symptomatic of a power shift- customers are now beginning to run factories without owning them.