How a brand can win development space in a longer history depends on how to carve its market role.
Long before the word Athleisure was invented on the Internet, the Lacoste brand founded by French tennis player Rene Lacoste had already created the category in 1927. 94 years later, when the sports fashion market started to become hot and tennis skirts became a popular trend on social media all over the world, Lacoste was also ushering in a key historical opportunity.
On October 20, Lacoste held the 2021 Autumn and Winter Brand Ceremony at the China Ship Museum, which was also the first large-scale brand event held by the brand in Asia in recent years. For many consumers who are familiar with Lacoste through the small crocodile polo shirt, the Lacoste shown to Chinese consumers at this event may be a high-end fashion brand that is completely different from the stereotype.
In the past, Lacoste was too closely associated with the basic crocodile polo shirt, making the brand less attractive to young people. But starting from 2018, with the addition of creative director Louise Trotter to the brand, Lacoste also returned to Paris Fashion Week and re-established a multicultural communication strategy, thus opening a new stage of global strategic adjustment.
At the same time, Eric Tosello, CEO of Greater China, who joined the brand in 2018, is also helping Lacoste enter the second stage of global brand strategy adjustment in this regional market where the group is currently ranked the most, in order to increase sales in the Chinese market by 2026. Doubles the target sprint.
Two sides of Lacoste
Due to the difference in the market position, different people may have completely different impressions of Lacoste, which is one of the most special phenomena of Lacoste. Men's business casual wearers see Lacoste as their source of everyday basics, tennis fans see Lacoste as a sportswear brand, and fashion editors see Lacoste as a sports-inspired fashion brand at Paris Fashion Week.
Every aspect of the above is almost unmistakable, and together they make up Lacoste today. In 1927, tennis legend Rene Lacoste founded the brand, created the first polo shirt and small ribbed fabric, and also first shaped the Athleisure style of sports and leisure, and promoted the transformation of men's clothing. Therefore, since its inception, Lacoste has been in a flexible and dynamic position, seeking the connection point between sports and fashion.
With the changes in consumers' lifestyles, especially the further connection between sports scenes and daily commuting after the epidemic, Lacoste's flexible and diverse positioning has created more market resonance after a century, and timely satisfied consumers' growing daily life. Casual apparel needs. And this emerging consumer demand also supports a huge sports fashion market including lululemon, FILA, Allbirds, Nike, Maia Active and other brands.
Lacoste was the first to lead the trend of sports fashion, and its professionalism as sportswear has been adhered to today. In the hot sports fashion market, although brands from all backgrounds are emerging, Lacoste has maintained its uniqueness with its French fashion and tennis DNA.
To this day, Lacoste is still one of the few brands that exclusively focuses on the elegant sport of tennis.
Over the years, Lacoste has continued to penetrate into the professional tennis arena. Since 2017, Lacoste has sponsored Djokovic, who is ranked No. 1 in the world ATP, and has sponsored tennis tournaments such as Roland Garros, Miami Open, ATP Finals, Shanghai Rolex Masters, etc. Compete for its right to speak in the sports field. In 2020, the brand announced the signing of Medvedev, who is currently ranked second in the world ATP, as another global spokesperson.
The emphasis on tennis was also reflected in the brand event on October 20. The show was set up as an aerial tennis court, and a visual experience of virtual tennis events was created through technological means. The brand's classic crocodile logo has also been re-added with a tennis ball covered in flames. The series also runs through the application of tennis plaid and the L-shaped team logo design that symbolizes the brand.
So far, it is not difficult to see the two levels that the Lacoste brand contains. In retail, this is reflected in the two types of stores, Smart Chic (for classic and elegant people) and Urban Sport (for trendy street people). "When we are adjacent to some sports brands, our stores will present younger visuals and products, and when we appear with classic brands, we will tell more classic brand stories."
For a long time, Lacoste acquiesced to the market's diverse perspectives on brands. However, in this changing positioning, Lacoste presents a sense of stability. Lacoste does not launch secondary lines for different styles like most similar brands, but insists that there is only one Lacoste, and only decides its own presentation method according to different market environments.
Eric Tosello believes that although Lacoste has two sides within the brand, Lacoste is one for consumers externally.
Change the stereotype and position the Active lifestyle
However, although Lacoste as a complete brand has two sides, because Lacoste has communicated with consumers through products and stores in the Chinese market for many years, it has indeed indirectly caused different consumers to limit the overall perception of the brand. With the development of social media, Lacoste is trying to change the stereotype of the brand in the minds of consumers.
This time, Lacoste finally faces Chinese consumers in the form of a fashion show, conveying a complete brand image to consumers, and also introducing those show styles that were rarely seen in the store to consumers. As a milestone brand activity in the Asian market in recent years, yesterday's Lacoste show, from the product to the show layout, conveyed a particularly youthful and energetic mood. Lacoste Arena has been transformed into an event venue with both imaginative and digital experiences by AR technology, making it different from traditional fashion shows and more like a brand event that integrates offline retail experiences.
This external expression is rooted in Lacoste's new Active lifestyle brand positioning, which will make the consumer market re-understand Lacoste more clearly.
With the improvement of consumers' health awareness, especially the new reality brought by the epidemic, the market has evolved from the Athleisure style to a new vocabulary Active lifestyle that can accurately summarize Lacoste's positioning. Different from Sportswear, which once focused on specific sports, and Athleisure, which was relatively limited to fashion styles, Active lifestyle wear increasingly emphasizes an active lifestyle and focuses on the free switching between different scenes. Whether it is urban fashion or urban sports, it is actually a specific scene of this lifestyle.
After the repositioning, Lacoste pointed to a young and fashionable lifestyle, which can focus on the overall feeling conveyed by the brand, without losing the consistent flexibility and richness of the brand, and no longer need to face the worries of brand generalization and confusion.
Catch the female consumer, target the fashion business
Lacoste's emphasis on fashionable lifestyles reflects the brand's ambition to expand its business territory. It is trying to capture female consumers and obtain business increments through more fashionable products.
The core product, the polo shirt, has always been big business for Lacoste. However, according to Eric Tosello, in 2019 when he joined the company, Polo shirts basically contributed two-thirds of the sales in the Chinese market, and now it is about one-third, which means that fashionable products have contributed more sales share.
He said that currently 22% of Lacoste's turnover comes from women's clothing, and the brand hopes to increase this proportion to at least 30%. The brand's data shows that more than 65% of consumers who come to the store are women, but they are more likely to buy polo shirts for their husbands or family members, so Lacoste is trying to seize the opportunity for them to enter the store by expanding the product line of women's clothing. , so that they buy women's clothing as well as men's clothing.
This also continues to extend new questions, that is, how to make it easier for domestic consumers to buy Lacoste's more fashionable styles. In fact, Lacoste has been working on this in China for the past three years.
Previously, although consumers had formed a high market awareness of Lacoste with the crocodile logo, their desire for the brand was very low. Lacoste also caused confusion with other brands because the brand's first promotion in the Chinese market was the brand's logo rather than its name.
A single stereotype is essentially due to the relatively conservative strategy of the brand in the Chinese market earlier, and the purchased styles are mainly commercial models. After joining Lacoste, Eric Tosello realized that the headquarters can provide much more resources than this, so he began to pay attention to the supply of the brand in the global market, and purchased products sold in France, Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland, and brought them with them. into China. The move may have sacrificed the previous quarter or two, but Eric Tosello believes it's critical to building the brand.
At the same time, Lacoste China also communicated with the brand's two design centers in Japan and South Korea and obtained its support for the Chinese market. He also reinforced Lacoste's communication about its French origin, "In the past we focused more on product than narrative, now we want to inject more brand stories into the retail section."
The market is actually moving in Lacoste's favor. In the face of young people's obsession with logos, Lacoste is updating and transforming its classic crocodile logo with all elements that young people are interested in, such as cartoons and games, which also connects it with trendy brands that are used to this method.
Under the influence of trendy culture, Eric Tosello has led a series of collaborations between Lacoste and Atmos, Mastermind Japan and other fashion brands. Lacoste also took this big show as an opportunity to disclose to the outside world that Louise Trotter, the brand design director, will cooperate with Zhou Jun and Li Yushan, two young Chinese designers and founders of the PRONOUNCE brand, to inject new elegance from China into Lacoste's follow-up series. Inspiration to enhance the brand's sense of cultural integration.
In response to the problem that consumers were difficult to buy show styles in China in the past, Eric Tosello explained that Lacoste has put many show styles into the market since 2019, but encountered some problems, which made it difficult for the brand to put all these products in the market. Sold in store. In the end, only about 30% of the show models of each series were put into the market, making it difficult for consumers to feel these products strongly.
However, through the efforts in the supply chain and e-commerce omni-channel construction, yesterday's fashion show has realized the "see now, buy now" of China's exclusive trend series, which is an important breakthrough for the brand. In addition, Lacoste has also begun to strategically strengthen the brand's influence among fashion lovers through wholesale channels such as buyer stores, create special window designs, and put more special styles into the market.
China has become the first priority market
The new business increment comes from the incremental market. Therefore, during the strategic adjustment period in the past two years, China ranked first among the three priority markets of Lacoste, followed by the United States, and France, the country of origin, ranked third.
Despite the impact of the epidemic, Lacoste's revenue in the Chinese market increased by 9% to 10% last year, and it is expected to continue double-digit growth this year. From the perspective of sales, the brand's volume in the Chinese market is still small, but Eric Tosello disclosed to LADYMAX that the sales target in the Chinese market is to triple by 2026.
However, he also admitted that it is impossible to achieve this ambitious financial goal simply by continuing the brand's previous inertia. At the product level, in addition to the original Polo shirt business, fashion products determine the room for the brand to continue to grow. At the brand level, since the past image made consumers think that Lacoste is a conservative brand, the top priority of the brand is to improve Lacoste's brand awareness and reawaken consumers' desire for the brand.
Although Lacoste has set very ambitious financial goals and has ushered in the best market opportunities, even in the intensive changes within the group and the fierce market competition, Lacoste still presents a relatively mild and calm brand image to the outside world. At the same time, more brands are eagerly sending signals of radical rejuvenation transformation to the market, exacerbating the anxiety pervading the Chinese market.
Eric Tosello said, "We don't want to compete fiercely with other brands, we just want to promote the Lacoste brand concept in this market, tell everyone who we are, what we know about sportswear, and how people's lifestyles relate to Lacoste, And by telling our story, we make the brand a part of consumers’ lives and make them feel different when they wear Lacoste.”
He bluntly said, "Lacoste has never and will not become a mainstream brand. First, because the brand has a higher price range, and second, the brand has no intention to lower prices in order to sell more products. The way for Lacoste to gain more market share It’s about enhancing product value and better telling consumers about the world of the brand, and we just want to spend our budget where we feel it’s worth it.”
Lacoste's gentle transformation is itself a reflection of the brand's elegant lifestyle. The key to the brand's ability to win the development space for nearly a century lies in its unique positioning and long-term adherence to its market role between sports and fashion, classic and trendy, mainstream and niche.
Although the Chinese market will retreat if it does not advance, the problem is that people often ignore in the fierce competition that a market as large as China can allow different brands to continue to operate calmly without converging to a fixed formula.
This goes hand in hand with ambition.