New Traditions: The Trend of “Southern” Brands
Today’s post comes from guest blogger Drew Maurer, Verbal Branding Intern at Addison Whitney
“Modern. Southern. Style.” This is the tagline for southern retail giant Belk, which could also easily describe a score of the men’s clothing manufacturers (many of whom have the word “Southern” in their names) sold within Belk stores.
Popular brands like Southern Proper, Southern Tide and Southern Marsh market themselves with a combination of a sense of heritage and a distinctly southern character to appeal to the collegiate and young professional market. This strategy has proven extremely successful, and these brands have become ubiquitous on college campuses and in post-grad life throughout the southeast.
One of the key strategies these brands have used to become successful is the way they’ve incorporated this aspect of their names throughout their brands to create distinct brand identities that resonate with consumers. The sense of southern identity and heritage embodied in the brand names extends throughout the brand identities.
For example, Southern Proper, a company that started out selling ties and caters specifically to the collegiate market, appeals to “history and heritage” throughout its brand literature, and brands its styles of ties with the names “beaus” and “gents.” They show how to take the ideals embodied by a brand name and extend them throughout the rest of the brand and product line to create a unified brand identity.
Similarly, Southern Tide, who is also oriented towards a younger, collegiate demographic, describes its founding principles as “craftsmanship, clean lines, classic designs, and rich heritage” and calls its flagship polo shirt the Skipjack. The company successfully leveraged this name into a coherent and consistent brand identity branding all their products with the distinctive skipjack logo, and appealing to the freedom of the ocean and “an affection for the coast” in their brand identity language, tying their product names, brand name, and company ethos together.
Southern Marsh, another brand that has built its brand identity around an evocative name and sense of southern heritage, appeals more directly to a certain sense of leisure and comfort. On their website they characterize the Southern Marsh wearer as someone who wants to “escape the hustle and bustle of city life” and describes their customers as “the friends getting up at 4 a.m. to make it to the blind before sunrise.” Southern Marsh, like its competitors, sells a laid-back lifestyle built upon a sense of southern heritage and tradition.
Despite their relatively recent emergence (all three were founded in the past decade), these brands have successfully leveraged a distinct sense of southern heritage into a profitable and prominent following among collegiate and younger professional men.
All of these brands have specifically used strong focused naming strategies to build their brand identity and equity. By starting with evocative names like Southern Proper, Southern Tide, and Southern Marsh, and building brands around those images, these companies have been able to sell a sense of comfort and familiarity that is unique.
They cultivate an image that is masculine, but not rugged, stylish without being trendy, and classic, but not stuffy. Characterized by bright colors, bold patterns and clean lines, these are pieces designed to transition seamlessly from the office to happy hour to a summer barbecue, and look great along the way.
Addison Whitney is a global branding firm with a passion for building strong brands.