Emotional attachment reigns in the fashion and apparel world. How do brands lock into emotional attachments that matter?

My middle school experience was, in a nutshell, awkward. I switched schools in seventh grade (can you think of a worse time to try to start over?). Before the switch, I was very comfortable wearing clothes from retailers like Kohl’s and Target, blissfully ignorant of what my peers wore. After I converted from public to private school, I was surrounded by children of wealthier families, who had an interest I hadn’t yet considered: clothing brands.

5793539.jpgDuring the second week at my new school, I recall wearing a simple silver chain bracelet with a heart on it that my mother had bought me from Target. A classmate asked me if it was “real.” “Ummm… yes?” was my (very confused) response, completely unaware that my imitation Tiffany bracelet was an imitation of anything at all. Being the savvy 12-year-old that I was, I quickly caught on to the tastes and preferences of my friends, and demanded from my mom a completely new wardrobe consisting only of Abercrombie and Hollister. (Love you, Mom. Thanks for always spoiling me…. to this day.)

I threw myself into magazines like Cosmopolitan (which, FYI, is extremely inappropriate for any preteen) and began noticing what women were wearing on the red carpet for the first time. I thought I was very in tune with the fashion world with my Von Dutch trucker hat and spiky green bracelets. Perhaps this sparked my continued interest, and is why I am pursuing a certificate in Fashion Business from Parsons New School for Design today.

What I didn’t realize is that these brands (Abercrombie, Hollister, American Eagle, etc.) already knew the pressure I felt to fit in and catered specifically to tweens like me. Those companies anticipated the awkward changes that come with the transition from child to adolescent, and gave me the emotional support I was craving: feeling secure, accepted, and confident in my new school (and in my own skin!).

The emotional attachment I felt to those brands faded after a few years, and was replaced with attachment to new brands: Express and J. Crew kept my look more sophisticated and party-ready in college; Alice + Olivia makes the best cocktail dresses for postgrad wedding season; and I swear MOTHER makes jeans specifically with my long inseam in mind. As I grow older, my personal style evolves but the basic principles behind these apparel companies remains the same: they know their target market. They understand the desires of their customers, and they cater to the emotions and events of people in that segment.

7788000.jpgFashion and apparel brands need to stay ahead of the curve at all times to anticipate what their customers want and need, and to stay relevant in a highly competitive market. They’ve been tapping into the emotions driving consumer clothing selection for many years, learning what really motivates their audiences – as evidenced by my own evolving emotional attachments to my wardrobe. If only I could forget the emotional attachments to certain boys over the years… sigh.

I felt an inherent connection to those clothes in a way I probably couldn’t verbally express, but it definitely existed. Those fashion and apparel companies already knew about my affinity for their brands, the proof being the permanent dent in my dad’s wallet.

Here at Martec, we’re employing an innovative new research methodology that we call Emotion Mining™. This methodology is helping fashion and apparel brands (among others) discern how they can better understand and even predict the often irrational decisions that consumers, like an awkward 12-year-old girl (or her parents), make regarding the clothes they wear. This knowledge brings brands one step closer to stealing share from competitors and becoming the next fashion must.

Which clothing brands did you rely on in middle school to get you through the awkward in-between phase? Let me know in the comments below! If you’re interested in how Emotion Mining can help your brand, please reach out to me at emily.anderson@martecgroup.com.

By the way, trucker hats are totally back in. Just ask Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.

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