Why Fashion Copywriting Needs to Ditch Inspiration and Embrace Aspiration

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Inspiration fatigue has set into the fashion world.

People are bored of fending off ‘inspiring’ endorsements by celebrities suggesting you’ll be like them by sporting the latest bag or dress they choose to wear.

Think about it: as a teenager, who did you tear out of magazines and stick to your wall with enough blue tack to enrage David Attenborough?

Whoever it was, you most certainly haven’t morphed into them by now. Even if you’ve bought every product they’ve ever endorsed.

But the fact that you did buy the products means you’ve been won over by inspirational fashion copywriting, which was rife in the 90s and 00s.

Remember the Air Jordan’s endorsed by basketball guru, Michael Jordan? When they were first released, eager sports fans raced to the shops to buy them so they could hit the courts and leap up into the air, slam dunking like Jordan in the advert.

Probably didn’t happen, right? They didn’t fly.

And consumers are exhausted with celebrities promising them the unachievable. They’re sick of seeing a botox-faced woman promoting skin cream (we’ve seen your trips to the doctor, Kim).

The problem is, inspiration signifies only a temporary awareness of new possibilities. A fleeting feeling of wanting something to happen.

Nowadays, inspirational marketing just isn’t going to cut it because as consumers, we need something we can believe in for the long haul.

But there’s a new player in town. It’s aspirational fashion copywriting that’s capturing the hearts (and wallets) of people all around the world.

Validating the Aspiration

The fashion world is beginning to understand that our sense of self is constantly evolving, but the path we’re pursuing rarely changes.

That’s our aspirational identity.

Your career direction and job title may change, you’ll take on new hobbies and ditch old ones, which will all influence your life.

But it’s our aspirations that are so deeply connected to our identities that they will always come to the surface in whatever situation we come across.

This is why companies need to stop promoting the unreachable with inspirational taglines and start to connect with the aspirational identity of their consumers.

Aspiration is the Sizzle, Not the Steak

Millennials get a lot of stick for being a hipster-ish, whiny, dairy-free group who have issues with everything.

Whatever your view, Millennials are changing the way the fashion world needs to approach marketing. On the whole, their choice in products has to align with their values and it’s no longer enough to just fall in love with the appearance of a bag or dress.

Simply put, if “people buy the sizzle, not the steak”, then aspiration is the sizzle.

Let’s look at this example from Canadian brand, Kit and Ace.

This is an enviable tone fusion of aspiration and benefits. The lifestyle they’re inviting you to adopt isn’t unattainable. It’s completely within reach, but still desperately desirable – and that’s its magic.

Aspiration is about a new reality that’s possible. Adopting a lifestyle that perfectly aligns with your sense of self, capturing who you really are inside. It’s about fashion copywriting offering long-lasting and meaningful ways to achieve or become something in particular.

Your Brand Needs a Sense of Self, Too

Now you’ve got the aspiration bug you might be tempted to switch up all your marketing and change all your copy to evoke aspiration in the world and its mother.

Hold that thought.

Your aspirational copy isn’t going to mean a damn thing if it doesn’t make sense to your brand and your target audience.

In late 2018, super-successful e-tailer, ASOS, launched a campaign simply named, ‘My Style is Never Done’.

ASOS aren’t silly. They know that an impressive amount of people in the world shops with them online, particularly the under 40 demographic. Knowing that, they cater to a TON of different styles and personas that need to be spoken to. In fact, ASOS is selling over 85,000 different brands around the world.

The ‘My Style is Never Done’ campaign was aimed at their whole behemoth target audience, focusing on limitless self-expression and inviting you to explore every part of your personal style.

Clever, huh? And how aspirational is it to think that your style is never done? Although a world away from resembling correct grammar, it evokes a sense of belonging to a movement of exciting self-expression.

The point is, they understand how diverse their audience is and intelligently draw them together by the commonality of aspirational self-expression.

But before you make any moves towards aspirational copy, ask yourself:

What is your brand’s reputation?

Fashion brands need to work out what their brand stands for and why people should care. They’re creating a new world for customers that they can belong to that matches the way they want to be…but it needs to be true.

Let’s put it this way, if a fashion brand is known for using leather but promising a much-bandied around ‘ethical’ way of life, then they’re not going to achieve anything. Except a social media manager with a coffee addiction after putting fires out round the clock.

What do your customers stand for?

Understanding where customers aspire to go next, and figuring out how your company can get them there is a daunting task.

But it’s worth it.

The knowledge will help to set you apart from competitors who are armed with nothing but the next shiny inspirational thing.

“We Are Your World”

It’s no longer enough for brands to ask consumers, ‘how do you view the world?’. We tell them ‘we are your world’ and then we have to create it for them…and it has to be the perfect balance of appealing to the imagination, but also resting in truth.

The unification between product, marketing and customer must be full circle. Customers are loyal to fashion brands that share their values and tell stories that they can relate to.

Let’s take a look at a recent Everlane campaign where they encouraged donations to support human rights in the LGBTQ community.

This is a seriously clever campaign, I take my hat off to them.

Now, in our Millennial-fuelled world where actions against humanity are under the microscope, who doesn’t aspire to be the best human being they can be? And the best thing about it is – it’s a highly worthy campaign.

The copy is clearly saying that we are all 100% human and should all have equal rights no matter who we are. However (cheeky Everlane), there is the inescapable insinuation that those who haven’t bought the products in question are slightly lower down on the scale of humanity. Ouch. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Long-Lasting Change

Really, it comes down to this: as fashion copywriters do we want to create copy that inspires a one-off purchase, or copy that creates lifelong change?

When aspirational marketing succeeds, it’s irreplaceable. Products can be imitated, but the emotional connection between a lifestyle brand and a consumer is almost impossible to duplicate.

Fashion brands who know how to facilitate aspirations are the future. So in the most aspirational words of Nike: Just Do It.


Ella x

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About the author

Konrad Sanders CEO & Lead Strategist at The Creative Copywriter
Hey you. I’m Konrad. A full-funnel content strategist and CEO with a pretty darn creative noggin on my shoulders. I run a team of word-slinging cowboys and strategists who blend science with art to help bold brands get their words right at every step of the customer journey. Which means? They sell more stuff and grow predictable revenue. Brands like AECOM, Thomson Reuters, TikTok, Panasonic, Adidas, Mercedes-Benz, plus shedloads of tech scale-ups...and you? Let's connect.

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