If there were any sleep-plaguing doubts that designers matter, the recent crash of Target’s website as it debuted its collaboration with Missoni should help you rest easy. Yes, the real-world votes are tallied, and designers seized the day and took the web platform with them.
The bigger question is why, of course. It’s easy to look out over the retail landscape and report that everything the couture sun touches is in its kingdom. But Missoni is no Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein. This is an Italian brand founded in 1953, and while highly respected among those that lunch as a living, it is hardly a household name. So what was it that drove a niche luxury brand to crash a sturdy mass retailer’s website?
To sum it up in a word: meaning.
A brand is a product, service, concept, or even a person, that is publicly distinguished from other products, services, concepts, or people by meaning. And sometimes two meanings can be put together and not be simple addition, but have a multiplication effect. Not always, and not often even, but sometimes.
Such as when Target, differentiated from other mass retailers by its central mission of “design for all,” connected to Missoni, a luxury brand known for, well, its design. The very recognizable zig-zag pattern of Missoni is both retro and modern at once and, importantly, that design is at the very core of the brand. Ask someone about Missoni and they talk about the design.
With this hook up, luxury truly did become design for all, with a real happy ending: A very nice retailer married a very beautiful brand and had little babies born on ebay within hours, at three-times their size (aka cost) at birth. So proud.
Meaning is what matters when it comes to brands. And successful brands know that the meaning has to matter to consumers if it’s going to make offspring like that.