The Essence of Yeezy
“It’s not that I’m not right… sometimes I’m just not right now.”
This statement made by Yeezy founder, Ye, encapsulates the provocative brand identity and marketing strategy that often seems ahead of its time in the fashion and streetwear industry.
Yeezy starts trends and waits for the masses to catch up.
This identity and success are the culmination of years of multidisciplinary work. The origins and success of the Yeezy brand can be pinpointed directly back to its founder, Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. Coming up under the wing of rap star Jay-Z, and his record label Roc-A-Fella records, Kanye West got his big break into mainstream culture with his debut solo album, The College Dropout. This album was the start of an unprecedented rap career. Not only was Kanye’s music critically acclaimed, but his personality also fits the bill for stardom. He was seen as braggadocios, unapologetic, blunt, but was also very thoughtful and viewed as a true artist.
This mix of hit records and interesting personality led to Kanye developing a large, cult-like fan base that followed his every move. After being at the top of the rap game for nearly a decade, Kanye set his sights on taking over a new industry, fashion.
A Look into the History of the Brand
In 2009, Kanye signed a deal with Nike, under the notion that he would produce a signature shoe line for the company. Although this was Kanye’s first move in the fashion industry, this was not completely unexpected. Kanye clearly displayed a taste for fashion and streetwear in his public appearances and music videos, as well as being close friends with Virgil Abloh, who would later become an artistic director for Louis Vuitton.
Kanye ended up producing several shoes for Nike, which now are available at resale for thousands of dollars. After four years with Nike, Kanye decided to leave the brand and sign with their competitor, Adidas in 2013. This is a partnership that lasts to this day. He has since collaborated with a multitude of fashion companies including Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, and The Gap.
The history of the Yeezy brand and Kanye’s own career are a direct reflection of the company’s marketing strategy. Yeezy prides itself on its mystique, authenticity, and its ability to push boundaries and the current zeitgeist.
A Look Into Yeezy's Marketing Strategy
The brand has a very unconventional and unapologetic marketing strategy that relies on Kanye himself.
The Yeezy marketing strategy begins with content creation and PR stunts. Kanye utilizes his rabid fanbase and social media presence to often create momentum and an aura around his name. He tends to broadcast his personal matters with family, business, and life to the public eye.
Not only does this catch the attention of his fans, but the mainstream media and general population also begin to feed into his frenzy. Everyone loves a good piece of gossip.
This makes it seem as if you are living his life alongside him, much like a TV show. Alongside his self-created drama, Kanye masterfully begins product placements of his brand which begins to create hype for his next clothing or shoe collection. Anytime he is seen in the eye of the paparazzi, he is wearing Yeezy from head to toe.
Even his affiliates in the rap industry follow suit and help advertise the Yeezy brand. The videos for his music and albums also serve as advertisements for his clothing line, showcasing the garments. His fashion line seems to become a manifestation of his own lifestyle and current mind-state. So whenever someone wears a piece of Yeezy clothing, they are not only wearing an innovative design but are also wearing a moment in pop culture history.
This type of marketing elevates Yeezy above the normal hype of other streetwear brands.
Yeezy creates the same emotional value to the current generation as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. gave the French aristocrats on the riviera.
Yeezy's Customer Journey Analysis
Yeezy also utilizes the concept of artificial scarcity of products to aid in its marketing strategy.
Yeezy collections have become the most sought-after garments in the streetwear scene, as well as fashion as a whole.
The process of getting ahold of Yeezy clothing from a retail website is headache-inducing, to say the least. Yeezy websites have long waitlists, pre-order options, and thousands of people in the queue to use the site. The clothing collections are also often in very limited stock and sell out in less than seconds. The drops always have ambiguous release dates and sometimes drop at random.
At times Kanye will announce a release date for clothing, only for the date to pass with no release or update. This confusion and exclusivity around Yeezy helps drive their marketing strategy. They keep the consumer on their toes, anxiously waiting for their next move. Some Yeezy collections are not even sold to the public, but given to select celebrities and influencers.
This scarcity of Yeezy garments adds to the already existing allure of the brand. It also provides the brand with a feeling of luxury that most streetwear brands fail to achieve.
Yeezy's Product Price Ranges
The price point of Yeezy is not as expensive as haute couture, but is still on the pricier side of streetwear. This also contributes to the luxurious feel of the brand, as well as adding to the quality of the garments. The artificial scarcity of Yeezy has led it to become a major brand in the resale market.
A Yeezy shoe that sells for $200-$300 at the retail price, will sell for upwards of a thousand dollars on the resale market. The resale market inadvertently provides additional marketing and hype for the Yeezy brand. Whenever someone wears Yeezy, it seems to feel like you are wearing something that Kanye West touched and produced himself.
Yeezy's Creative Process is Always On Display for Fans to Follow
Alongside artificial scarcity and content creation, Yeezy uses the creative process as a whole as a major marketing point. Kanye West is very open and upfront about his creative process, whether it be music or fashion. He’s even held large, arena concerts to play unfinished songs and albums to the public.
With the Yeezy brand, Kanye always shares his thought process with the fashion lines.
On Instagram, Kanye will post prototypes or samples of future Yeezy apparel and share his ideas of the future. He also asks for input from his fans, making them feel like they are a part of the creative process themselves. This also starts generating hype for the apparel itself. Yeezy gives its supporters a peek behind the curtain that most haute couture and streetwear brands would never think of doing. Since fans of the brand feel so a part of the creative process, they are more incentivized to support and buy products from Yeezy.
Yeezy's Brand and Stylistic Identity
With such an unconventional marketing strategy, Yeezy backs up their provocativeness with a very strong brand identity. The identity of Yeezy can be seen as innovative, with their brand identity being shown through their unusual clothing and footwear silhouettes, as well as an overall neutral color scheme. The Yeezy logo is shown on the clothing and footwear, but it is often very small and never the forefront of the design.
Yeezy prides itself on reinventing the current zeitgeist of fashion, always pulling designs out of the left field.
The brand always attempts to start new trends, rather than following whatever the fashion world seems to be in love with at the moment.
With such unique designs and clothing proportions, a Yeezy garment can be identified without ever seeing the logo. Other brands may try to imitate this look, but Yeezy sets itself apart. Some common themes seen throughout their collections are oversized garments with a more militia aesthetic. Yeezy clothing often feels out-of-this-world and dystopian, as if we are getting a peek into the future of fashion in our current day. In more recent times, the Yeezy brand has delved more into the military aesthetic, with their collaboration with Balenciaga and Gap. This collaboration continued the innovative brand identity of Yeezy, but also set forth new ideas, with the majority of the collection primarily being black or darker shades.
The Yeezy brand identity also stretches beyond the limits of fashion. With Kanye West’s background in hip hop and overall cultural influence, the brand can attach itself to multiple industries and pop culture as a whole. Kanye has delved into a multitude of industries such as a record label, sports agency, and even his own school. These different businesses are not under the name of Yeezy, but all of these endeavors are always backed and sponsored by the clothing brand. Professional athletes of Kanye’s sport agency, Donda Sports, are seen wearing Yeezy gear at the games and will promote the brand at any turn. His school, Donda Academy, has a school uniform that is Yeezy apparel. By bringing Yeezy into all of his endeavors, it elevates it to much more than a fashion brand. Yeezy is now seen as a lifestyle brand.
Rather than just wearing a piece of clothing endorsed by Kanye, Yeezy clothing is actually an amalgamation of Kanye’s hopes and desires for the world. You are not wearing Yeezy clothes, you’re wearing the philosophy of Yeezy. This emotional connection to Yeezy’s brand identity gives the company a value that cannot be quantified or replicated.
A Look into Yeezy's Challenges
Although Yeezy does have a very strong marketing strategy and brand identity, the company does has some aspects it falls short in and can improve. The failures and successes of Yeezy are often at the hands of Kanye West, who has complete creative control over the company. One major pitfall of this is Kanye’s ever-changing creativeness. He often previews and announces clothing collections, only for them to be scrapped without notice. Due to this, Yeezy often has an identity of breaking promises and not always delivering with their product. Since Kanye is invested in so many different creative endeavors, his clothing line can sometimes be disregarded or changed to align with another one of his prospects. This leads to the brand sometimes not having a clear aesthetic, jumping from one idea to another.
Since the start of Yeezy, Kanye has preached the idea of democratizing fashion and making his clothes accessible to all. But, he has not seemed to deliver on this promise. However, this is often due to forces beyond his control, as his former partners in Adidas and Gap would limit the supply of the brand to create the previously mentioned artificial scarcity. Although Yeezy sometimes has an unclear sense of direction, its allure and innovativeness give it the strength to push past this trouble.
Yeezy’s brand identity and unconventional marketing strategy place the company in a unique spot. The forward-thinking nature and willingness to reinvent the brand will allow the company to flourish throughout the years. With Kanye West and other talented creative directors like Nur Abbas, the former head of Nike ACG, at the helm, the brand is in good and very creative hands. Although Kanye and the brand have been facing recent difficulties with partners Gap and Adidas, Yeezy will continue its upward trajectory due to the dedication of its design team and supporters.
Yeezy has already conquered unprecedented heights in the fashion industry and is only looking to break more records.