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Feed Your Head

Jennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEFJennifer Marks Editor-in-Chief
EVERY NOW AND THEN, you have a conversation that's just so full of good stuff you wish you had downloaded every word of it straight into the permanent databank of your mind.
     That's how I felt after a recent visit to Graj + Gustavsen. To call the place a brand strategy consultancy - the firm's official Google tag - is to vastly conflate the many nodes and nooks and crannies of the branding, marketing and retailing worlds these guys are plugged into.
     Walking through the concept areas set up for projects in process was a retail junkie's equivalent of a trip to the crack house.
     One of G+G's more recent projects: Levi's Denizen brand, targeting the young middle class in emerging nations, 18- to 28-year-olds on the front lines of new prosperity in their markets but still not able to shop at the high end of the market. By the end of next year, Denizen is scheduled to operate 1,000 stores across China, India, Singapore and Korea.
     The firm is also involved in transforming HGTV into a roster of consumer products and is also working on some fascinating concepts for Food Network, Harley Davidson and Brooks Brothers whose details have not yet been announced.
     I spent a good hour talking with principals Ray and Simon Graj - the latter writes a blog for Forbes - and of all the many interesting perceptions they shared, here's the one that really jumped out: Today's consumer is his or her own brand.
     This is a consumer who creates his own soundtrack - literally, in the iPod sense, and figuratively, in terms of selecting from among a vast array of branded goods - and she has access to a boatload of them virtually - to assemble a look that is uniquely her own.
     Brand loyalty becomes less a matter of joining the club ("I'm a preppy!") than of taking pieces that are individually relevant from brands that project and maintain core values - whatever those values may be.
     And it has to be easy. And it has to be simple. And it has to serve a purpose.
     Food for thought, folks.

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