Since its establishment in 1989, Egyptian menswear brand Concrete has strongly made its mark in the local and regional premium fashion retail markets. For the past 28 years, Concrete has become synonymous with “Made in Egypt” haute couture designs tailored to the tastes of the modern sophisticated Egyptian man.
In the face of an increasingly commoditized market saturated with competition and a rising need to attract new generations, Concrete revamped its brand strategy with an aim to craft a new & engaging brand experience that would differentiate it in the fashion scene.
This shift was marked by the launch of its “Concrete Icons” campaign, successfully repositioning the Concrete brand in a category of its own.
The Berries interviewed Heba El Araby, Marketing Director of Concrete and the mastermind behind the brand strategy revamp and Concrete icons campaign, on repositioning the brand from being a commodity to a modern lifestyle brand experience.
BB: Can you give us some insights about the narrative behind the Concrete Brand? How did it all begin? What are the Concrete brand values & promise? If you were to evaluate Concrete as a brand from 1989-2017, what would you say?
HA: In 1989 Concrete was created in answer to the founder’s passionate interest in men’s fashion. What began as predominantly casual collection, with a focus on raw denim and cotton, rapidly evolved to an increasingly formal and premium offerings of both Men & Kids, as the aesthetic of the brand began to incorporate a European sensibility drawn from Italy.
Concrete was acquired by Arafa holding in1996, creating a turning point in the brand’s life under the strategic leadership of CEO, Dr. Alaa Arafa, as it became a part of the most prominent textile and garments manufacturing groups of factories in the Middle East and the world.
Concrete as a brand have 4 main core essences where the whole organization is revolving around and considered as the fundamental building blocks of the brand’s heart: authenticity, charismatic young at mind, & Milano. If you put these 4 aspects together you get to see the brand’s vision of being the leading premium retailer in Menswear and Children’s wear across Egypt and the Middle East, with an authentic contemporary Italian inspiration, renowned for its high quality at the right price.
In short from day of its inauguration till date Concrete is an ever developing brand, becoming the authority on global style for the modern Egyptian man.
BB: Brands And Sustainability: Since its establishment in 1989, Concrete has maintained its position as one of Egypt’s top local fashion brands, building a consistent and strong brand equity with a long heritage of introducing the finest and premium quality in men’s fashion in the Middle East. What is the secret sauce behind Concrete being one of the most sustainable brands in the local fashion scene?
HA: Concrete since its establishment invests continuously in innovation from both designs and production techniques aspects; the new trends tend to be inspired by monitoring closely world market fashion trends to tailor it to match the Egyptian masculinity & culture. This is combined with the essence of our brand which is embedded in our DNA, quality. Throughout each step of introducing a collection to our valuable customers we have it embedded in the heart of our procedures and day to day transactions to ensure the product offerings reflects the immense hard work, craftsmanship and dedication it entails to have this superior output. However, all that put together without loyal customers would never have made Concrete reach the status it has captured till date. This is the crucial part of the equation that lead to our success throughout the years; loyal partners and customers. Both our internal customers, employees, and the market are aspects of building further the brand and fostering our stand and we do not waste an effort to exceed expectations.
BB: Differentiate or Die: Competition is becoming fiercer and branding is the key to building a distinctive brand, a brand is either differentiated or dead. With the laugh of its new campaign do u believe that Concrete will be able to benchmark the men fashion scene in the region and become a longstanding market leader?
HA: Actually Concrete’s main objective of the rebranding activity that was witnessed lately within the Egyptian market is to foster its positioning to the youthful segment that were not familiar with the brand or were considering it as a rather vintage form of brand suitable only for elderly. It is an awareness campaign to create a rather wakeup call to have Concrete top of mind. The campaign is one aspect of the rebranding and on its own would not cause sustainability. We have attacked all factors in order to create a 360 effect to the campaign in collaboration of change of store concept, brand identity; practically all aspects that are of touch base with the customers. Having this put in place in accordance with sustaining campaigning and using the right effective marketing tools will maintain our mission of being the longstanding market leader.
BB: Influence vs Inspiration: As fashion influencers have taken on a more prominent role in the marketing strategies of brands, Concrete has recently unveiled a new campaign that steered away from the typical celebrity fashion influencer and brought on fresh new icons with inspiring stories. Is the core of the Concrete brand all about influence or inspiration?
HA: Fashion industry as a whole have both influence and inspiration combined together are key factors in the movement of the market. The brand’s usage level of each to create the right equilibrium is what differentiate one brand from another. In this life stage of Concrete we have been focused on inspirations to develop a form of the overall understanding what we have to offer but had to shift to influence as this is the upheave trend that is the most effective to our target segmentation and that was the successful equation in how we delivered the message to the market.
BB: One of the most noticeable trends in the retail fashion industry is what’s called “Global local brand management” whereas consumers in the emerging markets are demanding local brands and local fashion products and global brands need to act more agile to be adaptive. Is the new campaign repositioning the Concrete brand in the market as what is called a “Global-Local brand”? Do you see this as a golden opportunity for Concrete to dominate the marketplace?
HA: This trend has been picking up for a time and any proactive brand have to seize any and all opportunities of growth. Luckily as Concrete is always on proactive slope of industry trends and moves we managed to adapt to the changing behavior of the Egyptian market and cater for it to sustain a leveraged positioning. The new campaign is not repositioning it is more of reflecting what we really offer to customers that they were not aware of; high end products with international (Italian) designs for the right price. Yet with the changes still Concrete maintained its core DNA, quality.
BB: In 2010, Ettore Veronese joined Concrete as head of design, incorporating the European design taste to the brand. With the rise and evolution of the local/regional fashion scene, would Concrete consider dealing with some of the local/regional fashion designers?
HA: For the time being the whole collection of Concrete is focused on reflecting the iconic looks of the contemporary Italian man and accordingly our partnership is further extended with Ettore Veronese; especially this is part of the main fundamental blocks of Concrete essence. However, surely local/regional fashion designers who foster their names in modern looks we may consider for a special capsule form but not to replace the existing design direction and partnership.
BB: It’s something of the past that brands capitalize on being “transactional brands” and building an emotional connection with brands is becoming a requirement. What’s Concrete’s recipe in building, maintaining and nurturing the emotional bond with its customers?
HA: Surely our heritage and years of presence in the market for the past 26 years have built a very wide range of loyal customers. The lead men being the backbone of the family naturally extends to the generations the positive experience and history that they had with Concrete over the years. We have this always at the back of any scenery and accordingly embedded the date of our establishment as an integral part of our logo.
BB: The dynamic of the apparel industry are changing dramatically, some players have plunged and others have arisen. Can you mention some tips and tricks to help rising local retail fashion brands breakthrough the clutter?
HA: Proactivity to change trends and customer behavior is the only success factor in the fashion industry. As previously mentioned the balancing of market adaptation with the brand’s DNA is the key factor of sustaining the brand stand within the market. Focus on your customer needs and exceed their expectations.