Monday, December 8, 2008

Brand U Design Challenge

Goodwill Industries is a community based, non-profit organization committed to providing job-related services for individuals facing barriers to employment. Through monetary donations and donations of goods the company receives revenue, which is allocated towards job education and placement within a particular community. Donated goods range from lightly used clothing to furniture, computers and even cars. They are sorted and sold at nearby Goodwill retail stores at a relatively low cost. After a six-week intensive research into Austin Goodwill retail stores we made a few startling discoveries in regard to the general public’s knowledge of the Goodwill Corporation. The average shopper is older and has a basic awareness of the company mission but young people, who dominate the population of Austin, seem to be missing from the stores. We conducted in-store interviews to better understand this observation. When asked why they did not shop at Goodwill, young people typically reasoned that the stores were intended for people of a lower socioeconomic level and perceived the goods sold there as old, in poor condition and even unsanitary. The store layout and clothing organization methods surely don’t help this social stigma about Goodwill retail shops. The number one customer complaint in stores is regarding disorganization of clothing. Some stores organize by color, others by size, but no matter the organization method there tends to be a problem with the quantity of goods in relation to their storage. Most shoppers stray from Goodwill stores because they don’t have any incentive to search through the racks or bins. The overwhelming nature of the stores’ layout in conjunction with negative social connotations of resale items create a barrier in Goodwill’s relationship with the younger Austin community.

In the city of Austin, a younger demographic dominates the population through universities of the area , such at the University of Texas and St. Edwards University, as well as the large percentage of graduated students staying in area because it is familiar to them. The city has historically concerned itself with the arts, generating a funky but hip environment and more recently the city has taken a role in promoting sustainable or green living. The combination of youth and this eclectic setting engage a desire for individuality that can easily be achieved through thrift fashion finds. Some thrift stores, such as the Buffalo Exchange, have embraced this trend, marketing their finds towards younger generations through such methods as window displays mimicking current fashions. Even Goodwill has jumped on the bandwagon with their new Brand U campaign, promoting that “its not what you wear, but how you wear it.”; a message promoting each individual to brand themselves with a style all their own. But I believe this campaign is not being fully utilized for the greatest advantage to both Goodwill and the Austin area community. Currently the Brand U campaign is only promoted through printed advertisements that tend to be ignored by a desensitized public. Goodwill stands to strengthen this idea through more public engagement inside and outside of their stores. A combination of Brand U, along with a program that distinctly caters to young adults and some adjustments to the aesthetic value of Goodwill’s retail stores will drastically enhance the organization’s image towards youth within the community.

The Brand U Design Challenge offers students a creative outlet to display their individuality while simultaneously increasing Goodwill’s cool factor among younger generations. Through the reoccurring challenge high school and college-age students are challenged to create a unique outfit using garments purchased at Goodwill stores. Participants are encouraged to alter and manipulate the articles of clothing to create a look that is all their own. The completed outfits can then be featured in a fashion show competition in which the winner receives the prize of being featured alongside their design in the local newspaper. In addition to the fashion show, the completed looks are then put on display inside Goodwill retail stores to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. This creates added revenue for Goodwill but more importantly serves as in-store fashion displays that enhance the store image and promote the Brand U campaign ideas.

To initially announce the Brand U Design Challenge Goodwill can directly contact educational programs that relate to their promotion and proposition their participation in the challenge. High school art classes, home economics and theatre programs could invest interest as well as college fashion groups, design programs, and fashion focused courses. Perhaps the challenge could even serve as a competition between schools. By limiting the competition to students however, a narrower demographic is attracted and Goodwill’s specific community connection is strengthened. This also prevents industry professionals from competing and potentially having an advantage over more inexperienced participants. Brand U promotes the idea that anyone can create a unique look, not just trained professionals.

The Brand U Design Challenge will be held three times a year, once in the fall, once in the spring and once during summer, in concurrence with typical school semesters. After a few trial runs to promote the competition the Design Challenge could potentially be held more frequently but it is not necessary. The competition will culminate in a community fashion show where participants can model their creations. Shows can be held in school venues or in the Goodwill stores themselves, perhaps even their outlet locations that offer large open spaces. Audience voting or applause participation can determine a winner of the challenge. The winner will receive published credit through the Austin American Statesman. Goodwill regularly advertises in this newspaper so the Brand U Challenge prize can correspond with that advertisement, adding no additional cost for Goodwill while providing credit for their competition winner.

After the fashion show, the outfits created are placed on display inside Goodwill retail stores for auction. This serves multiple purposes. While in-store the creations become three-dimensional advertisements for the Brand U campaign, encouraging shoppers to create their own unique looks. They also add to the store’s atmosphere, creating a more inviting environment reminiscent of the perceivably trendy Buffalo Exchange vintage shops and shedding social stigmas among youth. Lastly, the articles are auctioned off creating added revenue for Goodwill. This last step of the auction can be omitted however, allowing the outfits to be displayed longer or perhaps even returned to the designer after a certain amount of time. The entire challenge, as well as the unique looks the participants create, can further be used in promotional print work for Brand U, simply expanding upon the campaign not changing it.

Through the Brand U Design Challenge Goodwill stands to potentially increase community involvement and brighten their image among youth in the greater Austin area. In-store displays and competition focused towards youth greatly aides Goodwill Industries in gaining momentum within the youth centered Austin community. Through participation in the competition and access to store resources the public becomes aware of and more receptive to Goodwill’s mission. Increased awareness of the mission makes people more inclined to shop in stores through their willingness to help their community. Therefore, polishing the Goodwill image through the Brand U Design Challenge serves two functions to potentially increase revenue. There is potentially little cost to Goodwill for this promotion, mainly in print advertising and promotion. But more importantly, Goodwill stands to gain much more than it has to give for the challenge to function effectively. The Brand U Design Challenge is a simple addition to the Brand U campaign that will shed current social stigmas and captivate a part of the community previously unreceptive to Goodwill.

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