The Rebel With A Cause - Diesel for Successful Living

The Italian clothing label Diesel was established in the fashion market as a cutting edge brand. How could it keep the momentum, maintaining the current clients and catering to new ones? The firm decided to cultivate a new upscale clothing line called StyleLab that would satisfy style-seekers in the upper echelon. But how could the label most effectively harmonize the new brand strategy with the old one? Professor Pierre Chandon and Vadim Grigorian provide a background to fuel discussion on how Diesel would keep up its image and move it uptown, without going out of style.

by Pierre Chandon, Vadim Grigorian
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

The nature of fashion is that it changes each year as new labels push last season’s brands to the back of the closet. That’s why firms in the fashion industry must constantly reinvent themselves and teeter on the cutting edge while remaining firmly positioned as a strong brand with staying power.

Now picture this: a successful 35-year-old, driving a BMW with an impressive stock portfolio and significant spending power is sporting… a pair of Diesel jeans? Something isn’t quite right, realized Renzo Rosso, the founder and owner of the casual clothing company Diesel SpA. His brand had a distinctive slant, a disdain for political correctness (amply backed by controversial advertising) and an image that established the brand as a “lifestyle.” But his good business sense told him that his brand needed to grow to accommodate all clients, especially those with deep pockets. How could he do that while maintaining his brand’s cutting-edge image?

Rosso decided to launch an upscale product line of Diesel, called StyleLab. The new line provided an avenue for designers to experiment with fabrics and cuts while embarking on an attractive market of “high casual” wear. But it was critical to delicately balance the relationship between the D-Diesel master brand and the StyleLab brand. Both lines had to be clearly differentiated, in terms of pricing and style, while retaining a common link with Diesel’s core identity. In this case, Pierre Chandon, Assistant Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, and Vadim Grigorian initiate discussion on the best branding strategy for StyleLab.

The firm needed to cultivate Diesel and its established clients, staying true to its carefully managed, non-conventional image of irony and irreverence. At the same time, it was counting on the StyleLab label to spell mystery and sophistication and serve as a gateway into the world of high-casual wear. It also provided the label’s designers with an outlet for fresh ideas. Rosso and his team clearly knew where they were coming from on project StyleLab, but for the sake of the firm, it was imperative to clarify the nature of the relationship between the two brands.

This case focuses on the selection of the three branding strategies available to Rosso and his team: subranding (e.g., DieselStyleLab), an independent brand endorsed by Diesel (e.g., StyleLab by Diesel) and an independent brand (StyleLab with no reference to Diesel). It presents the background for discussion as well as relevant points to generate debate about the strategy implementation and the methodology to measure its success.

The case is very flexible for a range of different applications. It can be used for a course on brand management or in a session on branding in a marketing management course. The color exhibits and accompanying VHS tape of Diesel’s television advertisements make it suitable for an advertising course or an advertising module of a marketing management course. The case is also appropriate for use in a market research course to illustrate the value of experimental methods for studying the effects of branding.


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