How a 40-Year-Old Brand is Competing in a Millennial’s World

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Special Guest: Ken Natori, President of The Natori Company

As Kevin Costner in Angels in the Outfield once said, “If you build it, they will come.” He may have been referring to baseball, but the saying is also relevant when it comes to brands. “It” being trust, and “They” being customers. Specifically, the best customers to attract and retain are the loyal ones. Unfortunately, this is no game, as the livelihood of your business depends on repeat customers. So why is it that we spend so much time, energy and investments on attracting new customers, yet very little on retaining them?

On average, brands actually spend up to 11 times more on recruiting new customers than retaining existing ones (Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index).

In efforts to help brands gain insights into how to attract, retain and engage repeat customers - we sought after finding a legacy brand who has achieved longevity through evolution and customer satisfaction.

We are so excited to introduce our special guest for this episode of the Impact Exchange: Ken Natori, President of The Natori Company.

A Brief History of The Natori Company: “Where life meets art.”

The Natori Company was founded 42 years ago by Ken Natori’s mother, Josie Cruz Natori. Although she had an established career as the first female Vice President of Investment Banking at Merrill Lynch, she ventured out on her own to start her own business.

On a whim, she brought an embroidered blouse from her native country of the Philippines to a buyer at Bloomingdale’s. The buyer encouraged her to turn it into a sleep shirt. Natori took the advice and she was in business! “At the time, lingerie was either lewd or frumpy,” said Natori, who worked to fill the niche in between. More than three decades later, the company has grown into a lifestyle concept with collections ranging from lingerie, bras, sleepwear, ready-to-wear, accessories, home textiles, legwear and more under the Josie Natori, Natori, Josie and N Natori brands.

So we wanted to know, how do you build a customer base that will carry you through the ever-changing, competitive landscape of ecommerce?

From the Start, Prioritize

When Ken was a baby in a bassinet, his mother was literally building the company in their living room. Her initial focus was on making ends meet, not creating a long term vision. As many entrepreneurs can relate, you just have to “Get things done.” Yet, even without a clear vision of the future, she knew she had her priorities straight when it came to giving back: she wanted to make the Philippines a key part of her mission.

We understand this may feel very backwards for many brands. Usually, it’s after profitability when brands consider a path to corporate social responsibility. While this is understandable, brands then risk missing the opportunity to evolve social impact into its core.

For Natori, there was never any doubt as to where to make the most impact. By manufacturing in the Philippines, Natori was able to create a sustainable future for the culture that inspired its creations while giving the company full control of their product and brand.

“People say that our product looks different, it looks special… We care about customers having great product that really speaks to our DNA and who we are.”

Humbly and jokingly, Ken admits that hearing a customer rave about how they have had the same Natori robe for 30 years doesn’t lead to the kind of sales turnover he’d like to see. It still shows a true testament to the decisions Josie made over 40 years ago. A commitment to roots, customers and product.

A true juxtapose to today’s fast fashion, had Natori not made responsible choices early on - would they be spending resources trying to find a way to catch up with today’s conscious consumer demands?

Conscious Quality Leads to Consumer Transparency

“94 percent of all consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand when it is committed to full transparency.” - 2016 Label Insight Transparency ROI Study

You may be listening to this podcast thinking about your product and getting frustrated. Time machines don’t exist, and maybe your product isn’t the most sustainable or ethical, yet you’re here reading about corporate social responsibility. Which means you are looking for guidance, or at the very least, you are curious about the movement. Kudos. No really, taking the first step towards CSR is learning about it, no matter how deep you are into your brand journey.

“When I joined the business 12 years ago, it was all about the product, and that was it. And if we made great product, that’s all that customers cared about. Today, it is so much more about the people and process behind the product, and the storytelling that goes around it. Consumers want to know what they are investing in.” - Ken

The light at the end of the tunnel is once you are proud of your product’s quality, your story almost writes itself. Through quality comes the enablement of transparency, and consumers are practically beating down doors to learn more about a brand. Which is worth the trouble because the benefits of transparency may be felt not only intrinsically, but financially.

“73 percent of consumers say they're willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency.” - Inc.com

It’s never too late if you’re still in business, and hopefully you want to gear up for a marathon, not a sprint. Even fashion titans like Zara have recently committed to move towards 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025.

So I challenge you - take a moment, think about your brand today. Can you imagine the tipping point at which you truly believe your brand is creating positive impact in the world? Imagine the potential story you that could come to life by making the commitment to doing better.

The Ripple Effects of Doing Good

Just as we always say, businesses are in business to make money, but by enabling businesses to profit- we are enabling them to give back more. And that’s exactly what Natori is doing. Which is why we wanted to make sure to spread the word about Voice of the Free, an organization that helps support Filipino victims of human trafficking. Through Natori’s success, they are supporting this amazing charity by building a mentorship program for trafficking victims at Natori’s factory in the Philippines. They will also be donating the proceeds of their website on July 30th in honor of World Day Against Human Trafficking.