Veronique M Klomp | Blog about branding with a dash of fashion

Assignment Two | Describe a Brand: Acne Studios

I Believe Acne Studios is different to other brands: it’s a product with integrity, a company that makes principled aesthetic decisions and never resorts to marketing tricks, even though they have hundreds of outlets. For a fashion company it’s the most difficult challenge to remain relevant and desirable in an ever-crowded  marketplace. The in which Acne manages to plays this game, whilst also appearing to remain above the fray, I find a deeply impressive accomplishment. I am intrigued that, despite the use of non-traditional advertising methods, Acne still became such a well-known brand. This is why I chose Acne.


Acne Studios is a cutting-edge fashion label which heritage can be found in Stockholm, Sweden. The brand was founded in 1996 by creatives (Acne, n.d.). In the beginning Acne took a big risk by spending all the money they had by developing 100 pairs of jeans. The strategy was to get somebody cool to wear it and wear it in front of their colleagues.  The strategy worked and within no time Acne rapidly gained marked shares across the globe (Yeager, 2013).

Brands elements

Brand elements are trademarkable devices that help to identify and differentiate a brand. These elements should be chosen to create brand awareness. The main brand elements are brand names, logos, symbols, spokespeople, slogans, jingles, packages and signatures (Keller, 2012). Acne has just a few of these elements: the brand name, logo and packaging. Later on I will discuss these elements and analyze if these elements meet the criteria for brand elements. In general there are six criteria for brand element: memorability, meaningfulness, likability, transferability, adaptability and protect ability (Keller, 2012). These criteria well be clarified with reference to the brand elements.

The Name

The word ‘acne’ wasn’t very fashion up until 1996. The name Acne, otherwise known as a common skin disorder, actually stands for Ambition to Create Novel Expressions. In the beginning Johnny Johanson, one of the cofounders, liked the idea of using and inappropriate different word and making it cool. Nowadays Johanson is actually embarrassed by the name. People said it was a weird name and Johanson agrees. The brand’s official title now is Acne Studios (Cochrane, 2013). While the brand name struggled with the name in the beginning, stores like Harrods and Barneys didn’t want the purchase the brand, nowadays the majority of the people in Stockholm associate the word ‘acne’ with the brand and not with the skin disorder (The Independent, 2008).

Looking at the criteria’s the brand scores on four out of the six criteria. Because of the provocative name, ones you heard the name it is likely that you would never forget it again. On the other hand almost nobody know what the actual characters stand for, this implies that the actual brand name will not be very easy recognized. To meet the criteria meaningfulness there are two dimensions the brand needs to meet: 1. Does it give general information about the nature of the product category and 2. Does it give specific information about particular attributes and benefits of the brand. The first dimension is an important determinant of brand awareness and salience; the second, of brand image and positioning (Keller, 2012). Looking at the first important dimension of being meaningful the brand doesn’t deliver, when reading Ambition to Create Novel Expression or Acne you wouldn’t think of an apparel brand. But on the second dimention it certainly delivers: it has a persuasive meaning and suggest something about the particular key attribute that are important for the brand. Also it suggest something about the type of person who might use the brand. If the brand element is useful for a line or category extension than the brand elements is transferable. Because the name Acne is not a very specific name it also meets the criteria of transferability. Ones a name is filed as a brand name it’s not possible to copy the name by other brand, therefore the name meets the criteria protectability. The last criteria is adaptable, Acne changed its name into Acne Studios and nobody had a problem with it, so the name is quite adaptable and flexible.

There is one element – likeability – of which this brand element, in my opinion, doesn’t deliver. But I don’t mind that this elelement doesn’t deliver, let me explain; Well as written before a lot of people the find the name very appealing therefore it doesn’t meet this criteria but the founders consciously had chosen this brand name, even though they knew it would cause weird associations.

The Logo


The logo of Acne is an oval shapes circle with an house in the middle. Within that circle there is written: Acne Studios Stockholm. Sadly I couldn’t find anything about the logo but after doint some research I discover, thanks to Google Street View, the house centered in the logo is the actual head office of Acne.

The logo isn’t very memorable, I even forgot that this was their logo. I think this is mainly caused by the placement of this logo. The logo is always very small and placed in the background. The logo doesn’t tell anything about what they might produce, it only tells about the heritage of the label. The logo is quite interesting, because why would you put a house on your logo. It’s a very indirect way to show your heritage. The logo can be easy transferred and because the logo has a very minor position it’s very easy to adapt without people even noticing. The logo of the brand is very unique and because of the personal touch of the head office it has no use for them to copy the logo. Therefore it’s protected.

The Packaging

Packaging is one of the important elements when building brand equity. There are several objectives for packaging to be successful. These objectives are: facilitating the product transportation and protection, identifying the brand, conveying information that is both descriptive and persuasive and aid in product consumption (Keller, 2012).

All the shopping bags, merchandising and stationery is covered in pink. Acne likes nothing better than to use a color that is a bit wrong with the height of cool. Schiller wanted recognizable bags, which they are. The funny thing about it is that you see all these butch guys waking around with pink bags (Cochrane, 2013). The color became such a strong association with the brand that they didn’t care that it had a feminine color.

Acne has done a good job in making their packaging memorable, everyone that knows the brand, knows that their packaging is pink and will recognize it imidiatly. The materials that a used shows that the product category is more luxurious and often this kind of packaging is used in high fashion brand stores. Therefore it also meets the criteria meaningful. Because of the materials and the color I find the packing very aesthetically appealing, so the packaging meet the criteria likability.  The colors and materials is for all line or brand extensions useful and it can also be easily adapted. The packaging is always quite the same in every high fashion brand store, you apparel rapped in thin white paper put into a paper bag with ribbon handles, the only thing that make it unique is often the color and the brand name on the bag. 

IMG_8928 (682x455)

The Mantra 

The Brand Mantra is a 3-5 word shorthand to capsulate the brands positioning. It’s cannot be confused with a slogan or some sort, because the mantra is used for internal purposes. The mantra is at its most powerful when it becomes deeply resonant piece in the DNA of the brand and is used as touchstone when making difficult decisions (Grams, 2009).

At Acne all the activities revolve around one core principle: art and industry are equal. Whether their working in the digital, film, advertisement, apparel or paper department, the creative collective of Acne always takes this principle as lead (Swiatkovski, 2010).

Points of Differentiation

Within the positioning of a brand there are two element, apart from the others, that are essential. These are the points of parity and the points of differentiation. The points of parity are the points meet the elements that are important when buying a product, e.g. quality. So before the brand points out his competitive advantages they need to make sure that they identify with all the point in its category. The points of differentiation makes a brand unique. This is where the competitive advantage are being reflected (Voorn, R., personal communication, 2013).

In the beginning it was very clear on which points Acne wanted to be different; they didn’t want to be another street brand. They wanted to be a disciplinary film – design – consulting collective. Back than this idea was innovation and – in my eyes – ambitious; Nowadays you see more and more brands that do more than just selling apparel. Partly, because we – as consumers – want more than just a piece of clothing.

Apart from that points of difference, Acne is a company that – as said before – makes principled aesthetic decisions and never resorts to marketing tricks.


Brand Equity

In order to have a strong brand, you most shape how customer think and feel about your product. Trough experiencing you need to create that customer have a specific, positive thoughts, feelings, beliefs opinions and perceptions about it. When you brand equity is strong, customers will buy more of that certain brand, they’ll recommend it to other people, they’re more loyal and less likely to lose them to competitor (Keller, 2012).

In my perspective Acne had a very strong brand equity. It’s not a brand that everybody know but once you know it you’re hooked. If I would have the money to buy all my clothes there I would, unfortunately I can’t. I often go to the store and just look around, I love the store and the people who work there.

However, it has been found that there is an incoherence between the brand identity and the brand image of Acne (Andersson & Robertson, 2008). While this coherence is very important in order to create brand equity. Acne want to communicate a brand identity that shows the symbolic value as individuality, innovative style and high fashion. While high fashion is represented to a great extend. The image did not include the aspects of innovativeness nor individuality. Never the less, the associations differ between people in possesion of Acne clothes and people who didn’t. People who possessed Acne associated the brand as a brand with high quality, innovative design and tailored apparel to a higher extent than people who didn’t.

Since brand associations are very important to create brand equity, My overall conclusions is that Acne need to do some work in order to build a strong equity. 

Brand Salience

Making sure that you stand out, and that customers are aware of it and recognize it, is called brand salience. It’s not only about creating brand identity and awareness it also trying to ensure that the brands perceptions are correct at the key stages of the buying process (Keller, 2012).

The research mentioned earlier show that there is in incoherence between the brand identity and what the publics perceptions of the brand.  However is could be agued that because Acne addresses to a more specific target group it is unrepresentative when using the general image. Besides, as told before the word Acne in certain tribes doesn’t recall the skin disorder anymore. The first thing they think of is the fashion label. I think this certainly says about the brand salience of Acne they maybe didn’t  manage to get the right perceptions of the brand but  they managed to change the associations of the word ‘acne’.  

Financial Value

I couldn’t find the financial value of Acne. However, I could find the total revenue of Acne in 2012 – €84 million,  – which show how highly protifable the business is (Yeager, 2013).  


Acne Studios (n.d.) History. Retrieved, September 12, 2013, from:

Andersson, H. & Robertson, F. (2008) Ance Jeans and Brand Associations: A Study of the Coherency Between the Brand Identity and the Brand Image. Masters Thesis, Uppsala Universitat, Uppsala. 

Grams, C. (2009) Brand positioning tip #3: the brand mantra. Retrieved, September 9, 2013, from:

Cochreane, L. (2013) Acne: 10 things you should knwo about the hot fashion brand. Retrieved, September 3, 2013, from:

Keller, K. (2012) Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equility [Global Edition]. Pearson Education Limited. 

Swiatkowski, D. (2010) Futurist Manifesto: Graduation Project (2010). Bachelors Thesis, Amsterdam Fashion Institute part of Hogeschool van Amsterdam, Amsterdam.  

The Independent (2008) Acne : A clear winner. Retrieved, September 12, 2013, from:

Yeager, L. (2013) How Acne Became a Powehaus.Retrieved, September 3, 2013, from:

This entry was published on September 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm. It’s filed under Branding and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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