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How do you change the perception of a brand in a less than a year?

The folks at Neiman Marcus had a problem they hoped we’d help to solve: most of their national publicity positioned them as a regional Texas store. Do women in Dallas wear black? What’s going on with hemlines in Dallas? Will Dallas customers cough up five figures for a handbag?

For a retailer who had spent the better part of two decades building stores from sea to shining sea, this was not a complement.

I flew to Dallas, met with their team, and was blown away. They knew more about American retail at the top of the pyramid than anyone I’d ever spoken to. From earrings to ermine, Baccarat to boxer shorts, they told me how much they understood about their customers – all of their customers – from what they bought to how they paid for it. If the Neiman Marcus executives were a little defensive about their national overview, it only fueled their discourse.

I am certain there was an expectation that MEIER would solve their problem by inventing a layout or a phrase that branded them as America’s Luxury Retailer. But nothing sounded less “luxury” to me than shouting about it. And, anyway, I had a better idea. Instead of wishing the press understood that Neiman Marcus had the great pinnacle overview of luxury retail in America, I thought they should prove it.

The Neiman Marcus Report was born: a quarterly report that told the world what customers were buying, and how they were paying for it; comparing regions, when applicable, instead of apologizing. We took ownership of the top of the market with stories designed to appeal to the fashion press, the social press, the food press, the financial press, and—of course—the retail press. After only one year of the NM Report, I never again heard Neiman Marcus referred to as a Texas store.

What have we done?

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