Bynd Artisan: A Retail Luxury Brand’s Journey of Innovation and Transformation

In May 2020, Winnie Chan and James Quan, the co-founders of Bynd Artisan (Bynd), a Singapore-based atelier that sold premium paper and leather goods, were deliberating about the retail strategy for their second brand, which was to be launched in 2021.

Established in October 2014 as a distinct entity from Chan’s traditional paper and leather goods family business, Bynd had grown into an iconic retail luxury brand, espousing artisanal excellence and heritage through its bespoke products and workshops in craftsmanship for hobbyists and organisations. It offered customers the choice of personalising their items and experiencing the product development process at its retail stores.

Bynd’s branding strategy targeting the niche luxury segment aimed to repackage the company’s traditional artisanship, value add to the products, and reinvent its retail platform. “We decided to apply business innovation to create a superlative and aspirational customer-centric brand by leveraging and embracing the company’s 70-year legacy, instead of running away from it,” shared Chan.

By early 2020, Bynd had five retail stores in Singapore, including a flagship atelier in Holland Village (an enclave for local brands), three standalone retail stores in premium shopping malls (Ion Orchard, Takashimaya, and Raffles City) and a shop-in-shop outlet in multi-label fashion boutique Pedder on Scotts. In 2016, the company won ‘Design of the Year’ at the President’s Design Awards, and in 2019, the Singapore Tourism Board chose Chan and Quan as its ‘Passion Made Possible’ Ambassadors.

Bynd engaged a public relations firm to help develop its market outreach plan and generate press coverage for new product launches, store openings, and other events. It invited key influencers in the community and the press to visit its ateliers and experience its workshops, and gifted them signature items to generate positive word of mouth. In addition, the founders took on the role of key brand ambassadors, actively engaging the media to create a positive and wide press coverage of the company through frequent interviews and participation in public events.

The concerted effort put behind building the brand on the retail front strengthened Bynd’s appeal to corporate clients too. “As a wholesale supplier, we had no control over branding - our products were marked with the brand of the company that bought the gift items from us. Our corporate buyers were highly price sensitive, and price was the key consideration factor in their decision-making.” shared Chan. “Now, despite Bynd being 20% to 30% more expensive than the products sold by Original Equipment Manufacturers or other traders, corporates prefer our products for gifting, and insist on using our brand name. Clearly, the perceived value of our brand is much higher than the price premium we command”, she added.

Bynd’s existing product line with its intricate designs and premium pricing primarily catered to professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) above the age of 23 years. Chan recognised the need to expand into new customer segments, such as the post-millennials who belonged in the 18 to 23 years old age group. She shared, “We found that we had few customers below the age of 23 years. Our sophisticated designs were not trendy enough for the younger generation. Moreover, young customers tended to buy cheaper items. For example, they would buy a customised notebook for $35, but it would be very difficult to sell them a $200 bag. On the other hand, a PMET will happily go for a $200 bag, as for her, it is ten times less expensive than a Prada bag.”

To target this segment, Chan and Quan decided to introduce a second product line under the brand name ‘reBynd’, which was made of recycled material, comprised simpler but more modern designs, and was priced significantly lower than Bynd. Chan hoped that the brand with its twin attributes – affordable luxury and sustainability – would resonate with the young adults who were quality and environment conscious and sought affordable prices.

This case study, written by Kapil Tuli, SMU Lee Kong Chian Professor of Marketing and Director, Retail Centre of Excellence; and Sheetal Mittal at The Centre for Management Practice (CMP) at SMU, examines the process of building a heritage-based luxury brand, and the importance of customer engagement and perceived value in developing strong brand equity. The case also identifies different growth strategies that can be adopted, the construct of brand organisation and architecture; and the implications of the retail-mix adopted on a company’s brand building efforts.

To read the case in full, please visit the CMP website by clicking here.