A small, tiny brand, that "sells" all over the world.
The Global Microbrand is nothing new; they've existed for a while, long before the internet was invented. Imagine a well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world. Or a small whisky distillery in Scotland. Or a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. Ditto with a violin maker in Italy. A classical guitar maker in Spain. Or a small English firm making $50,000 shotguns.Global Microbrands do not need to have a blog or a websire. But it's very useful to have one, just my opinion.
With the internet, of course, a global microbrand is easier to create than ever before. A commercial sign maker in New England. Or a sheet metal entrepreneur in the U.K.
And with the advent of blogs this was no longer just limited to people who made products. We saw that any service professional with a bit of talent and something to say could spread their message far and wide beyond their immediate client base and local market, without needing a high-profile name or the goodwill of the mainstream media. People like Jennifer Rice, Johnnie Moore and Evelyn Rodriguez come to mind.
But it's not just limited to cottage industries. The great Tom Peters talks about "Brand You", a personal brand that transcends your organisation or job description. The grand-daddy of this space is probably Robert Scoble, who may work full-time for Microsoft, but whose brand is much, much larger than any job description they could give him; that's worth far more than anything they're ever likely to pay him.
Once I created my own fledgling global microbrand (i.e. via this weblog) I started helping other people do the same. A bespoke Savile Row tailor. A Master Jeweler. A small vinyard in South Africa. It was something I really wanted to know about. It was professionally the most compelling idea I had ever come come across. I was hooked.
Of course, "The Global Microbrand" is not conceptual rocket science. You don't need a Nobel Prize in order to understand the idea. What excites me about it is the fact that I now live in a small cottage in the English boonies, and careerwise I'm getting a lot more done than when I lived in a large apartment in New York or London, for a fifth of the overheads. For one fiftieth of the stress levels.
I have two global microbrands under my belt, Stormhoek and English Cut.
A few months ago I talked about what had led to English Cut's success:
1. A great product. Thomas is one of the best tailors in the world. His suits REALLY ARE that good. If we were just selling commodified drek, I doubt if anyone would've paid much attention.With Stormhoek, the process was much more indirect. That being said, having a blog doubled our sales in 12 months.
2. A unique story. When he started, Thomas was the only Savile Row tailor writing a blog, and this gave him a unique voice in the blogosphere. This fuelled the interest. Had masses of tailors already been blogging, it would've been much harder for his own unique "idea-virus" to spread. The first-mover advantage rule still applies.
3. Passion & Authority. Thomas has both in spades. That's what kept people coming back. That's what built up trust. That's what turned his readers into customers. Which is why "Share what you love" is the best advice there is.
4. Continuity. He kept at it. He didn't expect the blog to transform his fortunes overnight. As I'm fond of saying, "Blogs don't write themselves". Based on our experience, if you want blogs to transform your business, I'd say give yourself at least a year.
6. Thomas spoke in his own voice. Thomas is a straightforward, affable fellow, and the voice on the blog is the same as the voice you meet in real life. He never tried to misrepresent himself on his blog, nor try to create some over-glamorized image of his profession. He just told it like it is. And people responded well to that. As he once put it, "We're so lucky we don't have to create the brand out of thin air. We just tell the truth and the brand builds itself."
7. Sovereignty. The only people we had to please were the two of us. No bosses or outside investors to keep happy. Bosses and investors like guarantees, but there aren't any.
8. We were both broke when we started. Had we had masses of money at the beginning, we would have had a lot more options on how to get the word out. In all likelihood, these options would have been a lot more expensive and not nearly as effective. Sometimes lack of capital is a definite advantage.
I have been saying this for years, and still not everybody believes me: "Blogs are a good way of making things happen indirectly."My conclusion: Having a global microbrand is not a bad way to make a living. The biggest benefit to me has been not necessarily the money, but the level of personal sovereignty it affords me. I think that's the main appeal.
No, bloggers and their friends didn't start suddenly descending on supermarkets, buying the wine in large numbers. That's not how it works.
What happened is that by interfacing with the blogosphere, it fundementally changed how Stormhoek looked at treating their primary customers (the supermarket chains) and the end-users (the supermarkets' customers).
i.e. It caused an internal disruption, both within the company and the actual trade. Wine drinkers' basic purchasing habits didn't change because of the meme, but the meme allowed Stormhoek to align itself more closely with said habits.
Secondly, if I were again to create a global microbrand from scratch, there's no way I would do it without a blog. No way on God's Earth.Posted by hugh macleod at November 29, 2006 8:38 AM | TrackBack