It happens all the time… someone reaches out for help “launching their brand” but all of their questions are about finding a factory, negotiating price and selling the goods. There’s nothing wrong with those questions; in fact, if you never work out these details it would be impossible to build a brand. But even if you get all of them right, none of it will actually do much in way of brand-building.
When it’s all said and done, a brand is nothing more than a promise.
Think about it: Nike invented the modern running shoe, so it stands to reason that their brand is all about athletics and uncovering the athlete in all of us. And after 50 years in business, if I show you a piece of clothing and all you know about it is that it bears the Nike swoosh, you’d likely assume it’d be a good technical item to wear when getting your sweat on.
But Converse invented the modern basketball shoe. They’ve been making shoes for more than 100 years. And not only is their original basketball shoe still an iconic staple, it’s modern equivalent is worn on the court by NBA players to this day.
So how come Converse represents rock and roll and freedom of expression (fun fact: their new office includes a recording studio) and not basketball the way Nike owns athletics?
It all comes down to the promises each brand chooses to make.
Flint and Tinder, the company I started a little over a year and a half ago, promises to try harder than any clothing company you’ve ever dealt with before, while making premium men’s basics in a transparent way you can be proud of. It’s a mouthful, so we don’t really write it anywhere, but after more than a hundred thousand garments made (read: garments that get closer to delivering on that promise every day) and almost as many customer service situations dealt with with an eye towards making customers happy no matter what (read: things do, from time to time, go awry… but it doesn’t change our mission and it doesn’t mean we can’t accomplish it regardless) our customers are starting to know what we represent.
Remember a logo is just a visual cue to let someone know that this item is yours – the way cattle ranchers “brand” cattle – but the brand itself is a promise. And if you want to get it right, you’re going to want to hone in on what that promise is before you start designing, selecting factories, negotiating prices or working on marketing… because this promise, and understanding what’s important to it and what’s not, will affect all of those decisions.
Ask yourself the following questions when attempting to lock down your brand promise:
1 – What will be true about the products I make on day one, that I also want to be true 100 years from now?
2 – What do I want my customers to assume about my product before they even open the box?
3 – Is what I hope to deliver to my customers something they believe is possible so that if/when I miss the mark they’ll understand I wasn’t lying to them? (EXAMPLE: Clothing can make you look and feel like a millionaire’s “million bucks”… it probably can’t actually make you rich)
4 – The hardest question of all: Are you being honest with yourself and is this promise something true to your deepest intentions?
The clearer, the more concise, more honest and true you make your promises, the greater your chances of building a brand that stands the test of time.
This is your compass. Next time, we’ll talk about the journey it will take you on!