Morrissey once said that we hate it when our friends become famous. Regardless of whether there was any validity in this comment, an interesting thing occurred ... that we also hate it when our brands become successful.
I once loved EAT - a coffee bar that I could only ever find near the Embankment and on Avery Row. Everyone else like Pret. Or Subway. But for me, EAT was all there was. I liked the food, the latte (organic milk, fairtrade beans), the salads. And I liked that I was the person who brought EAT to my friends. EAT was MY brand, dammit.
Now, I cannot move to EATs. There are three within two minutes of the office. Everyone goes to EAT. And I actually resent the money-men who have taken the brand that I loved - that I discovered - and shared it with everyone.
The thing that was done with effortless ease in the early stores is now in a brand book and employee guideline manual. The design that was under-stated and somehow genuine seems now ubiquitous.
So, how do you take a small, home-grown brand that has developed on its own for years and create a super-brand from it? And how do you keep the principles and practices that were home-grown and genuine complete in a superbrand that is run by manuals?
This, it strikes me, is going to be an increasingly major issue for brands that are growing out of small-scale, often local production and retail bases to become national and international brands.
Two things combine:
1) The continued veneration of local brands creating brands that grow from local, small-scale businesses - Tyrrells, Rachels' Organic, Innocent, Stormhoek wine, The Real Greek, Bombay Bicycle.
2) The internet, and therefore the ease with which brands can quickly and easily find an international audience of enthusiasts.
This is going to make the growth of the global microbrand more possible. But it is also going to make it possible for these brands to expand and become superbrands in their own right. How do we as marketers help to manage this process - keeping the essence of what makes these brands special, while helping them to expand and grow?
Er ... discuss?