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Your brand – Is it your baby or your business?

April 13, 2012

As a cosmetic chemist working with a wide range of brand owners and product developers I can smell the difference a mile off now but that wasn’t always the case.  In the early days I’d bash my head against the wall frequently when, through just doing my job I was confronted with responses ranging from  a vacant ‘not for my baby’ stare to a fearsome roar of ‘how dare you tell me that this isn’t working’.  I try not to make a point of ripping people’s brands to shreds – its one of the reasons I don’t blog about every new product or attend every glossy launch.  However, when you pay me for a review, review is exactly what I do with my business not baby hat on thank you very much.

Now before you feel the need to cry out ‘but I sweated blood over this’ I know and I sympathise with the baby analogy, indeed Realize Beauty was my baby for a while there (and a little part of me will never let that go and nor should it) but there does come a time when you have to sit back and re-assess, allowing your ‘baby’ to grow up.

You can build a brand from two start-up perspectives – my brand is a vehicle to make me money OR my brand is an extension of who I am and I love it.  Both exist and both are fine at that point.  If you brand exists to make money then you do your market research thoroughly, identify a clear niche, work out how to fill it as effectively as possible then roll out the marketing bandwagon.  If your brand is an extension of yourself you go about creating what you always wanted.  Yes you do market research and you find out that you do actually fill a niche – only it is likely that you have been somewhat blinded by your love for the idea that the research that you have done has focused on what conforms to your idea and ignored what didn’t fit.  This is hard to judge as love does funny things to our brains and tends to make us very cross when people question it……

That’s start-up and it will get you so far but then you have to stick.

The cash-cow model is great at getting ‘sensible’ products to market but it can feel quite hollow once the launch has been and gone.  At some point in the execution of this financial genius plan the brand has to grow a heart. Bells have to start ringing and people have to fall in love with the beauty that you have created, it needs to grow a personality – nobody EVER falls in love with a profits calculator.  This can be difficult as the personality type that approaches a skin care brand like a military operation (and there are lots) may not have the grass-roots love of their creation needed to keep it going.  That’s OK as long as it is recognised early as there is nothing wrong with hiring people who do ‘get it’ to adopt your baby and bring it up with love under your careful financial and marketing guidance.  Everyone is happy!

The ‘baby love’ model tends to sustain a brand up to a certain point and that point usually revolves around sustainability. For a small business sustainability is about two things – energy to inject in and cash to take out.  We’ve all fallen in love and forgot to eat, pay bills and do anything other than gaze into the star-studded distance but we all know that phase must pass.  For ‘love’ brands that phase usually ends abruptly with a partner or friend pointing out that while the brand is great and all when is it going to stop draining you?  When will the rewards kick in?  This doesn’t have to be in the form of a massive pay check, indeed many brands don’t really mind if it never pays much but we all need a break and feeling like your baby needs your very last breath five, six, seven even ten years after you set out is quite frankly exhausting.

Brands built on love alone are rarely scalable ‘as-is’ due to the formulation costs being high,  the owner being too reluctant to ‘let go’,  ingredient supply being too un-reliable or the brand direction being just a little bit too niche or complicated.  This isn’t impossible to iron out but the longer that it goes on, the higher the ‘therapy’ costs to move the brand into a position where it can stand on its own two feet.

So, what is the best way to approach your brand?  

Whatever it is that you want to get out of it (and profit for your sports car isn’t always necessary or desired) the best way to get it is to find the sweet balance between love and business sense.  In many ways having a brand is like giving birth but as with real life babies our desire should be to set them up with all of the tools and skills needed to go see the world alone rather than sit tugging at mummies apron strings.

 

 

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