To build a profitable company you need hustle, but not necessarily a brand.
To Bo Burnham’s point, I don’t need Bagel Bites to stand for something, I just need them in my toaster oven at 3am when I come home from the bar.
So why is there such a recent fervor to brand building? The reason is competition. As the internet has democratized access to products and information, so too has it decimated the barriers to entry. You no longer need bricks and mortar – bullion – to sell a product. You don’t even need a website as independent London fashion label M.92 has proven, you just need a strong strategy and a great product.
This is where brains come in. For many, it is solving a problem; for some, it is hunting the whitespace for an opportunity. In either case, a strong brand with a clear strategy has taken the time to think about their product offering, their market, and their brand story. Although Bagel Bites are on my shopping list, I could just as easily replace them with something healthier, tastier, and likely better for the environment (asking for a friend). Therefore, thoughtful products tend to last longer and gain advocacy quicker than products that are just ‘there’.
Which brings me to balls. The future favors the bold. Those outlier brands that used to be oh-so-disruptive are now table stakes. Truthfully, you need to be some kind of ballsy to get people to stop endlessly scrolling their social media feeds. One such brand that uses this above all else is BrewDog who has grown from two university lads brewing beer in an industrial estate in Scotland to a $2 billion valuation through high-risk PR stunts. With no marketing budget, they relied on shock value with marketing tactics that have included taxidermy animals in bottles of beer, projecting naked images of the founders onto the Houses of Parliament and employing a dwarf to petition the two-thirds pint glass.
These examples should prove that it no longer requires $10m to launch a brand, but rather some brains, some balls, and a little bit of bullion.