While focusing on the product, however, what I didn’t talk about was the brand. Admittedly, both are intrinsically linked. But it is important to distinguish between the two and think of them as separate entities that you can develop alongside one another, even at the earliest stage of a startup.
Your brand can add real value to your product. Take Molton Brown, for example. It makes soap. Fancy soap. But fancy only (as far as I can tell) because it smells nice, is packaged well, and is, to borrow a strap line from Stella Artois, reassuringly expensive.
I am continually exasperated when my wife returns from a wobble (she is pregnant) around town with a crisp paper bag brimmed with carefully wrapped bottles of sweet-smelling, multi-coloured liquid. For which she has had to re-mortgage our house and sell our yet-to-be-born baby to a Hollywood movie star to raise the handsome sum necessary (around four billion pounds) to make the purchase.
I mean come on. £15 for some Amber Cocoon Fine Liquid Hand Wash. They saw her coming, right? As did Mulberry, when she spent the best part of £600 on a handbag. I once bought a Volkswagen Golf for less than that. Okay so it was a crap Volkswagen Golf, but it was still a Volkswagen Golf. A proper car that I could sit in and drive. You cannot sit in and drive a Mulberry handbag.
Apologies, I got carried away there. My point is: companies like Molton Brown and Mulberry have added real value to their products by making their brands exclusive and desirable. You can do this with anything. Marks and Spencer do it with apples. Evian do it with water for chrissake. WATER!
And it works. My missus pays £15 for soap so that when guests visit they think we’re sophisticated and posh. I do my best to demonstrate otherwise by making bad smells and leaving the toilet seat up, but nevertheless her equally consumer-happy friends return from our downstairs loo and, inevitably, say something like: “ooh, that soap smells lovely and it’s made my hands feel so soft…” Grrr.
We even have a £45 bottle of Jo Malone ‘room spray’ in there. I was astonished when this innocently and somewhat covertly appeared one afternoon. I Googled it and discovered the price. Crazy. I hit the roof.
Anywho, putting domestic bliss to one side for a moment, here’s what I’m getting at: when launching a new business, it is important to give some thought to your brand and how you want to be perceived in a crowded market. Decide what you want it to say about you and your product(s).
And don’t forget: it works the other way around, too. Many companies sell their deliberately less exclusive and expensive products in volume on the principle that they are much better value than their higher priced competitors. Soap for £1, not £15. Much better methinks.