It's easy for a big company to build a great brand; they just throw tons of cash at the challenge. This doesn't necessarily mean that they do a good job of it though, rather they have the money to completely wallpaper everyone's reality with their messaging and ultimately force a semblance of a solution on us all.
Smaller brand? Well, by necessity, they need to be a lot more shrewd and discerning when it comes to strategy.
What gets created, and how, has to be ultra-precise; just the right serving of something special for a very particular customer.
Achieving this kind of clarity of direction for most is extremely difficult. The lure of wanting to be all things to all people is for most entrepreneurs like putting a full bottle of Jack Daniels near Keith Richards; strong.
One small independent brand that consistently gets it right however is The House of Machines.
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For those that don't know, The House of Machines (THoM) is a bar in Shortmarket Street Cape Town that has become somewhat of an institution in the city.
It's been around for about 10 years and in that time has survived a crushing pandemic (not many bars and restaurants survived the lockdowns) and are now in the process of opening up another THoM in New York City.
Offering live music, something tasty to eat, a lot to drink, merch and an honest, authentic night-out experience - it can't really be compared to anything else.
There is a certain uniqueness to everything about this brand.
What the creators of The House of Machines totally understand is that where you choose to have a drink, says a lot about who you as an individual.
And they have carefully built the brand up from this simple kernel of truth.
Opting to go to THoM for a coffee or an early evening drink with friends is designed to communicate something about yourself to others. Being a fan of THoM works as a social loudhailer as to how you see the world; what you value, what your vibe is.
Walking across the threshold of an inner city bar that offers complementary parking to those who arrive only on motorcycles and encourages its patrons to not be a dick is definitely not for everyone, but that's exactly what makes it so damn potent.
What they get so right with their particular marketing strategy (and why it's such a good example to take careful note of) is that they have managed to achieve seamless excellence in holistic brand building.
What is holistic brand building?
This is ultimately what modern branding is becoming. Every aspect of the business is the brand.
The brand is king; it is the product. It's not designed to be an add-on to the other parts of the business...it's what leads everything.
Here's a good example of how it translates; this is a THoM poster for one of their events.
That other drinking establishments that you know of go to this much trouble for a poster? If this were for sale in an art gallery, we'd be keen buyers.
This is but just one example of a brand not shy to put a lot of effort and money into something as 'seemingly trivial' as a poster.
It's exactly this keen attention to detail that pervades everything else.
Unusually for most local businesses design doesn't get handed over to the cheapest service provider; a lot is invested back into the 'intangibles of the operation' because that's what makes The House of Machines, The House of Machines.
Brands like THoM are built on the back of being consistent, unique, targeted and bullish with their marketing spend.
When budgets are allocated for important deliverables in business, money is assigned to 'important things' first...and then whatever is left over is reluctantly given to marketing.
When times are tight, the marketing budget get canned first, because 'why waste money on marketing when nobody is buying anyway?'
Cutting funding to marketing may seem like a plausible solution to a wide range of problems, but this kind of thinking is totally wrong.
Cut your marketing budget and you are literally choosing to end your business' relationship with positive cash flow.
What you save in the short-term you have to pay back in many multiples later on when you need to claw back the ground you have lost to competitors.
Marketing as a function is never the problem, but perhaps the issue might be (if your organisation is struggling to recognise the true value of marketing) in the quality of the marketing output and the resulting return on investment that it produces.
'Doing marketing' (as I have heard it being called before) is not a tick box exercise. There is a world of difference between good marketing and poor marketing.
Holistic brand building is taking a perspective that nothing is more vital than creating and developing a high-quality intimate mental and physical bond with the right customers; and then making that ideal picture a reality.
On the other side lies (1) a community of fans that will do anything to support and promote your brand, and (2) sustainable cash flow.
Getting it right takes talent, money, time, persistence and lots of effort, but what else are you going to do?