The future: global micro-brands

Walking the Via del Corso here in Rome, an American is exposed to all sorts of designers and boutiques that are uniquely Italian. You can find the same spirit in the Soho area of New York and on Haight Street in San Francisco, but secretly and quietly, this spirit is going global.

The micro-brand is the new, new, new thing. Global brands like Guess, Cartier and Hallmark will be around for a long time, but in this day and age, a new class of consumer has emerged that is creating new opportunities for insightful entrepreneurs. This consumer is flush with disposable income, and has a comfortable life. You might call them yuppies, but that’d be a misnomer.

A big part of this consumer’s identity is his or her unique expression in the world, and that is strongly defined by the accoutrements and accessories – the “nice to have’s”, not “must haves”. This consumer will happily buy the generic brand facial scrub at CVS, but would never think of buying Levi’s jeans.

The fashion industry in particular has benefited from this consumer, especially denim and t-shirt manufacturers. But so many other opportunities abound to connect with the micro-brand hunter: greetings cards, fashion accessories, hotels and spas, makeup and skincare, music and art, and FOOD. Find me a religiously good balsamic with no brand, and I’ll find you some converts.

Of course, it’s not as easy as opening a website, but it doesn’t have to be much more difficult. Some of the key factors you need to consider in establishing your micro-brand:
– Uniqueness: It can’t be identical to something you can buy at The Gap or a room at which you’d stay in a Hilton
– Quality: These consumers are dogmatic about quality and the sources of your materials
– Design: It needs some unique design elements
– Packaging: You feel like you’re unwrapping the coolest gift in the world when you open an iPod box. A micro-brand should aspire to the same.

All of these things should come together into one brand: Hans Koch handbags, One and Only resorts, Never Without You denim. Three examples of micro-brands that have it all down. The brand becomes synonymous with the consumer’s identity.

Price isn’t as important to these consumers if their other needs are met, so with a sufficiently unique brand, you can expect high margins.

Got a cool doodle? A unique, age-defying elixer? Consumers are out there for you – go find them!

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