The Grapevine

Brand Personality and What You Stand Against

June 2nd, 2015

The New York Times Magazine recently gave the long-form treatment to the “In Pursuit of Balance” folks who are perhaps the highest profile group amongst the anti-Parker crowd. Plenty has been written of the style wars – high-alcohol, highly extracted vs. more restrained approaches – and I’m not going to go into that again. But the fight that the IPOB folks are waging has relevance for small business owners everywhere. [level-members]

We have written frequently about the importance of carving out your own place in the market. As a small business, it’s the only viable option for long-term survival. You can’t compete on price because there’s always someone desperate enough or dumb enough to drive themselves out of business by discounting.

And you can’t win on selection, because the internet is just a little bit better stocked than your shop.

So intend of being all things to all people, you have to stake out some unique – or at least interesting – ground.

In essence, that’s what the IPOB folks have done, though they’ve created a bit of a religious war in the process. I don’t imagine that was their intent when they started, though I’m sure they love the attention. They just happened to have a very powerful, very publicly entrenched opposition whose economic livelihoods depended on the popularity of the wines that IPOB was fighting against.

That’s probably less of a danger for us as small business owners, but still bears thinking as we build our business, create a brand for it, and present that brand and our business to the market. An argument can be made that having a really strong brand position – the kind of position that is likely to be unpopular with some people – is the best way to ensure your business’ survival.

It’s also not uncommon to view branding in reverse terms. In other words, it’s not just what you stand for, but what you stand against.

So don’t sell the mass-market brands if they don’t fit your overall vision, and don’t stock the “cult cabernets” if they aren’t what you’re all about. And don’t be shy about letting the world what you stand against. Sometimes that’s an easier idea for your customers to understand.