What's your personal brand?

Why do people buy this ‘stuff’?

Posted on: Thursday, August 8, 2019 Category: Blog (51)

Have you heard of Supreme? You must have? The company that has kids lining up around the block to buy their products? They get ordinary products and add the word Supreme (in white writing on a red block) and people pay a lot. A whole lot.

What do they do that makes them so special? They understand the value of scarcity. 

Dr Robert Cialdini who literally wrote the book on the art of persuasion calls it scarcity. Since day dot, humans have overly valued the things that are rarest? Diamonds, waterfront land, time, youth, beauty, strength… the list goes on. We will pay a lot for it and that is how Supreme works.

Like many fashion brands, they create two seasons each year. Then they present the ‘drop’. A small run (about 250) of items that come into store and online every Thursday at 11 AM. The scarcity of these items has enabled a burgeoning secondary market. You know that these products will not be around next week.

The famous Supreme ‘brick’ (yes, a common house brick with the Supreme logo written on it) was dropped on one of these Thursdays for $30. Today, it can be bought on the secondary market for $1,000.

They have also completely milked the concept of brand extension. By associating themselves with other brands (collaborations), they can ride on the back of the investment that the company has made in developing its brand.  What is really interesting about Supreme is that most of the brand ‘collaborations’ are not actually that – rather they are simply Supreme using that brand (without its approval) in its products.  Because they do such small runs, they rely on the fact that it will take too long for the other company’s lawyers to take them on, for limited return. Smart move.

Seems to have only backfired a couple of times that are mentioned in the press. Perhaps the most interesting was with Louis Vuitton who issued a cease and desist and then proceeded to actually collaborate with them!

Renowned psychology professor Dr Martin Seligman notes that modern American culture most values good looks, wealth, competitiveness, self-esteem, celebrity and uniqueness. Supreme exploits these values – wealth (cost of their products), competitiveness (scarcity of their products), self-esteem (how much swagger people have when wearing their products), celebrity (association with celebrity wearers of the brand) and uniqueness (scarcity).

The word fresh is used a lot! They create desire – you can see things but the chances are that you will never get to touch them – so that when your chance comes along, you will pay an extreme amount of money for it.

They have carefully selected where they open stores – New York City, Paris, London, Tokyo. Only the coolest, freshest, locations. People travel to them and line up – for a long time!

What does Supreme teach us about branding?

  1. Brands work – their products are actually pretty unexciting
  2. Scarcity works – make your brand scarce and hard to get to; don’t give everything to everyone
  3. Brand association works – associate your brand with other brands that you know are highly valued (connect with them on LinkedIn, quote them, wear them)
  4. Don’t be scared of lawyers – not a lesson we would recommend, but it works for them 😊
  5. Be fresh – renew, refresh, add to your brand

Oh, and the founder apparently sold ½ the company for $500M – that makes them a unicorn!

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