Can't Please Everyone
By Rohan Dhir
There are countless different types of people, and it’s a mark of age and maturity when you come to terms with the fact that you can’t please em’ all. It’s the first, and maybe only, rule of the playground. Despite the fact that it’s one of the first things we learn, it takes a while for us to come to terms with and embrace that irrefutable fact.
And brands are like people- at least they’re run by people, for people. I started Archibald hoping that it would appeal to everyone. After all, who wouldn’t embrace the concept- you get the best quality products made by artisans at the top of their field. And the clincher; it’s actually cheaper than traditional big brands. How could that not appeal to everyone? They say the first thing you need to do when starting a business is figure out who your target customer is, and the naive, over-confident 25 year-old Rohan was pretty, pretty certain our concept would appeal to everyone.
Naturally, I was wrong.
A brand can be a powerful, powerful thing. It is all fine and well for us to write polished copy about how we cut out the middlemen, offer a direct to consumer product and empower Joe, Jack and Jane. But ultimately, swathes of story writing about our incredible workshops can’t hold a candle to the effect produced by the following single words: Chanel, Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci. You might even say that effect is impossible to emulate, particularly for a brand explicitly built on being different to the traditional purveyors of luxury. Those one name brands have been built over time on design, heritage, quality, and celebrity, curated to illicit desirability. It doesn’t really matter that many have dropped their quality and standards- they’ve got the name. To assume people will be rational in their shopping choices is irrational. Luxury shopping isn’t about the thing itself, it’s about aspiration and signalling. People aspire to own certain things and fulfill that aspiration by splurging to obtain things made by certain name brands.
I tried to apply the theory to myself. From a very young age, the Porsche 911 Turbo has been the car I’ve aspired to own. If you turned around and offered me the exact same machine, built on the same production line for a third of the price without the Porsche badge, I wouldn’t have that sense of accomplishment I would have had if it came with the shiny Porsche crescent. I wouldn't have fulfilled the dreams of 12 year old me. But then I tried to figure out what makes me want a Porsche.
Ultimately, it comes down to the Porsche machine itself. Ferdinand Porsche had no brand when he built the first car, which he built over a prolonged period of time. It was a fantastic product bought by people who were willing to identify the value in the car, and look past the fact that Mercedes Benz had a richer history. Prada was the same when it started out. A brand was built over time based on product alone, despite the fact that luxury stalwarts were already present. Every single big brand must have started out speaking to a niche audience willing to listen. But then there’s the crucial price tag, which transforms the value of any product to attach significant emotional investment. Would Hermes be Hermes, if they didn't restrict access using an unattainable price from the very beginning? Does making something more accessible, our very raison d’etre, remove it's inherent aspirational qualities? In short- have we screwed ourselves out of the one thing guaranteed to make us successful?
Luckily, our brand journey to date indicates things may not be as dire as the laws of branding dictate. It’s simply a matter of understanding that there are certain people that value a big brand name and there are others who know that what lies beyond the name matters more. Quality, craft, the traceability of materials, heritage, and sustainable manufacturing. Archibald is not for everyone and it never will be. While that’s unfortunate from a business perspective (commercially, of course I wish it was) our success relies on an acceptance that it just doesn’t need to be for everyone. We can’t make everyone happy, and we never will. We’re not just going to accept it- we’ll own it.