Monday, 14 February 2011

Authentic Brand Building

Heston Blumenthal at Dinner. Photograph: David Levene
Two brand stories struck me as great examples of genuine passion, tenacity and flair this morning. And with amazing success from very different start points.

Heston Blumenthal has grown his brand (which is largely himself) as a second career, but a first obsession. His taste buds were first tickled at the tender age of 16 when, at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Provence, he ate, "red mullet with a sauce vierge, lamb in puff pastry and crèpes bauminière. And thought, 'This is it!'"

At the age of 29 he sold his home and started The Fat Duck in Bray, where he earned a reputation for 'culinary alchemy' and eventually three Michelin stars. His acuity for brand building is faultless and, out-strips his thirst for financial gain. Apparently, the Fat Duck doesn't actually make money. Some stats that are a testament to the power of the brand: On an average day the receptionists answer around 400 calls, the system logs 24,000 that fail to get through. On one bank holiday 32,000 missed calls were logged. However, Mr Blumenthal is decreasing the number of seats, and he says, "Because with fewer covers we can pay more attention to detail. The Duck allows everything else to happen - so everything I do is to pay back the Duck and protect it." This is understanding what matters about branding. And is 100% authentic.

Victoria Beckham's autumn 2011 collection goes on show during New York fashion week. Her bags command four-figure price tags. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

The next brand has gone from nothing to pretty damned stunning in two and a half years. Victoria Beckham's fashion label. OK, she had fame and notoriety, and money, but she didn't have fashion designer credibility or that many people saying, "Oh yeah, that will work."

She has defied the nay-sayers by delivering distinctive catwalk style over five seasons. Her catwalk commentary is intimate, self-depracating and winning. She emits a personal style that is wearable, elegant and wantable. And she's done that great fashion designer signifier - the bag. To quote the article in today's Guardian, "Beckham and Simon Fuller, her partner in the label, are playing the long game in building the brand." Clever, measured, authentic and as elegant as her frocks. Is she the next Coco Chanel?