An e-commerce website goes down. A company’s main source of income screeches to a halt. There is panic. Frantic enactments of backup plans. War rooms fill. And the morning after, the axe swings.
And yet, here I am, the owner of just such a company, just such a non-functioning online store, calmly writing these words. Stranger still, I pulled the plug myself. I took hellohibar.com offline at midnight last night. Sabotage? Crazy? Or…?
Today is the Global Climate Strike. And so HiBAR, the company I started with three friends to help fight single-use plastic, is adding its voice to the call for action. A one-day demonstration of belief.
It was not a tough decision. Whether it costs us money or not didn’t even enter in to the 30-second conversation that led to the agreement amongst the partners.
We just did it because it felt right, and because to NOT do it would feel wrong—discordant with the brand we are creating.
It makes me think about the nature of sacrifice, as it plays out in the world of branding that I have been a part of for most of my career. There’s an ideal that states brand position is all about sacrifice, about knowing what you’re going to walk away from, about not being all things to all people.
This in itself is extremely difficult for most brands. It’s just really, really hard to risk being unloved by a large percent of the population. To cede audiences to your competitors.
Marketers talk about focus and positioning, but when reality comes along, it’s less about owning a point on a map than it is hoping to be the entire atlas. As is well known now, brand is not a façade. It is not what appears in marketing communications. It is actually the very core of a business - what that company means, how and why it exists, how it wins customers, makes money, and feeds its employees. And so, building a strong brand means inevitable sacrifice as a business.
Here are some examples of sacrifices that we have made, that I hope you can extrapolate over into your own business:
Dion Hughes is the co-founder of HiBAR, Minneapolis-based maker of salon-quality, plastic-free hair care. He’s also the founder of Persuasion Arts & Sciences, a creative brand consultancy that uses creativity to solve business problems.