Some thoughts on building a (micro)brand


Chris and I started CPH Meal last year with the goal of putting on occasional food events in the city. It’s been a lot of fun, and for two people that work in advertising, also a great learning experience. The purpose of this post is to share some personal reflections on the process of building our little brand.

Learn From Others – While almost by definition every new venture is unique, the experiences of others can serve as inspiration. I’ve watched closely as the guys at Inventory have built their brand from square one. In just a couple of years they’ve gone from being just another men’s style blog to a full-on player in the men’s fashion scene with their own magazine, online retail venture and, most recently, an actual shop.

Most impressively, they’ve not made any obvious missteps along the way. They’ve kept their visuals nice and clean, they’ve put their own personalities and vision at the core of the brand and they’ve been gracious. Put simply, they’ve been clear-sighted, dedicated and genuine.

I should also mention that Hugh MacLeod’s evolving thoughts on what he’s termed the ‘Global Microbrand‘ have also been an influence, as has Monocle magazine. Its consistent focus on small-scale enterprises undertaken with passion and verve is always a good reminder that it can be done. You just need to do it.

Define the Why – When we recently relaunched our site, the section that caused us most soul-searching was the About page. Chris and I had lots of conversations about what CPH Meal was all about. We both had our own ideas and our attempts to come up with a unified text led to a lot of over-intellectualization. But looking back, I think it was a necessary process – by defining what we weren’t, we started getting closer to what we were.

We went back to basics and set down some of the principles we shared and then Chris went away and wrote a text that nailed it. It taught us that coherency for a brand (even one as miniscule as ours) is not easy – you have to graft, you have to tweak and hone, and you have to be prepared to evolve.

Be Personable – This basically means be pleasant. It applies to most things in life and branding is no different. Chris and I are not trying to build a cult of our personalities (we’re far too straight-laced for that), but we’re trying to forge the brand in an open, honest and transparent way. What that means in practice is signing our names at the end of blog posts, linking to our own Twitter accounts on our bio page, and making sure that we host our events graciously.

Pay Attention to Detail – John Foster Dulles wrote that a man’s accomplishments in life are the cumulative effect of his attention to detail (thank you Google). This is so obvious, but so important. When you’re working with chefs of the level of Rob Martin and Ben Greeno, you know that the food is going to be something special. The job Chris and I have is to make sure that everything else is too. That means anything from making sure toilets are clean and fully stocked with paper and our menus are accurate, to checking that our punctuation is spot-on (still a work in progress).

I was hoping to make this a list of ten or five but these four seem to me to be a good start. It all comes down to doing something you believe in and doing it well.