Supreme Clientele: Branding Lessons That Grow Business

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Every brand hopes to build major buzz. Gaining marketing momentum can position companies and ideas to take off and succeed in big ways, but how do they best grab this kind of attention? Before I showcase some other brands, I want to share one key lesson I’ve learned while building my own resume as a tech entrepreneur, author, angel investor and radio/podcast host. That is, I rarely talk about my success, instead focusing on my biggest failure as a way to differentiate my brand. Namely, my time in prison. I turned my hardest setback into a successful branding tactic, proving that creativity and resilience can transform even the bleakest situation into a massive opportunity. So don’t be afraid to make noise and go against the grain. Some people won’t like you, but you don’t want to do business with them anyway.

While attention-grabbing brands may vary in their marketing approaches, each knows how to tap into its respective market and earn the acclaim and loyalty of its followers. These three brands exemplify how to build major brand buzz and generate growth.

1. Supreme

Few brands have created the level of obsession that streetwear manufacturer Supreme has. Every time they release a new item from their collection, followers line up to spend up to $1,000 or more. While major celebrities such as Kanye West and Victoria Beckham regularly sport Supreme, celebrity influence isn’t the only reason behind its success.

James Jebbia opened the first Supreme skatewear shop in downtown Manhattan in the early 1990s. This is an important part of the brand’s claim on authenticity. Very few periods and places were more famous for urban skate culture than New York during this time. Wearing Supreme offers consumers a claim over this cultural moment, demonstrating a certain awareness of what’s cool and why.

The brand’s exclusivity also plays a major role in its appeal. Because the amount of items Supreme produces is so low, it’s easy to encourage demand. If every piece is unique, it logically follows that the wearer is unique, too. Essentially, Supreme has built its brand recognition based on authenticity and exclusivity. And exclusivity creates the perception of limited supply, which in turn enhances the allure of high demand, which then makes a product or brand more popular. This is how Supreme  established its enduring coolness factor.


2. Banksy

The anti-establishment artist has somehow earned a reputation for building a brand so valuable that a single piece of his art sells for seven figures (including the piece with a built-in, self-destructing shredder that went for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction). His success has helped elevated a once formally unacknowledged artform — street art — into work with the potential for serious profit. Part of his appeal is his distinctive and immediately recognizable style, but much of his brand’s buzz comes from the mystique behind each piece. Graffiti, in general, is still considered an illicit art, and the artist never shows his face in public. Mystery leads to desire. Banksy knows this and deploys it, creating an almost folkloric appeal. Plus, he is unwavering in his core values, which only further adds to his essential appeal.

3. SpaceX

From its logo to its attention-grabbing endeavors, Elon Musk‘s aerospace-manufacturing brand is set up in every way to generate major buzz. Really, everything Musk does is designed to get attention, and his forays into space exploration take this trait to another level, a la when he launched his Tesla Roadster into space via the Falcon Heavy Rocket.

While his plans to send recreational travelers into space haven’t yet materialized, and his goal of colonizing Mars may seem distant, there’s no doubt that Musk’s brand is built on showmanship and he knows how to excite an audience.

Musk is emblematic of the fact that entrepreneurs who build buzz around their brands know how to strike a widespread cultural chord. While some of the brands listed above used big budgets to gain their audience’s attention, others relied on minimal resources. But what the most successful ones ultimately share is having inspired a following and movement rooted in relentless loyalty. That loyalty is the ultimate buzz builder.


Andrew Medal

Andrew is the founder of Action & Ambition. He's a tech entrepreneur and angel investor.

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