A Lesson in Branding from an Anti-Brand

Once upon a time, a marketing guru developed the concept of ascribing personality attributes to companies to shape their “brand voices.”

This really was a big idea. So much so that every branding (or rebranding) PowerPoint deck written ever since contains five to seven traits that define the heart and soul of that brand.

The problem is that most of those lists now look soullessly alike. And my retirement fund would be bursting if I had $100 for every “sophisticated,” “straightforward” or “dynamic” that I’ve read in a creative brief.

Here’s the thing: Distinctive brands are built upon vivid (and often idiosyncratic) brand attributes. I have no idea what a “passionate” company is, for instance. But if its brand voice was “exuberant,” “bubbly” or “adrenalinized,” well, that’s a different story.

The folks at Birdwell Beach Britches get it. The company’s self-described “low-tech web site” doesn’t pull punches. In fact, its long-winded content and scolding tone are downright testy, cantankerous and mesmerizingly hilarious. For example:

Please do not spend 22 emails discussing what you want — and then say, “that’s what I want, when can you ship?” I don’t remember all your decisions. Write it down and send it to me with the name address and payment information.

While that sounds like suicide in this era of customer-friendly marketing, the voice is enchantingly authentic, and wholly appropriate for its “hard-core surfwear” market. More importantly, it works: Birdwell’s U.S. factory can barely keep up with the demand. 

A tip of the hat to UpWrite Press for a tweet that led me to Birdwell’s door.