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Independent's Day: Why start-ups are better at marketing than corporates

Independent's Day: Why start-ups are better at marketing than corporates
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Posted: Fri 19th Oct 2012

Nick Hussey is founder of cycle clothing start-up Vulpine, which was one of the pioneering tenants of the PopUp Britain shop in Richmond this summer.

Here's an abridged version of a great post Nick wrote for his own blog which captures his thoughts about marketing (something he's rather good at, as it happens). You can read the full post on the Vulpine blog__. The following is a marketing message sponsored by Vulpine...

Nick Hussey of Vulpine

We make cycling apparel, writes Nick (left). We started the company so we could do something we truly loved and believed in. It is, we think, stylish. It stops you smelling and feeling uncomfortable. It is not perfect, but it's as close as we could get. You can wear it off the bike and feel good. We think the designs are pretty great, but then we would.

We've had really good reviews and loads of repeat customers and people say lovely things to us about what they've bought. We use pretty pictures on our good-looking website because we love design. Nothing is fake or air-brushed. All our models are our friends and real cyclists. We love and care about cycling.

Marketing is lies.

This is the way we now think. Hell, it's the way I think. We are media savvy. We're so attuned to the constant battering waves of irrelevant lifestyle airbrushed nonsense hyper-speak that we tune out of it. We're not stupid. But so many things in life - and, indeed, business - really can be incredible. Wonderful. Clever. Innovative. Cool. Useful. Comfy. Scary. Cute. Life-changing. Life-saving. But we never hear the genuine benefits because we're conditioned to the Incredo-hypeâ„¢, exaggeration and vaseline lens of Marketing Department drone.

The truth sells. Doesn't it?

If you have a quality product, why not say that? With the emotion that is real to you? Be you. Imperfect, believable you. Reality is not perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. But it is worth striving for. Necessary, even. But to say something is perfect is to lie. For instance, no jacket is completely waterproof AND breathable. It's a fact. If it doesn't let water in, it doesn't let water out. It can't breathe, so you sweat. And that's disgusting. The truth is the Vulpine Cotton Rain Jacket is not completely waterproof. Cue silence. That's deliberate. Necessary. I chose a specific fabric for that specific jacket because it is the most comfortable and looks great on and off the bike. That is the ultimate aim for us: performance and style. It breathes really well. You go out in it in torrential rain for two hours and a small amount of water may get in. But sweat doesn't pour down your arms from over-heating so you don't look and smell like a fetid heap of seaweed as you walk into the office. But in a corporate environment I could never ever say what I just said. I'd be sacked. Of course, transparency only works if you have a great product. And therein lies the problem. Many products really aren't great. How do you sell them then? Oh.

Corporate marketing is controlled by fear.

Many corporates are in the position of having essentially identical products. So the only way to sell them as divisible from a rivals' is to make stuff up about them or create lifestyles and promises that are unattainable. It's an arms race of marketing hot air. I am in the enviable position of controlling every message that leaves Vulpine. Every tweet, Facebook message, subscriber email, blog, website page and interview is my own words. That can't go on forever, but it is a wonderful feeling to know exactly what you feel is out there. No middle managers to worry about, working it up the line for approval that may never come. No two hour meetings about which adjective to use. As I hand these things over I'll ask each new member of staff to use their own voice and not be afraid to say the truth. This is to my benefit, not just a belief system. I worry about us becoming corporatised and I hope I can defend us from that. Corporate marketing is controlled by fear. The fear of saying something that'll be disagreed with by those up the line. The fear comes from good people who worry they will lose their jobs in an environment where standardisation and approval is key. This is anti-entrepreneurialism. Meanwhile, young brands and creative types are creating masterpieces on digital SLRs and editing through the night on a laptop. This is where the passion and reality is. This is what people connect with - and at a fraction of the price of all those days of meetings, sushi lunches and taxis for the six-figure salaries.

We're all real people.

We're all real people - even the ones who work in marketing for big agencies and branding houses! But we are crushed by these rules of risklessness and standardisation. Great, effective marketing comes from people who are free - the entrepreneurs and the artists unshackled by corporate fear. People who just want you to know they've made something great. They're trying to get themselves heard over the grey fake chatter and smiles from the corporations. And it works.

Do you agree with Nick?

Please feel free to comment below. Photo credit: Scott Maxwell

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