the global microbrand rant

[UPDATE: My “Global Microbrand” archive is here. Thanks.]
Since I first used the term here in December of last year, I have been totally besotted with the idea of “The Global Microbrand”.
A small, tiny brand, that “sells” all over the world.
The Global Microbrand is nothing new; they’ve existed for a while, long before the internet was invented. Imagine a well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world. Or a small whisky distillery in Scotland. Or a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. Ditto with a violin maker in Italy. A classical guitar maker in Spain. Or a small English firm making $50,000 shotguns.
With the internet, of course, a global microbrand is easier to create than ever before. A commercial sign maker in New England. Or a sheet metal entrepreneur in the U.K.
And with the advent of blogs this was no longer just limited to people who made products. We saw that any service professional with a bit of talent and something to say could spread their message far and wide beyond their immediate client base and local market, without needing a high-profile name or the goodwill of the mainstream media. People like Jennifer Rice, Johnnie Moore and Evelyn Rodriguez come to mind.
But it’s not just limited to cottage industries. The great Tom Peters talks about “Brand You”, a personal brand that transcends your organisation or job description. The grand-daddy of this space is probably Robert Scoble, who may work full-time for Microsoft, but whose brand is much, much larger than any job description they could give him; that’s worth far more than anything they’re ever likely to pay him.
Once I created my own fledgling global microbrand (i.e. via this weblog) I started helping other people do the same. A bespoke Savile Row tailor. A Master Jeweler. A small vinyard in South Africa. It was something I really wanted to know about. It was professionally the most compelling idea I had ever come come across. I was hooked.
Of course, “The Global Microbrand” is not conceptual rocket science. You don’t need a Nobel Prize in order to understand the idea. What excites me about it is the fact that I now live in a small cottage in the English boonies, and careerwise I’m getting a lot more done than when I lived in a large apartment in New York or London, for a fifth of the overheads. For one fiftieth of the stress levels.
This year I’ve been spending a lot of time in London. Any more than 2-3 days down there I start feeling really stressed out. For years I thought it was just me. No, actually, everyone down there is really stressed out. It’s just considered normal. And the same applies in all the other big cities I know well.
I was talking to a friend on the phone about this yesterday.
“There’s only two ways to deal with life in the big city,” he says. “Alcohol and high prices. Immersing yourself in high rent, luxury items, trendy, overpriced cocktail bars, flashy restaurants, tall leggy blondes who don’t give a damn about you, just to act as a buffer zone between you and the abyss.”
“Which you pay a lot for,” I say.
“Which you pay a hell of a lot for,” he says.
It seems to me a lot of people of my generation are locked into this high-priced corporate, urban treadmill. Sure, they get paid a lot, but their overheads are also off the scale. The minute they stop tapdancing as fast as they can is the minute they are crushed under the wheels of commerce.
You know what? It’s not sustainable.
However, the Global Microbrand is sustainable. With it you are not beholden to one boss, one company, one customer, one local economy or even one industry. Your brand develops relationships in enough different places to where your permanent address becomes almost irrelavant.
With English Cut, both Thomas and I are selling $4000 suits to Americans, Canadians, Australians, Europeans, Asians, Arabs etc. Neither one of us cares much for the high-maintenance lifestyle. Sure, we travel all over seeing clients and speaking at conferences, but the day-to-day is far more low key. We go to the pub twice a week, we go to the local cheap-and-cheerful Chinese restaurant once a week, we have dumb hobbies we like to do, like taking the sailboat out on the weekend, or drawing wee cartoons. We both drive second hand cars and pay cheap-as-hell rent.
Again, it’s not rocket science. But as long as we keep blogging, avoid high overheads and keep making the best suits in the world, nobody can take it away from us.
And the same principle applies to the other projects I work on.
Frankly, it beats the hell out of commuting every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city, something I did for many years. Just so I could make enough money to help me forget that I have to commute every morning to the corporate glass box in the big city.
There are thousands of reasons why people write blogs. But it seems to me the biggest reason that drives the bloggers I read the most is, we’re all looking for our own personal global microbrand. That is the prize. That is the ticket off the treadmill. And I don’t think it’s a bad one to aim for.

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

The New Republic
Lydia Depillis

Last year my State of the College address was 76 slides loaded with data. This year it was 14 cartoons that were substantially more memorable.

Len Schlesinger
Former President, Babson College

"There are only two daily newsletters that I look forward to opening and reading every time they show up to my inbox: Seth Godin's and gapingvoid."

Tony Hsieh
CEO, Zappos

In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

Brian Clark
  • Seth Godin
  • The New Republic
  • Len Schlesinger
  • Tony Hsieh
  • Brian Clark