/ Branding With a Twist

Let’s start with the standard definition of branding: a marketing strategy used to differentiate products in the marketplace. It consists of a name, symbol, term, sign, design or a combination of these to identify the goods and services of a company. It goes much further than a trademark or logo.

For the Individual

But wait, are we missing something here? Yes. How about the owner’s personal image as a brand? More specifically, let’s look at the outrageous persona created by Peter Marino, an architect/interior designer who heads his own firm in Manhattan.

When he turned 50, Marino decided to return to his youthful passion: motorcycles. In tandem with this, he switched his attire from elegant suits to custom-made biker leathers. Then he added a Mohawk plus dark glasses, a black policeman’s cap — and five very visible tattoos. “It’s helped my work big time,” he notes. “People started talking about ‘the crazy guy who wears leather.’”

The result of this personal branding, which is rigorously adhered to every single day no matter where Marino is worldwide, is astounding. In 2012, his firm completed 100 projects. None had budgets under $5 million and only 10 had budgets under $10 million.

Of course, outstanding creativity and long-term client relationships are also important factors in Marino’s success. For example: in the nineties he found a home in the fashion world when he designed boutiques for Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. He has since transformed fashion stores into “experiences” for the upscale customer.

“Fashion has been economically very enabling,” Marino says. Most architects work — budget-wise — from project to project. However, the renovation of a luxury store chain is planned over years. For example, he says, “We know that 10 to 15 Chanels and 10 to 15 Vuittons are coming, in addition to five to seven Diors, plus Fendi, Loewe, Celine, Hublot and Graf.” This means his firm has a guaranteed baseline level of income and a full staff of 150 at all times.

For a Fashion Company

As we all know, branding for a company is paramount. Marino knows how to work for any number of competitors — Dior, Vuitton and Chanel on 57th Street in Manhattan — while keeping their brand identities intact and their sales figures brisk. This means: (a) reserving shades of gray for Dior, (b) golden chain mail for Vuitton, and, (c) glass and blackened steel for Chanel.

Asked about one of his favorite installations, he cites the glass used for the walls of the Chanel Ginza store in Tokyo. During the day, the glass is transparent, but at night, it changes to translucent. With privacy glass switched on and the shades drawn, at night the Chanel building becomes one of the largest black-and-white video walls in the world.

Checklist: Branding Right

- Offer something that warrants attention on a consistent basis. Think analytically.

- Focus on a niche market for your product. Don’t try to appeal to everyone.

- Take an honest look at what you do best. Know who you really are.

- Treat your entire company as integral aspects of your brand. Commit fully.

Sources: The New York Times, Guardian, Insivia, New York Observer, Financial Times, WWD, New York magazine




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