There is a lot we can learn from the success of internet based companies. One concept in particular, applies well to creating a strong brand, the Long Tail. The Long Tail is a phrase coined by Chris Anderson in October 2004 in Wired magazine (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html). It is created by a market of unique products. These products do not appeal to masses but instead to distinct tastes. What makes them distinct also makes them different. Differentiation is pivotal to creating successful brands. By creating companies and products in the Long Tail you have already solved one of the challenges of creating a strong brand. Here is some background information on the Long Tail from wikipedia:
“The concept of a frequency distribution with a long tail — the concept at the root of Anderson’s coinage — has been studied by statisticians since at least 1946. The distribution and inventory costs of these businesses allow them to realize significant profit out of selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. The group that purchases a large number of “non-hit” items is the demographic called the Long Tail.” To read more go here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TheLongTail
As individuals in society we are looking to find networks where people have the similar tastes, values and shared experiences. We want to to be a part of a community united by common thoughts where we feel ourselves, and have the freedom to be ourselves. As these unique ideas, thoughts and tastes become popular they pull away from the Long Tail and land themselves in the masses. Individuals following these ideas, thoughts and tastes become lost and no longer feel unique and part of their own community.
This is where the great long lasting brands step in. Brands like Apple manage to straddle the Long Tail and the masses very well. Apple appeals to individuals that have tastes similar to Apple’s brand and business approach, like the design industry (the Long Tail and long term buyer). Apple also uses product innovation like the iPod, to appeal to a mass audience (one hit wonder). At the same time, they have not alienated or lost either market. Quality, innovation and design becomes the great equalizer. Brands that actively and visibly communicate their desired qualities have a much better chance of succeeding no matter where they start on the tail.
“As they wander further from the beaten path they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought, or as they had been lead to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture” Chris Anderson
Our networks that are gathering are creating their own markets that do not pertain to the mainstream. As companies realize the can make money on these smaller markets they will increase spending in the Long Tail. In the physical retail space people want one-stop shopping Wal-Mart style. It is lower value and they can live without the perfect fit for the sake of convenience. The opposite is true of the internet world. It is already seen as convenient and more personal. You can always find what you want. This combined with our economic climate and the sustainability movement will cause the physical retail world to react. Will we see the Wal-Marts disappear? Doubtful, rural areas have become dependent on them like the general stores of old. But we could see urban areas revitalize the butcher, baker and candlestick maker in a similar vein. In our information age, local companies and products can begin to tailor to the Long Tail interests. If they are communicating their brand well, they can build success on the local level but also interest on a global scale. There are some great opportunities for companies that appeal to a smaller niche that have never existed before.