In a recent podcast, we did a Q&A based on some questions we received on the Indie Hackers forum and interestingly enough there were a few questions that touched on the topic of why we are creating so much content on various platforms covering the journey of building the business, compared to content around the actual product.
All valid questions and it got me thinking that a), we should get better at talking more about the product and b), it might be beneficial for people to get our $0.02 on branding vs sales, as well as long-term vs short-term mindset.
We have the luxury of being a somewhat first-mover into our product category (dress shirts which are not made from cotton), especially in Europe, but marketing on product properties is a huge vulnerability in the long-run. The way we think about it, marketing on and creating a brand with a set of values around it is much stronger when it comes to long-term potential.
There are a few reasons why branding is essential for future proofing the business.
Barrier to imitation
Especially in the apparel industry, copying a product, or taking "inspiration" from the fabric of one is simple. Even in the case of large corporations with a team of lawyers, patenting a fabric that is 95% X and 5% Y, anyone can swoop in, copy a 94% X and 6% Y version of the fabric and you have a completely different material that you can't claim to own.
So, communication based around the 4-5-6 properties of our product - non-iron, stretch, odorless, machine washable e.g. will only associate the brand and name "DULO" with those properties. Any company, big or small can either copy and incorporate those properties in their products, or create a similar product that has some of those properties.
Now imagine that company is Nike, Zara, or H&M. They will have the marketing budgets and the distribution channels to blow us out of the water, unless we provide our customers an emotional connection with us, the founders, as well as what the brand (that is providing them a product they will eventually be able to find elsewhere), we have no "stickiness" to keep them with us
Building DULO around the idea of encouraging people to take that leap and start their own business and help that community through sharing our process is a value exchange that puts us in a much better position and top of mind of people that share those values. That of course, also translates into buying decisions.
We are not only doing this because it's a good long-term branding play, it's also consistent with how we think, who we are and it creates an authentic connection that can be seen through our communication.
Other product opportunities
For reference, look at the website of Kanye West and the pieces he's selling.
He doesn't need to have the best website (quite poor in terms of usability and ease of navigating it) or have to have the best clothes/designs. All he needs to do is tweet a link to the site and you better be sure he'll be pushing a lot of product.
Having a strong brand in place also creates an opportunity that if someday our main product is not dress shirts, we still have an audience that cares for the makers, instead of the product itself. If the audience is there and you have their attention because of your ideas, you will be able to leverage that no matter the product or the service.
Marketing on product properties and then having a new product puts you in a very fragile situation, making your message a completely new one that your audience will need some time to adapt to, if ever.
Of course, great companies are great at both, but for us, at the beginning of this journey, we need to have a focus on introducing who the makers are, while ideally covering the product well enough as well.