I have long preferred small brands with purpose, buying less of better, and the provenance of what I buy. I have been doing it long enough to see a distinct pattern emerging as these brands grow between scale and relationship.
Whether it has been the wine merchant sponsoring small wine growers who grew until they were acquired by a corporate, the razor manufacturer the same, or the jeans manufacturer who has been an inspiration, there is a clear path. They start of small, and clunky making products into which they pour their heart and soul, and grow to a point where they are confident, profitable and personable. Brands that are attractive and authentic and embody a relationship.
And then. Where they get acquired, the transition is smooth and fast. The products get optimised – razor blades that don’t last quite as long, and the marketing gets slick as the relationship turns into a data set, and the messages clearly designed by algorithms arrive in closer, carefully choregraphed formation. Where they grow, the process is slower and more painful – like a relationship that fades away.
I suspect that for us, whether as employees or freelancers, much the same is true. The more posting we accept, the more people we try to work with, the more impersonal the relationships become as we stretch ourselves ever thinner as we try to go further and faster.
Relationships are the heart of everything we do, and they carry responsibilities. I have a view that if, say, I am connected to someone on LinkedIn, I have a responsibility to pay attention to them, check their posts, take an interest. If I can’t, it’s not a relationship, it’s hanging around at a party hoping to get lucky, rather like those excruciating “networking events”.
We can make a very adequate living, doing something we love for people we know and like. As we stretch beyond that, everyone loses – we make more money, but lose meaning and real identity. We become mediocre and indistinguishable unless we spend huge amounts on the botox of mass marketing.
The road to mediocrity is short, fast and well signposted, but it’s a choice.
Enough is a good place to be, and knowing when we get there an art.