Checking Jeremy's underpants
— Icebreaker's brand review
tripping things back to the bare essentials and maintaining your Brand’s “Ewephoria”.
I think all of our mothers insisted we shouldn't leave home without clean underwear and somehow it's an appropriate “Ewephemism” for a wonderful day I spent in Wellington last week revisiting an old brand project to do with sheep. I was bouncing off the ropes with Jeremy Moon the founder of the Icebreaker Brand and some of his very capable senior team going over carefully the brand ethos and stripping it right back to its underwear.
It's been 17 years since we scratched out the strategy together on a table napkin. At the time the expression “A Kinship with Nature” seemed wimpish. We both agreed at the start that the soul of the brand was less about wool and more about nature's cleverness in producing such an elegant solution of insulation against the elements. At that time we predicted that the more people were removed from nature the more they were prepared to pay for it and we unashamedly pitched the product at a high price aimed at the urbanites of the world who are desperate to touch nature in some way.
This tension of opposites is in fact the complete organising idea behind the brand and its wonderful story. Scripting the story and telling it in an intriguing way has been at the heart of positioning the product. Together with a transparent and ethical supply chain the company has become the world’s expert in Merino.
My first encounter with Jeremy and his piercing questions hasn't changed in all those years and I love the intellectual scrap we have each time we discuss the brand. No other client challenges me to the same degree and each encounter sees both of us sizing each other up and dancing round the ring fighting for our respective ideas. We each present a view and try to get the other to own the silence. It’s an old trick to under-cook the argument and hope your opponent will finish the point in full agreement. Jeremy’s never fallen for this and he’s got a whole lot better at interrogation, which requires me to get up a lot earlier in the morning and be on my game.
He's matured a great deal in the time I've known him. From the ex- student I first knew whose idea of sensory perceptions was at the time probably not much more than a quick breathless shag on a sofa in a Dunedin student flat to telling beautifully appealing adventure stories in the glamour spots of the world such as St. Moritz and New York. Both of us share excellent memories, and it was amusing to see some of the senior team looking strangely at odds with the one-liners we had exchanged over the years in the brand’s development; from Denise Diderot’s dressing gown to Deepak Chopra.
These days I see so much “mud at the wall marketing” and it's so pleasing to see Jeremy's desire to address the brand’s founding ethos again as the company chases the second $100 million.
Recapturing the soul of the brand and reinstating its values are critical to its future success. Like icebergs they can drift and melt away and what is below the water is often where the real substance is. So few companies have the courage to do this and fail to keep the scraps of paper, causing endless brand iterations and drifting usually into category oblivion.
Strangely at the end of the review of all of the material around the room we concluded that we haven't strayed much from the humble scrap of paper over the years. The only new dimension going forward was the impact of technology and our ability to grow the community of Brand lovers in a much more personalised way.
So I'm pleased to report after an exhausting intellectual debate (and an excellent dinner) we put our gloves away and agreed “Ewenaminously” that Jeremy's Brand underpants didn't need changing. He just needs to ensure that everyone in the company wears the same model and feels as “Ewephoric” as he does.