Indie Brands. They're found in practically every corner of the world. They vary in size -- for my new book, Indie Brands: 30 Independent Brands That Inspire and Tell a Story (BIS, $49) I have interviewed anything from one-man brands to medium-sized corporations. And they sell widely different products: from organic popcorn to online file sharing tools.
As true indie brands they share three important characteristics, which I believe are the main ingredients that make for an indie brand: they're independent (they're not backed up by big bucks and also have a fiercely independent nature), they have a story worth sharing (often reinventing a familiar product) and they all understand the magic of marketing (many of the brands are set up by [former] ad men and women).
Indie brands are characterized by their independent spirit. Most strive for complete creative freedom. But of course, there's an inherent tension between striving for complete creative freedom and keeping your brand alive.
All of the entrepreneurs I interviewed constantly have to balance their own creative urges and the financial reality that comes with running a brand. In order to remain independent even indie brands need to strive for commercial success or in some cases mainstream acceptance. This isn't a matter of selling out: it's just good business sense.
Most of the brands I encountered were born out of passion and personal beliefs, rather than market research or other strategies. The owners of brands like Mr. Jones tea and Better Life cleaning products are friends first and foremost. The owners of fritz-kola have known each other since they were in boy scouts and these days they run the world's "most wide-awake" cola brand. But it's not just the personal stories attached to these brands that are worth sharing.
Many of the products are a story in and of itself. Take Tony Chocolonely, a brand intent on producing the world's first slave-free chocolate bar. Or OAT, the world's first fully biodegradable sneaker brand. These are just two examples of indie bands that are truly innovative in their field because of their use of material, production methods and because they are reinventing a familiar product. Their story is not only an intricate part of their brand, it's a story worth sharing.