The MA held a Brainy Breakfast event earlier in the year that explored brand journeys and the innovation, transformations and challenges that come with them.

We were fortunate enough to hear from Greig Brebner, founder and design director of BLUNT Umbrellas. The journey that Greig and BLUNT had been on was fascinating but the part of the journey that stood out most was what was yet to come: Their journey into new overseas markets.

Brebner described their strategy as a ‘village approach’ - and he meant the words quite literally.

The Village approach is customer-led. You begin with research to find out who loves your product and why, then rather than taking this information and trying to convince the masses to feel the same way, you literally find a village or small community of people who share these values and you start there.

For BLUNT, this might mean entering the UK market through quaint villages who, yes, experience rainfall, but mostly, who are likely to have an emotional response to the brand similar to that which BLUNT receives in New Zealand. I don’t know about you, but when I see someone with a BLUNT umbrella I assume they are just having the best rainy day ever because they must feel cool as hell with one of those bad boys sheltering them. I would describe this as wonderment. So BLUNT might take their research and use it to find villages in the UK with similar attitudes as say, Parnell in Auckland.

The idea then is that the brand can precisely target the people who will love them the most (rather than trying to stuff as many customers into their marketing funnel as possible) then create a two-way dialogue with this small group to get it right with the people who matter most. The result is a small but very valuable segment of the market coming to love your brand and going on to spread that love outwards through brand advocacy.

The village approach is certainly not a new idea and as far as marketing is concerned what I’m describing is just cost-effective segmentation, targeting, positioning. Where I see the value in the ‘Village approach’ is for start-ups, entrepreneurs - people with small ideas who want to find out if they could be something more.

Why? Because from the very, very beginning the customer is put first. And ‘the customer’ is a pretty daunting force when you’re starting up. The fear of failing before you even begin, the pressure to make a great first impression, the need to be liked, the longing for validation that your idea is good. How might a start-up or entrepreneur overcome such blockers to success?

The answer might seem to be in your offering, but as the village approach suggests, the answer is in the customer themselves. So rather than trying to get your offering as perfect as possible before introducing it to the customer (so as to avoid the scary things above), the village approach calls for co-designing the offering with your customer from the get-go.

By taking a village approach to starting-up, you’re market-oriented from the very beginning, you relieve the pressure of perfection, you can find your niche and give them something they don’t just want but love, and you include customers in the creation of something new - wouldn’t you feel special if more brands did that?

And wouldn’t you then want to tell the whole world about it?