The other night, while finishing off a jar of Brooklyn Brine pickles, I started to wonder: Just how successful is this Brooklyn Brine brand? Tacking the word “Brooklyn” onto a product name has become an increasingly popular phenomenon. It’s not only Brooklyn Lager and Brooklyn Industries anymore. It’s also Brooklyn Salsa and Brooklyn Brew Shop and Brooklyn Kitchen, to name just a few of new Brooklyn-tagged companies out there. (Actually, I stand corrected. Brooklyn Kitchen has been around since 2006.)
As if in answer to my question, the next morning the New York Times published an article titled: “Brooklyn: The Brand.” The piece was launched by the appearance of The Brooklyneer, a new Brooklyn-themed restaurant and bar in, yes, Manhattan. News outlets had been lamenting the Brooklyneer’s opening, seeing it as a sign of Brooklyn’s demise, the end of the borough’s storied authenticity.
And yet, according to the article, Brooklyn Brine is doing very well indeed. Only a year and a half old, the company’s pickled beets, carrots and beans are being stocked by 29 Williams-Sonoma locations across the country. The founders are shocked by the progress of their humble little start-up. But they’re not the only company to see their profits sore as a result of their Brooklyn credibility.
It all got me thinking about the importance of branding. Brooklyn Brine pickles are good, sure. But are they the best pickles on the market? They’re not even organic—another major buzzword for our newly health-conscious nation. What they’ve done is knowingly allied themselves with the idea of local, homemade, sustainable food. The word Brooklyn, for now, just happens to represent all those things at once.
You could say that Brooklyn Brine is conscious of what Simon Sinek would call “their why.” People respond primarily to why you do something, not necessarily what it is or how you do it—although those are important as well, of course. By naming their pickle company “Brooklyn Brine,” its founders wisely tapped into a collective assumption about Brooklyn products: that they support local manufacturers, not big evil corporations. Their “why” is noble according to a culture that’s starting to respect and buy locally grown and packaged goods over their commercially manufactured competitors.
There are so many options out there today—all of them readily accessible over the Web. When thinking about your personal brand, think about why you do what you do, and how to convey that to potential customers in the most concise possible way. Become a connoisseur of cultural trends. If it worked for Brooklyn Brine, it can work for you.
All the best,