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Democratizing Brands

June brought the tragic loss of two pioneers who brought a populist sense of accessibility to goods that traditionally carried an air of exclusivity. They effectively democratized designer handbags, in the case of Kate Spade, and brought an emboldened attitude to sampling worldwide cuisine previously reserved for the epicurean, in the case of Anthony Bourdain.

As we hold them in our hearts, it’s a good reminder that a powerful personality can drive social change through shifting what’s considered affordable and accessible. From Paul Masson, who brought champagne within the orbit of the everyday American consumer in the early 20th century, to Oprah Winfrey who popularized an outlook of wealth, health, and self-determination, there’s a long long line of entrepreneurs who encouraged regular folks to incorporate even the most sophisticated products and ideas into their daily lives.

While Bob Hall is not a household name, he was the sole force behind persuading Mazda into producing the unprecedentedly affordable Miata sports car. It took Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad’s personality to drive forward the idea that everyone could have attractive yet affordable furniture. And Daniel Swarovski’s brand has managed to make what used to be called “paste” into high-class yet affordable “bling”, while Professor Muhammad Yunus fulfilled a vision of bringing world-class banking to the poor with micro-loan company Grameen.

Along with many others, what these powerful personalities did was create a brand that brought with it a whole new, vast and previously untapped market. What’s next? Caviar for the masses? Perhaps not. But it’s a good time to consider what realm of product currently seems out of your orbit, but with a democratized rethink could become the next big thing. What’s missing in our lives that we don’t even realize?


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