Strategy | 5 min read
Focus, focus and focus
A few days ago, as a result of a work meeting in Logroño -the cradle of Spanish wine- I had the chance to discover a unique and iconic place, the Bar Soriano on Laurel Street. The place does not stand out for its lengthy menu, nor for its architecture or for the Michelin stars that do not hang on its walls. Since 1972, Bar Soriano offers a single dish: the grilled mushroom tapa. And this is how it has forged a reputation that transcends borders, which fills the place at all times with locals and pilgrims who arrive with their Lonely Planet guide in their hands.
I keep a similar memory of the night that my colleague Hidetoshi took me to dinner at his favorite restaurant in Tokyo: a tepanyaki grill serving only chicken skewers. Of course, the repertoire included all the hidden parts of the poor chicken in skewer format… ideal for someone who does not eat giblets. The queue in the place was remarkably long but luckily, my friend knew the restaurant enough to book weeks before our arrival in order to ensure a place in the bar.
I deeply admire these places that have bet for a single gastronomic option, therefore throwing away an endless range of possibilities. I cannot stop thinking about the analogies in the world of branding, where there are very few cases of brands that have kept the focus on a single product throughout their history.
Surely Brompton, the quintessential brand of folding bicycles, is one of the most paradigmatic examples. They have been manufacturing and improving a single model for more than 40 years outside London, overseeing even the smallest detail and devoting the necessary amount of time to launch any small innovation. In 2012 we visited the factory to discuss a special collaboration with Will Butler-Adams, CEO of the brand. I remember that during the tour of the facilities, he introduced us to an older man, sitting in a corner. He seemed isolated, thoughtful, fully involved in a dilemma that only he knew. He was Andrew Ritchie, founder and creator of Brompton who confessed to us that he had spent more than a year dedicated to improving a single part of his bicycle.
As a brand, dedicating to a single product means giving up all others, means playing 100% of the business to that product. It also means putting all the knowledge and effort into improving that product, making it almost perfect, without being distracted by any potential line extensions. Finding the focus of a brand is complex, but it is even more difficult to bet a 100 % on your vision and not give in to temptations and pressure from investors, advisors and consultants.
"At my age, I have not yet reached perfection"
The pressure on results leads many organizations to try and save on production, replace original materials with cheaper ones of dubious longevity, open franchises that roughly reproduce the product of the original branch, or think that the creator can easily pass on his knowledge and dedication to newly landed managers with an MBA on his Linkedin.
Jiro Ono is the nonagenarian owner of a small restaurant in the Ginza subway station in Tokyo, considered to be the best sushi restaurant in the world. 50 years after the opening of the Sukiyabashi, awarded with three Michelin stars and admired by great chefs like Ferran Adrià, Jiro states: “At my age, I have not yet reached perfection”. You know, it takes a lifetime to do something properly.
Choose your own adventure.
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