The Man™ came over the other day and observed this sign - CHANEL: 31, RUE CAMBON, PARIS - hanging over my bookshelf.
"Where did you get that?" he demanded.
"At a flea market in New York!" I gushed. "It's from the original Rue Cambon store."
"What did you pay for it?"
I told him what I paid and he started to laugh, even after I said I had it checked by a couple of lifer antiquers that assured me that forging this cardboard relic would cost more than the sign itself is worth.
"You're so impulsive," he sniggered.
"But it's treasure," I insisted pathetically. He turned away and quietly finished his giggle.
Okay. For him I may just be a 'tard who bought a really old sign for too much money (still less than the cost of a Chanel handbag!). But seriously: for me this is treasure.
(And here's where the post gets corny.)
WHY MY 80-YEAR-OLD CHANEL SIGN IS TREASURE:
- It represents a young woman who carved an independent living with the resources she had,* creativity and gumption.
- It represents a whim that became an icon, a name -- it could've been any name -- that leaped into history by both manipulating and defying the conventions of the time.
- It speaks to a piece of entrepreneurial success forged in Paris -- just a handful of métro stops away from my house!
- It represents the timelessness of a clean, straightforward brand approach. The Chanel of today also maintains fidelity to the founder's spirit and style, which you can see and feel in the (admittedly not great) film Coco Avant Chanel.
In a period where change happens fast, and user reactions are near-instant and highly vocal, it's hard for brands to remember the importance of holding your ground -- in terms of style, approach, persona -- when you have the conviction that you're right. This is true if you're just creating something, or if you're trying to change your existing position in the market.
People almost unfailingly react negatively to something unexpected. Get over the negging and give your approach time to simmer and set before deciding it's a certified fail. Otherwise you give users a sense you'll move where the wind blows you, and in that case you're effectively pasting a big-ass OBO on your forehead.
Greatness is forged with heat, provocation, commitment and a dash of volatility. Everything else is relegated quickly and efficiently to the bargain bin.
*Okay, the business was funded at birth by a doting significant other, but hey, work that shit. Let's think of him as an emotionally invested VC. And if you ever read her bio, L'Allure de Chanel, the cat that funded it was later dismayed to find he ultimately created Coco Chanel's ticket to financial freedom -- because he thought the whole thing was just a hobby.