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article imageOp-Ed: In praise of the hyper micro

By Aron Solomon     Jan 11, 2015 in Lifestyle
We want things made for us, not for others. At a minimum, we are actively seeking at least an illusion that certain things are exactly to our taste, not to anyone else's and not to a mass, generic audience.
To illustrate my point, yesterday, after 14 hours of meetings, calls, and pan-Siberian cold here in Toronto, I stopped at a local shop on Queen Street East and bought this soup.
This is a jar of soup. It was delicious.
This is a jar of soup. It was delicious.
To begin with a digression, every startup should do what that shop did in customer discovery. They made a limited number of jars of soup, charged a very urban $10 for it, and guaranteed that one way or the other you'd be satisfied. In exchange for feedback, you get a free jar of soup.
But what's more important for the purpose of our story is that not only did I not elect to buy a major soup brand, or even a local soup brand, I bought something hyper micro and hyper local - a microbrand created by and in their own shop. In creating these soups, they're catering to neighborhood tastes, asking the right questions and listening to feedback, trying to create product that fits their customers.
This should all seem very logical but it runs counter to the entire notion of industrialization, if you allow yourself to think about it. Hyper micro creating and branding is the antithesis to things ubiquitous and, of course, ubiquity comes with things manufacturers love, such as big margins and opportunities for virality.
So what is hyper micro, really?
It's a natural evolution of a movement that takes as its starting point a perceived desire for something curated, small, personalized. Let's look at beer, as an example.
The starting point was Big Beer which was, well, big. It was the definition of ubiquity, brewed and controlled by massive multinationals and had nothing to do with personalization. You were told to drink it for a variety of reasons which, given the skewed demographics of beer drinkers, usually involved some sort of raw and fictive masculinity.
Then beer became, at least in appearances, smaller. Microbreweries were born. They brewed beer that they said was different and more aligned with your tastes. This message resonated with some.
It also resonated with Big Beer, which decided to first acquire and then to create their own microbrews. At the same time, the beer industry planned to go deeper, which they have, by extending the micro brewing concept to a hyper micro concept which, for beer, is a local play.
Here's something of interest that traces a little bit of the history behind the shift in the beer industry.
So local beer can be micro as in "brewed by a small brewery in your city" or hyper micro, as in "brewed by some dude who falls somewhere between someone who brews beer in his kitchen and someone who has a microbrewery." And it's the rise of the hyper micro industry that gives consumers who care about such things (and I argue that more and more of us do) that there is something made for us - for the few rather than the many.
Let's look at the watch industry for a second, one with which I'm very passionate and familiar.
Overall, watches are making a fantastic comeback, as I've pointed out in recent editorials on the industry. But it's not just monolith brands, such as Swatch Group (they own not only Swatch, but many extremely popular big brands, such as Omega, Tissot, Hamilton, Longines, Blancpain, Rado, Certina, and more) responsible for this resurgence, it's the micro and hyper micro. From amazing place-based brands such as Shinola (the watch company that's trying to help resurrect Detroit, as well as make amazing watches) to hyper micro brands such as G.Gerlach, Autodromo, Lew & Huey, Steinhart, and China's emerging bespoke brand, Seagull, there is a new wave of watchmakers who have identified a significant niche within the groups of watch buyers and collectors who want something truly special that not everyone else will have. That notion of moving away from the familiar and into something that feels as if it was chosen and made for you will, I predict, be a huge theme for 2015 and beyond.
I'm not arguing today that curated, bespoke things are at all new. I am asserting that there will be more and more demand for the hyper micro in many, many industries. People are losing their taste for sameness. While sameness can be very comfortable at times (like a well-worn blanket) it doesn't make out hearts race, it doesn't lead us to think of possibilities and truly make us feel that someone though about us in the process of making, selling, and buying.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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