In medieval times, a moat was a body of water around the castle that kept away enemies. In business, a moat serves a similar purpose, acting as a competitive advantage that one company has over the rest.

The physical goods business, specifically in the apparel, fashion, footwear, beauty, cosmetics, accessories and furniture space, has changed more in the last two decades that it has in the previous centuries combined. As as result, the formulas for building lasting brands are radically different than they used to be.

This leads to an important set of existential questions for brands and investors operating in the space: What makes certain brands last? Do moats exist for these brands? And how has the internet changed what is defensible and what no longer is?

Building Bulletproof Brands is a three part series that begins to answer some these questions. Part I explores how the internet fundamentally changed the playbook for building durable physical goods brands. Part II presents a new formula for building bulletproof consumer goods brands that’s rooted in the power of networks, and showcases how Supreme, Glossier and Peloton are putting this new approach into action. Part III (to be released on 7/4/17) looks at how brands can used use network-based incentives to grow, how these mechanisms will reshape how brands acquire new customers, and what these changes mean for companies and investors.

This is the deepest and most complex series I’ve ever written. I hope you enjoy it!

— Richie

Building Bulletproof Brands — Part I: Why don’t brands last like they used to?


How does one build a brand that lasts for centuries? Today, in the consumer goods space—specifically in apparel, fashion, footwear, beauty, cosmetics, accessories, and furniture—it's an especially challenging quandary given the ferocious speed at which Amazon and fast fashion giants like Zara and H&M are growing, while other legacy physical goods brands are struggling. The internet…

Building Bulletproof Brands — Part II: Networks are the strongest moats for consumer goods brands


Part I explored how the internet fundamentally changed the playbook for building durable physical goods brands. Before the internet, mastering product, brand, distribution—signified as (product + brand + distribution)—was enough to make a brand defensible, specifically in the apparel, fashion, footwear, beauty, cosmetics, accessories and furniture space. Additionally, a small set of brands,…

Building Bulletproof Brands — Part III: How networks and tokens could reshape the economics of physical goods brands


Part I of this series looked at the changing landscape of brand longevity and how the traditional formulas that used to make brands defensible are now obsolete. Part II proposed a new formula that harnesses networks as the only defensible moat for physical goods brands. Now, Part III looks at how brands can 1) use branded tokens and network-based incentives to grow; 2) how these…

Word of mouth without a network effect is not a competitive advantage


In Building Bulletproof Brands, a Loose Threads series about how the internet destroyed traditional moats for physical goods brands but also created new ones, I wrote about how the power of word of mouth is not what many think. As new physical goods startups launch and raise money every week, many are keen to mention a company’s “unparalleled growth via word of mouth” or "IRL virality" as…