In his book, fashion designer Mark Ecko, without embellishing anything, talks about his successes and failures on the way to creating a world-famous brand.
He boldly dreamed and achieved a lot, fell painfully, but quickly learned life lessons.
Now he can proudly show his battle scars to others in “Unlabel “.
Ecko describes in detail the process of creating and developing a brand based on the “authenticity formula” that he derived.
This book is available as:
“Formula of Authenticity”
An authentic brand, whether it’s a personal brand or a corporate brand, under which many different products are produced, is a living, developing organism.
Whatever you do, an authentic, original brand will become a compass for you, indicating the right direction in times of economic downturn, when choosing a management style or creative approach.
He will help you survive the attacks of critics.
Without a compass, you can easily go astray under the influence of external forces.
“Do not let yourself be labeled black or white, a Jew or a student of the pharmaceutical department of Rutgers University, a graffiti artist, or the president of a company. Do not allow yourself to be driven into a hole. And let the supermarket don’t know where to put you: on a shelf in row number 3 or in row number 7 ”.
The Mark Eco brand began in the first half of the 1980s in the garage of a parent’s house in Lakewood, New Jersey.
In high school, Marc began airbrushing t-shirts and selling them to classmates.
Over the next 15 years, he managed to build a multi-million dollar retail business. Talking about his career, Eco describes how he came to the “formula of authenticity” on the path to creating his own brand.
In his presentation, “Authenticity is equal to your Unique voice multiplied by Truthfulness, plus your Potential of change, multiplied by the Radius of psychological impact raised to the power of the Imagination Force”.
The designer formulates his main advice to beginning entrepreneurs as follows: “You must learn to force yourself to break out of the herd,
“But I Could Draw Anything”
Mark Milekofsky was a fat boy with oddities.
He liked computer games and comic books. He also loved to draw.
He did not make much impression on his peers, and he did not have many friends.
Marc was fond of soul music and honed his drawing skills by copying pictures from his father’s comics.
At the age of 12, he discovered the art of graffiti, street artists and underground graphics – comic book authors such as Vaughn Bowd.
“My book is about how I got rid of labels … and rejected all possible classifications in order to develop both creatively and in business terms.”
The basis of Marc’s artistic style is a combination of hip-hop music and graffiti aesthetics.
He began to create under the pseudonym Echo (“echo”), which later turned into Eckō. (When his mother was pregnant, the doctors did not immediately determine that she was expecting twins; Marc’s heartbeat was perceived for some time as an echo of the heartbeat of his twins Marcy.)
The first time he felt the power of art when he stood for president of the seventh grade council. As an agitation, he posted a series of self-made posters in the school corridors.
To his surprise, he won the election by a wide margin. A crushing victory gave Mark confidence in his creative intuition and choice of graphic style.
“Well, I didn’t know how to dance, I was too fat for a breakdance, but I could draw anything.”
You probably ask: “ Well, if this question is so important, then why is failure itself not included in this formula as another variable? ”
I answer:“ failure ”is not in this formula because it goes beyond its framework. Moreover, it is everywhere: everywhere between the lines. ”
One day, Marc saw a photograph of rapper LL Cool J.
The singer was wearing a t-shirt with airbrushing made at Shirt Kings Studios in New York Queens. After that, Mark bought an airbrush and a compressor.
A year of work on the development of new technology – and he appeared at school in one of his creations. Orders rained down one after another.
Thus was born the brand Echo Airbrushing. The popularity of his graffiti style airbrush t-shirts helped the budding artist get rid of the fear that they would make fun of him. But Mark did not have confidence that this occupation could provide him with a future, and, putting off his airbrush, he entered the Department of Pharmacy at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
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“Talking Doesn’t Cost Anything”
Marc blended poorly with college life.
Both white and black classmates were suspicious of this white guy talking in street slang.
In his free time, he continued to paint t-shirts, earning about $ 500 a week. His creative dreams were supported only by a budding singer named Cale Brock, who performed in the style of rhythm and blues. Cale spent as much time rehearsing and recording music as Marc spent on improving his skills.
“Failure is something natural. It is like carbon, oxygen or water. A substance that is constantly present in nature. Failure is always with you — from the very moment you begin to breathe. ”
Beginner talents helped each other.
Cale sent the producers his notes, and Mark sent the packages with the clothes he painted to film producer Spike Lee, DJ Red Alert and other celebrities.
One day, Marc Shari’s older sister attended a concert by Bell Biv Devoe and presented one of its members, Mike Beavins, with a denim jacket painted by Mark. Cale cassettes were put in the pockets of the jacket.
Shortly after the concert, Beavins contacted Brock and offered him a contract.
Friends understood that even the most brilliant ideas would turn into an empty sound if nothing was done. “Conversations cost nothing without real action.” To create his own business, Mark needed capital. However, what is a business plan, he had no idea. He defeated Beavins and Spike Lee with his projects, but to no avail.
The First Steps
To begin with, Seth gave Marc five thousand dollars in cash.
Marc created six compositions suitable for mass printing on t-shirts and spent the money on the study of silk-screen printing techniques.
He wanted to achieve high-resolution images. In general, his shirts and t-shirts looked good, but he did not achieve the desired quality. More professional color separation technologies were too expensive.
“I happened to do bad things. This is part of the development process. If you do not have failures, then you do not risk. And that means – you are not going forward to creating something significant. “
Partners placed advertisements in specialized magazines, orders went, and their business soon ceased to be placed in Marc’s apartment.
They hired Marcie, Mark’s sister, as administrator and customer service manager.
Young entrepreneurs decided to promote products at exhibitions and festivals such as Jack the Rapper, which gathered crowds of hip-hop fans in Atlanta, or the Action Sports Retailer in San Diego, which attracted fans of extreme sports.
In San Diego, the partners themselves had to build a pavilion for themselves, the main building material for which were wooden pallets thrown away by someone. The flow of orders increased sharply, but the print quality on the fabric was still a problem.
“I had enough energy, and I acted in the right direction. But I still faced three problems. 1. I did not have capital. 2. I did not have capital. 3. I did not have capital. ”
At the next fair, Marc met a lover of “weed” named Drew.
He sold fantastically beautiful and, most importantly, high-quality t-shirts, all the plots on which were somehow connected with marijuana.
Marc agreed with a new acquaintance about barter: in exchange for a few bundles of “weed,” Drew promised to reveal his secret to print quality on fabrics – color separation in Photoshop.
On the Brink of Survival
Sales grew, and the company opened its first office.
Marc himself designed the logo, which was supposed to be the “brand banner”. Its main element was the silhouette of a rhino, which, in the opinion of the designer, well expressed the brand’s values.
The company did not skimp on parties at exhibitions, and in its advertising stars of hip-hop were shot. Sportswear International magazine has included Echo in the list of “10 best young brands.
Sales reached $ 8 million, but spending continued to grow faster than revenue. The partners went out of their way to pay all bills and fulfill orders on time. “Great brands are nothing more than streams of directed promises that are being fulfilled. It is imperative that these promises be true ”- that’s what they came to.
“As we hung on the hook of large loans that far exceeded, banks turned us inside out. They tracked every financial transaction of our company, every transaction. Banks asked all kinds of questions about our daily production activities. They … bit into everything. ”
The team lacked “garmento” – a man versed in sewing, ready to take on production and merchandising.
Marc met Wu, a Taiwanese clothing manufacturer, famous for producing a successful line of jackets for snowboarders. Wu and Echo signed a contract, and the Taiwanese became the “garmento” of a young firm.
“If I focused on being honest in my promises regarding my business, and not just my brand, we would not have brought this dangerous line to the point.”
Two events soon put the company on the brink of survival.
The partners first received a letter from Echo Designs accusing them of copyright infringement. I had to urgently change the name to Eckō. Following this, Mark officially changed his name from Milekofsky to Eco.
The confusion with the names entailed additional costs. And then the partners found out that Wu was deceiving them: he overpriced, but did not deal with production and marketing at all.
A lengthy trial followed, by the end of which the firm had a debt of six million dollars. Then two large companies, Ralph Lauren and Nautica, offered partners to buy their business. Gerzhberg brought in Texas clothing wholesaler Alan Finkelman to save the firm.
He paid lenders one and a half million dollars and gave Eco and Gerzhberg three years, to return the money to him. They coped for one and a half.
All Marketing Efforts
Having paid his debt to Finkelman, Eco proved that a brand can be strong only if the words do not diverge from the deed.
Finkelman distributed the roles in the company as follows: Gerzhberg became responsible for sales, Eco – for design and marketing, and Marcie was responsible for operations.
This management team made up a completely solid and stable triangle: “Management (Marcy) + Strength (Set) + Presentation (Mark)”.
“Only when you remove excess nostalgic baggage and clean what remains will you be able to see the horizon. The past has many guises: nostalgia for your parents, for your former business, nostalgia for a bygone era. But the most dangerous kind of nostalgia is self-nostalgia. ”
Eco came up with an advertising campaign for the company called “Where is Eckō?”.
Held it in Las Vegas at the Magic Fair.
Hundreds of stickers were pasted on the streets, and a company representative traded its products directly from the hotel room.
Visitors to the fair endlessly told friends about an unusual way of selling. Eco realized that the emotional impact can be stronger than the brightest and most flashy ads. Soon, Spike Lee made a video for the Eckō fashion show.
“The proliferation of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr creates the illusion that you can create your own brand by typing 140 characters in an email message. A brand is much more than a Twitter post, just plain chatter, than artificially created hype. ”
Eckō Unlimited has entered into licensing agreements with manufacturers of Sketchers shoes and Timex watches.
The first licensing attempts were unsuccessful, but they expanded the potential customer audience and increased the emotional impact of the brand.
Eco decided to release a magazine about rap, hip hop, computer games, street fashion and culture. To lead a project called Complex, he invited his friend Alan Ket, who had experience in publishing.
Retail Stores and New Clothing Lines
By 2000, the company’s revenue exceeded $ 100 million.
This success turned Eco’s head. He developed a new product line called “The Rhetoric of Distortion,” in which he largely departed from the aesthetics of his brand. In addition, he refused to partner with the National Football League, deciding instead to create his own brand Phys. Sci.
The failure of both projects brought him back to reality.
“When I launch a new project, I don’t get hung up on the fact that only my personal brand is enough for its success.
I constantly ask myself:
- What now can be my advantage?
- In the sales scheme?
- In supply technology?
- How do my employees communicate with customers?
Eckō Unlimited has launched several sub-brands and new products, such as the Eckō Red women’s clothing line and the Getting Up video game, developed jointly with Atari.
Revenue growth allowed Eckō to increase borrowing, which was aimed at further business development. Gerzhberg decided to open a chain of branded retail stores with a flagship point in Times Square. The company’s main office moved to Manhattan, to a room of about 30,000 m².
All these steps required money, which the company could receive only by merging with some large corporation. So Eckō Unlimited got into a new world of “high finance”, in which mergers and acquisitions are being prepared. Eco and Gerzhberg did not even suspect how little they knew in this area.
“In the wake of success, it’s easy to lose understanding what you know and what you don’t. ”
The partners entered into negotiations with Tommy Hilfiger and the Hong Kong company Li & Fung, but both transactions did not take place.
Eco and Gerzhberg were determined to continue the business, but Marcy decided to leave. Partners pledged everything that the company had and gave personal guarantees.
Seth proposed making Mark the face of the brand.
To work on the soundtrack to the Getting Up, Eco drew rapper and producer Sean Coomes, nicknamed Puffy, whom he asked to become his mentor.
Eco decided to figure out how Puffy managed to create a personal brand with such a powerful emotional impact. He realized that what matters is not so much what you offer, a product or service, in the real or virtual world, but how many emotions people experience. Eco came up with several tricks that caught the attention of the press.
He appeared in public accompanied by his retinue and strove not to miss social events. The culmination of this stage was the purchase of a baseball for $ 750 thousand, a blow against which a new league record was set.
But the more famous the name Eco became, the worse it was in his soul. Bad forebodings also influenced creative activity. “I confused the brand of my personality with the brand of the company. It’s time to fix it. ”
“Nostalgia for the Past”
By 2008, Eckō Unlimited had accumulated too many debts.
When the stock market crashed, demand weakened and the flow of credit money quickly dried up. The Times Square store never opened. Lenders demanded a return of debts, banks recommended declaring bankruptcy.
Eco and Gerzhberg decided to fight for the survival of the company, but the employees left it one by one, and the future looked very bleak.
Eco realized that his “nostalgia for himself” and his desire to maintain absolute control over the business were about to destroy the company. The partners sold 51% of the company to Iconix, a conglomerate of fashion brands, after which Eco concentrated its efforts on the Complex project.
Way to Yourself
Towards the end of the journey from the Lakewood garage to the office on 23rd Street, Marc Eco came to a clear understanding of what to strive for.
Here are his principles
- Be a creator. Find an artist in you, even if you don’t know how to draw.
- Sell, but do not get sold. Never regret the results of labor sold. Do not worry if what you have created is not for sale. Just keep creating.
- Create true wealth. Do not measure success in money or praise.
- Get rid of the shortcuts. Find your own unique intonation.
- Authenticity is a never-ending search, not a destination. The search for something real and individual is an ongoing process.
- Based on his entrepreneurial experience, Mark Eco, the creator of the Eckō brand, developed a “brand authenticity formula”.
- The key to success has nothing to do with catchphrases from textbooks. The reasons for victories and defeats come down to how the company is true to itself, that is, to authenticity.
- Whatever you do, no matter what industry you choose, you have to learn incomparably more than what you already know.
- Recognition is sought by those who believe in themselves, are not afraid to create, proudly sell the results of their work and remain honest with themselves.
- The most brilliant ideas will be unviable, if not fight for their implementation.
- When a company is in a recession and critics attack it, and conflicts arise between leaders, an authentic brand, like a compass, indicates the right direction.
- The emotional impact on the audience plays a much larger role than advertising and product promotion.
- It is not enough to talk about yourself, your work and methods. Words are worthless. A true brand must have its own voice.
- Even the most famous brand is just a stream of promises connected with each other, which are always fulfilled, no matter what.
- Dream about something big, but never lose touch with reality.
Why You Should Read “Unlabel”
- To find your own unique style
- To get inspired by a successful creator
- To turn your ideas into life projects
This book is available as: