Good and evil girl's face

Episode 2 – Heroes & Villains / Brand Strategy

Find your true north and develop a brand strategy that will steer your course to brand supremacy

Chapter 4. Allies and Codes

I’ve seen that staying true to what you do best has played a major role in our longevity – James Jebbia, CEO, Supreme

This is who I am come hell or high water. If I deny it, I deny everything I’ve ever done. Everything I’ve ever fought for – Green Arrow

Things had been going well for ex-factory worker James Jebbia.

At aged 19 he had left home with only $100 and moved into a small apartment in Staten Island, New York. 

A chance meeting with legendary surfer and street apparel pioneer Shawn Stüssy led to James running the Stüssy store on Prince Street, Manhattan.

Then, in 1994, boom, out of nowhere Stüssy retires leaving everything up in the air. With his Mentor off to find new waves, James figured it was time to catch his own. 

Inspired by Stüssy and the New York skateboard culture, James founded Supreme. A clothing brand that would later become famous for their infamous ‘collection drops’, which see hordes of teenagers skipping school to stand in line for 24 hours in their $300 trainers, just hoping for the chance to get inside and grab a t-shirt in their size. 

Young people from reverse

Being cool is attractive. Creating cool is not so easy. 

Following your passion and staying true to yourself has never been more important for brands. Connected consumers will quickly see through the veil of a wannabe company with a formulaic strategy.

Having strong values that help you uphold what you believe in – your big Idea (see Episode 1 Origins / Brand Belief) will enable you to strengthen your position by developing the right associations for brand credibility. 

James knew the kids that made up the skateboard scene and who hung out at Stüssy’s would smell a fake a mile off. So, he employed them. 

It was a risk. They weren’t natural retail assistants. But they were authentic and gave customers an insight into what they were buying into. 

TIP 1 – Develop values that help guide your behaviour and actions.
Craft your values as actions-based statements that are clear to understand and focus on a higher purpose.

Chapter 5. Battle Grounds and Enemies

We’re making stuff we’re proud of, not doing stuff to stay alive. I don’t think enough people take risks, and when you do, people respond—in music, in art, in fashion – James Jebbia, CEO, Supreme

You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life – Han Solo

If you want to be a Superbrand, you’ll have to fight for it.

Now is the time to refine your strategy by finding the soft underbelly in your competition and the sweet spot in the marketplace.

A Quadrant Analysis is one of the best tools to help plot your coordinates in the Superbrand multiverse. 

Young woman in sunglasses and Supreme T-shirt

If you don’t have a budget for market research, that’s okay. Most small to medium sized enterprises don’t. Fortunately, the Internet now gives us the vision to see in greater detail how our competitors are performing. 

“Social listening” is something James Jebbia didn’t have available to him in 1994, but today you do.

Analyse your competitor’s websites, social media and customer reviews.

What is their brand about and how are they performing? What do their customers say about them? Are they delivering on their promise and is there an opportunity for you to take the inside track?

Then place each competitor in your Quadrant analysis grid. Once you’ve completed all your social listening and added all your competitors to your map, you’ll be able to spot the gaps for your brand to claim. 

In 2000 Supreme were hit with a ‘cease and desist’ order by Louis Vuitton for use of a pattern on a new collection. Seventeen years later Louis Vuitton now collaborates with Supreme to leverage their own relevance.

TIP 2 – Utilise social media and the Internet to undertake research in the form of social listening
Create a Map of your competitive arena in the form of a Quadrant Analysis.

Chapter 6. Making Your Move / Strategy

I would like people to see that we’re a small, independent skate company that has done our own thing – James Jebbia, CEO, Supreme

The Universe is so big, it has no centre. We are the centre – Captain Marvel

Supreme was bought in 2017 for $500m. It is worn by skateboarders and celebrities alike. It has made numerous high-profile allies. Even Nike wanted to tap into Supreme’s cool with an offer of collaboration. Supreme collaborated with numerous global brands who could prove useful, whist ensuring the product stayed connected to Supreme’s roots.

This ‘Devil-may-care’ attitude may fool some of their competitors into thinking they are disorganised, but that was their strategy all along.

Supreme are outlaws. A personality that fits perfectly with the rebellious skateboard culture and enables them to zig or zag how they please.

Supreme baseball cap

Supreme are not heroic in the morally pure traditional sense. But they are in the sense that they do what works, no matter what corporate giant or uber-celeb stands in their way.

In relation to our series of case-studies, they represent the ‘anti-hero’. The flawed hero with anarchic qualities who is ultimately more of a force for good than evil. But in some cases, only just.

Your strategy will likely be different than that that of Supreme’s. But you should aspire to share their commitment to remaining authentic.

There’s often a time in a hero’s journey when their arch-villain will try to tempt them over to the dark side – to share power for the greater good. After all, even your villains and competitors are the heroes of their own story. But there is little to be gained in the long term by capitulating to competitors. The road to creating a superbrand is a long one – lean on your allies along the way and stay true to your brand’s personality.

TIP 3 – Find your position in the marketplace
Are you the outlaws or the good guys? The luxury brand or the urban mover? Make sure your big idea is supported by the right associations and allies.

Take aways:


If you would like support crafting your brand’s origin story or how to engage your target market then contact New Realm today for a free consultation on 07939 242725 or email us at

Next time… Episode 3 – Storm the Castle / Brand Design

James Jebbia Photo Credit: Daniel Marchand [CC BY 2.0 (]