Sector: Personal Care
Sometimes a place just needs a freshen up, with something unconventional and borderline acceptable that sends out a strong freedom of expression message, put out there by a free spirit with a sense of adventure and cultural duty. Bruno’s Kuaför, based loosely on the absurdly camp and crazy Sacha Baron Cohen character of Bruno film fame, started life as an upmarket ladies hair and beauty salon based on a brand identity that ‘a gay man is a woman’s best friend’. You don’t get much edgier than that in a majority Muslim country with conservative leanings, but everyone rose to the challenge, and within a couple of years, Bruno’s excited no more attention than an ice cream shop. It sounds silly to say it, but Bruno’s was effective at undermining ingrained taboos that two faced progressive peace and tolerance elites either accepted, or encouraged, from a safe distance.
Flagship Service: Beauty Salon
Current Status: Dormant
Despite being opened on a shoestring, Bruno’s lasted for three years between 2011 and 2014 in the up and coming district of Galata in Istanbul, before startup debts and riots finally caught up with it, and forced its closure. But not before it had defied early expectations and become inconsistently profitable, which is about the last thing anyone involved expected, unless they were of the opinion that a strong, alternative brand identity with a twist can deliver a competitive advantage.
First Development Phase:
There was just enough startup investment to get the Bruno’s brand and beauty salon up and running, but not enough to pay staff salaries and bonuses regularly, and that takes its toll over time. Leaving aside the Bruno’s character bit, which was difficult since the Bruno of Baron Cohen fame was on the salon window one way vision transfer in a pair of outrageous bum hugging yellow shorts, the interior design colour scheme was bold, the cutting and reclining chairs were of the highest quality, imported from Italy, and the advertising and marketing was cutting edge, with a ‘Cut to the Limelight’ slogan. In Turkish beauty salon culture, customers come to have hair and nails done at the same time, which meant a team of two female manicurists and three male hairdressers. By the time it closed, Bruno’s was a cracking little brand with nothing to prove, so let’s hope the first phase of development in a difficult part of the world for high street startups, isn’t the last. Bruno’s deserves a second development phase, as a woman’s best friend, with an aim to open more branches in cultural hotspots where women don’t always get a fair shake, and maybe even in places where they do.
The first ever emerging market created and stress tested brand parody launched in the up and coming Galata district of Istanbul between 2011 and 2014, Bruno’s defied expectations by lasting three years and reaching profitability despite threadbare working capital and human resource handicaps. A Güneşten Ad Agency brandchild killed off by a power struggle when it had completed its initial ice breaking job, and was beginning to make money, by those that needed its secular defiance most. So a victim of human nature in its first high street outing, and outside of emerging markets sure to be a victim of Sacha Baron Bottom’s lawyers if there was to be a second, without his permission. Come to think of it, who’s to say Sir Baron Bottom won’t be up for the cultural challenge? He’s scraping the bottom of his creative barrel in Hollywood with his partisan Borat rerun, harassing the kind of people who are the cornerstone of American prosperity, freedom and tolerance – especially his own. Presumably he’s just bored, or needs to pay the bills, or Hollywood wears his trousers? He never used to be the kind of coward who played along to the crowd, let alone such an elitist establishment one. Or perhaps Hollywood just does that to most of its inhabitants in time.