About Us

16Brands as a concept was born in 2007. 

Even back then I saw there was an inherant problem with conventional Social Networks. The problem was marketeers, brand advertisers and to put it simply, money!

In every walk of life where there’s a crowd, there’s also a bunch of marketeers and brands trying to sell that crowd something. This is fine if the crowd has gathered specifically to be sold what the marketeers are selling but 99% of the time this isn’t the case. No, most of the time the marketeers have to shout their message to a largely uninterested crowd using a scattergun approach. The hope is that a small percentage of this crowd will take notice, will see this message and then a small percentage of those people will engage with it. It’s a numbers game, show 10,000 and maybe get 10 people interested. 

This approach is fine, it’s how most marketing works. BUT, and here’s the problem … this only really works if you have very deep pockets. A small ad campaign on google or a newspaper advert can run into hundreds of pounds. The majority of new businesses and start-ups don’t have this kind of marketing spend and so struggle to gain any traction at all, no matter how brilliant they are. 

So in 2006 Social Media stepped up to the plate. It was perfect for brands. It was a tool for exponential growth of your brand through peer-to-peer recommendations which still is, to this day, the single most effective method of marketing. The idea goes that if my friends like something then chances are that a) I might like it because I like my friends and we have the same interests and also b) I can trust that it’s a genuine recommendation because it comes from somebody I trust (ie not a marketeer). 

This kind of marketing is powerful stuff and the figures suggest that between 60-80% of online retail purchases are made as a result of peer-to-peer recommendations.

Okay so you might think that this is the end of the story then? Everybody lives happily ever after. Well for some, yes.

In the good old days of Social Media when there was no ‘paid advertising’ and when there were no ‘sponsored articles’ or ‘promoted posts’ everything was okay. If a friend found a cool brand or product they’d share and everyone was happy and the system worked. But now, well, it’s all changed. Our Social Networks have become Ad Networks and very sophisticated ones at that. These networks know and understand exactly what you do, what you share, what you talk about and every facet of your lives. They maybe even know more than your mum or partner and they use this knowledge to pump paid advertising at you. They’ve changed so much that now they bias paid advertising over normal regular friends posts. This is a potential issue because all that peer-to-peer trust is dissolving in front of our eyes and we’re really not sure what’s genuine and what isn’t! Essentially Social Networks have sold us out to the highest bidder!

I can’t say we blame them … hey, if you’ve made a billion dollars then the obvious next step is to make 2 billion right!  

Okay so this is the end of the story then? Well, not exactly. 

It’s a given that Social Networks are difficult for brand owners to navigate and the questions are endless … How do I add content? How much content should I add? When should I add it? What type of content should I add? Who sees my content and where? Where do likes comes from? How effective are they? Why does everything have to happen inside the Social Network and why do people never want (or are never really encouraged) to visit my website (which took ages to develop btw!!)? How does paid advertising work? How can I cut through all the noise (ie how can I possibly compete with cute kitty or what Margie got up to at the office party)? It’s become so complex that a million other industries offering advice, strategies and guidance on how to use social media have sprung up as a result? 

So getting to the point of 16Brands ... 

16Brands is a social network for brands and for people that love them (we all love brands right?). It’s where great small brands can become great big brands just by being great and not by having deep pockets. It’s a place of integrity with no sponsored ads, no promoted posts and no paid advertising. It’s a level playing field where all brands start equal and it’s a place where we curate content from brands that we love because they are genuinely good and not because we’ve been paid to do so.

At 16Brands it’s not about looking good, it’s about being good and it’s about being socially responsible and honest with the people that love your brand. So although we can’t dictate what brands people like or what brands join the site we can dictate which ones we talk about. We’re not looking for cool brands, we looking for good brands, there’s a big difference! So a brand might be uber cool but if they publicly go home, kick the cat, beat the wife and then urinate on the neighbours flowers then tbh we’re probably not going to be talking about them.

This isn’t hippy idealist nonsense either! This is about honest hard working creative people who want to make a small difference to the world and are prepared to risk a lot to gain a little. This is about empowering people who have great ideas and also have the cahonas to do something about it. It's about giving them a voice and a platform where they can be heard. It’s about small entrepreneurs, anti-globalisation and legacy. It’s about leaving a lasting mark on our planet that doesn’t start with a dollar sign and it’s about creating something out of nothing. 

16Brands is unique in that it’s not run by a committee or shareholders or investors or people with one eye on the profit column. It’s run by me, Steve Villiers, a regular bloke from Edinburgh, Scotland who had one of his occasionally good ideas. I’m not a businessman, marketeer, charlatan, bon vivant or clown (although talk to my ex-wife and she’d probably call me at least two of those). By day I’m actually a fairly average designer with an above average helping of … okay, drum roll … scroll down the page for the answer … close your eyes … soft focus on family members holding their breath … of … of … common sense! Yip, good old fashioned common sense, which is actually more remarkable these days than you might think.

I really hope you enjoy the site, it's not finished and the design is a couple of years old now but it's hopefully not too shabby either. There might be the odd unexpected 403 error but in time we'll fix these and make it the community of all things genuine, honest and inspiring we hope it will eventually be.

If you've got any questions about 16Brands or just feel like a natter then please feel free to get in touch. 

Oh and if you’re a great small brand who wants to become a great big brand or just a great small brand looking for an alternative way to keep people informed then please let me know. I'm always on the lookout for inspiring products and services.


Thanks for your time,