Barnes & Noble hawks dozens of journals decorated with cats, flowers, and owls—a fitting gift, perhaps, for a tween suffering from ennui—but really, how many notebooks does a person need? And who writes with an actual pencil anymore?
My colleague Meg admits to owning 10, and can tick off the specs like a grocery list (black grid, lined, blank; mini red; mini pink; mini daytimer…). Another officemate owns 3 Moleskines, all in green [I'm a little obsessive that way. —Ed.]. My husband keeps a black Pocket Squared Notebook for each segment of his life such as Wedding, Car, Yard Work, Baby.
What IS it about these notebooks? And what’s more, how do they stay relevant in the age of digital?
Moleskine has a number of things going for them. First, they have a really great story. And the story is simple: if you are smart, creative and well traveled then you use a Moleskine—just like Hemingway, Van Gogh and Chatwin! The story is so compelling that I thought the brand existed long ago and was revived. But according to their website, the company, founded in 1997, simply turned the “nameless black notebook” into a brand.
Second, they’ve devised a meaningful visual system. The notebooks are black or solid color and are packaged in a beautiful palette of contrasting colored bands that correspond with the page format (orange for lines, green for plain, etc). The band has a mini diagram of the notebook’s format so you can understand what’s inside without opening the packaging. The design is easily identifiable whether seen from the cover or the spine; they look fantastic lined up together on the shelf.
Third, Moleskine serves a variety of purposes and personalities. Yet, unlike Starbucks’ ventures into teddy bears and airport-quality breakfast sandwiches, Moleskine keeps their products tightly reined in to the brand system. Whether you choose the Passion Book for wine collecting, The Hand of the Architect special edition, or the City Notebook for Boston, they’re clearly identifiable as a Moleskine. Once you’ve accumulated a few, there is satisfaction that you have developed your very own personalized system (and probably should expand upon it!).
Finally, Moleskine has maintained relevance because they encourage a relationship between paper and digital. A YouTube search for Moleskine produced 1,760 results including the official Moleskine channel. A blog called Moleskinerie had such an avid following that it was acquired by Moleskine.com a couple of years ago and the blog’s Flickr photostream has over 71,000 photos and over 14,000 members. Primarily the videos, images and discussions revolve around artwork and projects penned in Moleskines, as well as hacks and spin-off products like the DODOcase for your iPad.
The Moleskine has not lured everyone, to be sure. But while taking an informal poll about Moleskine ownership in our office I heard a murmur in the hall, “Maybe I need a Moleskine….”
Do you own a Moleskine? Do you balance your creative process or your system of organization between paper and digital?
We’re pleased to roll out a new series of workshops today, focusing on four of our most important areas of collaboration with clients: brand strategy, messaging, visual brand expression, and social media.
Each one of these modular, half-day (and customizable!) workshops offers your organization the opportunity to learn how you could more effectively be communicating with your audience (both internally and externally), and how to make more significant connections with the customers, constituents and community members that matter most to you.
We’d love to work with you to help you do what you do even better.
Drop us an email via the form on the Workshops page to get in touch, or give me (Meg) a call at 617-266-8577.
I wear Warby Parkers.
I can’t tell you the last time I could name the brand of glasses I wear, but these days, whenever anyone comments on them, I tell them, “They’re Warby Parkers.” And they cost $95. And I bought them online. And that, because I bought a pair, Warby Parker donated another pair to someone in need.
Warby Parker gets it. They get that there are people out there who (a) love to wear glasses (b) would buy a different pair for every day of the week if they could and (c) like having their little bit of vanity balanced by helping someone else out. In other words, they get that I’ve become an instant devotee because what they offer, and how they offer it, intersects with what I want and value. That my “brand” intersects with theirs.
An optical shop up the street from our office, on the other hand, does not get it.
Warby Parker doesn’t have a store; you buy their glasses online. That’s a little weird for us lifelong glasses wearers, but Warby Parker has answered that concern with both at-home try-on options and a virtual try-on feature that works surprisingly well (once I got my pair, I went back and checked how they fit against the virtual try-on: VERY close). You choose your frames, send along your prescription and doctor’s information with your order, and then they send you your glasses.
But it turns out that offline optometrists and optical shops have a monopoly on one little piece of information that’s needed to make your glasses work properly for you: a measurement called “PD,” for “pupillary distance.” Any optician can do the measurement… but as soon as you go in and ask for it, it’s a red flag that you’re about to buy your glasses somewhere else.
Such was the case at the aforementioned optical shop up the street. It’s a shop well-matched to this Boston neighborhood—they carry fashionably high-end frames (some exclusive to that store) that cater to the well-heeled and fashion-forward clientele of the area. I went in, asked for the measurement, and was immediately asked,
“Are you buying your glasses online?”
“Well, we offer a service where we’ll do the measurement for you, and then do the adjustments once you get your frames. Because, you know, an online shop can’t do that.”
I’m pretty sure I could have found a place to do the measurement for free, but I was already out on my lunch break, there weren’t any other optical shops nearby, and I was incredibly eager to complete my order and get my new frames. So I agreed, got the measurement, and was on my way… but not before several more digs at online optical shops.
Hmm. Not exactly the way to get me to come back to your store, despite your protestations that “We’re not in business to give away business to online stores.”
But they were already into me for $25, so I was definitely going to go back to get my Warby Parkers adjusted. Which I did, but not before more digs and snarky comments at their construction (a fact noticeable only to proprietors of optical shops, apparently, as I had no complaints), lack of service (as imagined by the proprietor; again, I had no complaints), and rhetorical questions about why people would ever buy glasses online rather than a store like his that had exclusive (and blisteringly expensive) frames.
Um, hello? I’M STANDING RIGHT HERE.
The optical shop didn’t get it.
They didn’t get that by criticizing the glasses I came in with, they weren’t just criticizing Warby Parker, they were criticizing me, and my choice to buy them.
While I’m sure it was all the result of a somewhat misguided attempt to convince me to shop further in his store (“Do you need your prescription sunglasses updated, too?” Um, no. At least, not with you.), what he didn’t get was that how he handled the difference between his offline experience and my online one was an opportunity—if not to get me to buy a pair of glasses at his store, then at least to encourage a recommendation of his store to people I might know whose needs and values more closely aligned with his.
Companies and organizations cannot be all things to all people. They just can’t. The more they try, the less they’re able to focus on what really makes them stand out, or on how best to make that all-important connection with those who REALLY care about what the organization does and stands for.
Customers (or audiences or stakeholders or…) fall into one of three categories: the evangelists (those for whom you can [usually] do no wrong), the atheists (those who’ll never be interested in or value what you do), and the agnostics (those whose opinion isn’t yet set).
As a brand, your first responsibility is to your evangelists—they are the lifeblood of your organization, and the ambassadors who’ll do much of your proselytizing for you. Since you’ll never change the atheists’ opinions (at least, not without an extraordinary amount of time and effort or some kind of deus ex machina), they’re best left alone, as are the evangelists of your competitors (since it’s awfully hard to get an evangelist to change religions).
But you can change an agnostic’s opinion… in either direction.
I was agnostic about Warby Parker when I first heard about them. Could I really buy a pair of glasses without ever trying them on? What if I didn’t like them? What if I wanted my friends’ opinions on them? Would they look like I only spent $100 on them? But Warby Parker answered every concern I had (not to mention the added benefit of donating a pair of glasses for the pair I bought), and they delivered—within a week of getting my order in the first place. So now I’m an evangelist.
I was agnostic about the optical shop, too. I had been in their store in years past when looking for previous pairs of glasses. They were always friendly, and always had nice frames, though nothing ever struck me as fabulous enough for the money I’d have to spend. But I left the store this time not only aware that I’d never return (an atheist), but also of a mind to write this post—and wondering how offline brands can compete with online ones.
So, what do you think the future holds? Is there a middle ground for online and offline brands? How can each best find their market—and maybe even work together to provide shared customers with value?
Attempting to understand the nuance of “net neutrality“—the idea that Internet access and content should remain free of government or corporate control—is a tall order. It requires the observational skills, experience, and understanding of an anthropologist coupled with the book-smarts of a seasoned lawyer.
Tragically, most of us are neither of these things (myself included). And yet, anyone who spends a great deal of time dealing with the Internet (i.e., most of us) has a great stake in the outcome(s) of the debate surrounding the issue.
After all, the very definition of digital space and the rights of those that traverse it are at stake.
Recently, Google and Verizon released a short list of legislative recommendations summarizing their contemporary views on the subject. These include basic consumer-protections, transparency and non-discriminatory requirements, establishment of network management standards, and more.
The general reaction has been…hyperbolic. Articles with eye-popping headlines like “Google Goes Evil,” ”Google-Verizon pact, makes BP look good,” etc. have been fairly commonplace throughout the web. I would expect this kind of thing from HuffPo, of course, but I’ve read plenty of forum threads on the subject that haven’t been terribly inspired as well. I’ve seen one too many posts along the lines of “This could be the end of the internet as we know it!”
Fortunately, a few more level-headed responses have emerged. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), an internet-oriented civil liberties group, has done a series of more detailed analyses on the recommendations. Their viewpoints focus more on the troubling vagaries, such as the nebulous concept of “network management standards” and consequences of “lawful content,” along with the highly conspicuous lack of standards for wireless networks (Google and Verizon suggest that for now, only the transparency standard should apply given the current dynamism of the technology/content).
I still think they may be a bit too troubled by the concepts they deem overly vague, as law is full of such language (e.g., the concept of “probable cause”) and we just sort of have to live with it. Still, I’m glad that a reasoned cautionary body like the EFF exists to counteract the natural flaw inherent in ANY legislation recommended by corporate entities. After all, Google and Verizon are ultimately self-interested.
Our government has a strong tendency to look for private sector “expertise” when dealing with complex issues like net neutrality. While this often generates problems, I find it understandable. Imagine you’re an elected official and are expected to formulate an opinion on net neutrality. Where do you look? To people you perceive have a great deal of knowledge regarding the Internet, of course: CEO’s of Google and Verizon, etc. This principle is applied across the board, particularly with executive branch appointees (just look at Henry Paulson‘s credentials before he became Bush’s second treasury secretary).
Even though I find the Google/Verizon recommendations perhaps more innocuous than most; I still think it’s fortunate that some very smart people out there are attempting to provide an alternative source of information. For every evil king, there tends to be a Robin Hood.
Frankly, it could be a lot worse. At least they have a non-discrimination requirement for land-line broadband in there. That’s essential to the very basis of net neutrality. Now if only they could apply it to large-scale wireless networks as well….
What do you think? Is this the end of the Internet as we know it?
And how can we move towards a more productive debate?
Image credit: Jason Walton
Categories: Digital Media
I operate in two worlds. By day (and often into early evening) I craft brand-focused communication programs for a variety of mission-driven organizations. By night (and often into early morning) I write, perform and record with a band as part of Boston’s vibrant independent music scene.
There’s always been a synergy between the two, as I often draw on my marketing and branding experiences while managing promotions for my bands. The last year or so, however, I’ve noticed the tables have turned a bit.
Nowadays, however, I find myself bringing my DIY music marketing experiences to bear on my branding projects at Sametz. Music blogs focused on independent artists have become an excellent source for current thinking on building connections in our increasingly noisy, fragmented world.
With limited resources, independent bands must make the most of every opportunity. At the same time, they’re less encumbered by red-tape and drawn-out decision making processes, and more willing to take calculated risks. As a result, musicians and bands are out in front of many mainstream marketers. Consider…
One step beyond…
Bands understand from the get-go that their music effects different people in different ways, and often fulfills a variety of needs beyond the simple “entertainment” a particular genre offers.
Bands purposefully promote the social aspect of their music: the emotions it triggers; its power to inform and educate; its ability to conjure memories; and so on. Businesses should take a similar approach. While they are undoubtedly important, take a step beyond your core value proposition to see what surrounds it. Your constituents aren’t monolithic, after all, and neither are you.
People are people…
Artists have always understood that personal connections drive success. Putting on a great show is important, but it means nothing if you aren’t building personal connections in the process. And playing a show is often the easy part; it’s the time before and after the set spent hanging with the club staff, the sound person, other bands––and the audience––that really makes a difference.
Organizations should follow suit; people aren’t likely to become loyal to your brand unless they have a (positive!) sense of the people behind it.
I want my ____ TV…
Successful bands understand their role as mini-media companies. Via websites, photostreams, Twitter, blogs, video channels and other social media outposts, bands produce a mosaic of content with a particular voice––one that people find valuable and regularly worth tuning in to.
Businesses must understand that on the Web, entertainment and commerce are quickly becoming one and the same. The ability to engage is more important to brand-building and the bottom line than anything you can say about the “speeds and feeds” of your programs, products, or services.
It takes two to make a thing go right…
Bands are always collaborating: sharing audiences, leveraging resources, and cross-pollinating ideas. Whether they’re working with an engineer, a producer, a club owner, or other musicians, artists are constantly moving and existing outside their immediate orbit.
As a result, bands (independent, working bands anyway) rarely become isolated. They are in constant touch with what’s happening creatively around them. Business should look for opportunities to work outside of thier comfort zone; to experience new ideas and new ways of doing business.
Here, there, and everywhere…
Bands have always understood that it’s far better to be discovered by fans than forced upon audiences. When a listener “discovers” a band, they feel a sense of ownership which soon breeds feelings of loyalty and advocacy. By being everywhere it matters to be––from social media sites, to blogs, to internet radio, to soundtracks of all kinds, and beyond––bands strive to be visible enough to “get found.”
Marketers, of course, now call this “inbound marketing”… but bands have been doing it for years.
Looking for cues to help craft your inbound digital marketing strategy? Instead of reading xyz marketing blog, take a few minutes to study how your favorite artist (or the local band you keep hearing about) is using their website as the hub of a broader inbound strategy.
Independent artists aren’t so “starving” anymore. Many are savvy marketers who could teach us a thing or two about communicating effectively in our complex world. And chances are, someone you know or someone within your organization is a working, independent musician.
Learn from them… and then, please, buy a CD.
What do you think? What else can brands learn from bands?
In tough times, we often seek to reconnect with and deepen the most positive relationships we’ve developed over the years, in both our personal and professional lives. You want people you trust in your corner when the chips are down… and renewing those bonds provides a source of both comfort and strength.
In that same way, I’ve recently had the great fortune to reconnect with several clients we’ve worked with in the past. Many companies and organizations are facing funding cuts and slow(ing) sales in this economy, but when projects come up, they want to work with people who get what they’re about, and who they trust to provide value when resources are stretched thin.
Each one of these conversations has reinforced how important relationships are in what we do. You can offer a great product or service, but what keeps people coming back again and again is the connection you build with them over time—the shared experiences and vision that trump all else.
I recently had lunch with someone I’d worked with years ago, and our conversation soon turned to a discussion of past projects. But what I quickly noticed was that we were speaking less about the projects than we were about the people.
“She’s such a wonderful designer and always showed tremendous grace under pressure.”
“He is so smart in his approach to design thinking, which raises the bar for everything for us—it makes you think!”
“I always feel respected and listened to, and that is so key to a successful partnership—with anyone.”
“He knows how to listen.”
We didn’t talk about budgets. We didn’t talk about proposals. We didn’t talk about plans.
We talked about people. We talked about relationships. We talked about stuff that would never show up in an estimate… but made all the difference to the success of the project.
What’s underneath is what sustains. There will always be people who can compete with you in terms of offerings, but are they taking the time to care and build a connection?
So, to answer the question in the title over this post, it’s the power of…
Smart, thoughtful approaches to both everyday and extraordinary challenges
Grace under pressure (and a sense of humor never hurts as deadlines loom)
Resourcefulness, accompanied by a sort of fearlessness: the proverbial “whatever it takes” attitude
Comfort in the reality that someone is looking out for your best interests
If, in today’s tweeting, blogging, always-online world, a brand is a mosaic—then isn’t a successful relationship also a mosaic, where different pieces of the puzzle shine at different times, and the whole is truly greater that the sum of its parts?
What is it about the relationships you’ve built over the years that makes them last?
And what do you value the most in those with whom you work?
After 20-plus years of working with nonprofits, I can say one thing for certain: you can measure the strength (not to mention the future strength) of your organization by the depth of your relationships.
If you’ve built a strong community of supporters, you’re going to be able to rely on them when you need extra help to meet your goals.
These supporters are the volunteers who show up to help out when your staff is overtaxed, who talk passionately about your latest project with their friends and family, or raise their monthly donation when your other sources of funding run dry. They do it because they believe in what you do — and because they believe you value them right back.
“Organizations that compete successfully for major donors are skilled in making friends, in fostering relationships with people who share a vision and values, and instinctively understand the need for collaboration.”
A big part of the friendship equation lies in the way you communicate and connect with your constituents. Do you truly see them as friends of your organization, invested in who you are and what you’re doing…. or do you see them as nothing more than a bank?
When you go to the bank to make a withdrawal, you don’t have to justify why you’re taking the money out, or what you’re going to do with it. After all, it’s there waiting for you. It’s yours. The ATM isn’t going to ask why it should hand over the cash! The number on your card is all the justification you need.
(And it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to say “thank you,” either, or follow up with the ATM to let it know what you did with the cash.)
Too many nonprofits are just as confident (and blunt!) about asking for money, time or other forms of support from their constituents, regardless of the fact that the support they’re seeking is anything but a given: they feel entitled, because they believe in their mission and how deserving it is.
But unless they’ve done a good job of articulating their mission and why it matters to them — and learning why and how it matters to the people they’re sharing it with, and asking for support from — they’re likely to be met with more resistance than unabashed acceptance. The “ask” simply isn’t enough.
So how can you avoid treating your community like a savings account?
When your organization has a clear, well-defined brand, you’re off to a great start. You’ve done the work of differentiating yourself by establishing your values, your goals and your unique areas of capability. Your supporters can identify easily with your core mission because they truly know what it entails. When they talk about you to their friends and family, they don’t have to scramble to talk about who you are… the right words are at the tip of their tongues.
But, as with any real relationship, it simply doesn’t work when it’s all about you.
You need to be aware of your constituents’ brands, too.
As Roger and Brandon write:
“While articulating your brand is very important, it’s only part of the equation. Organizations that are successful at connecting to major donors are also skilled at understanding the “brands” of their prospects. What is it that they care about? What do they stand for? What is it that they want to accomplish?”
Are you asking these questions? Do you care about the answers?
The reality is that people are giving for reasons intimately connected to their personal brand now, as Roger and Brandon explain:
“Major giving today is not about being a ‘good person,’ checking off the $100 box on an annual fund donation form, or becoming a member. It’s about accomplishing something both the donor and the organization consider as vitally important.”
And if you’re like most organizations, you have a support base that brings together a lot of different people with a lot of different reasons for getting behind your mission. One message, or “way in,” does not fit all — even if your core brand is crystal clear.
This is where listening comes in.
Take the time to ask all the people who support you — from the folks on your board to the people who work in your office, right on down to the people who give $10 a month through automatic debits — why they take the time to be involved.
How did they find out about you? Where did the emotional connection to your organization begin? What do they value most about what you do? How does contributing to what you do make them feel? When they talk about you to others, what words are they using? What kind of responses do they get?
These are just a few of the questions that will help you get to the heart of why people support you — and by taking a good look at the answers, you’ll learn to share your mission with them more effectively… and connect with other future supporters just like them.
Don’t worry if you discover a lot of different answers to the same questions — understanding the unique and diverse nature of your support base will make the job of reaching out to them that much easier.
And you’ll never treat them like an ATM again.
To read more from Roger and Brandon about ‘friend-raising’, head to Sametz.com. And be sure to take a look at our other articles, too — we’ve got lots of resources for nonprofits and for-profits alike.
We’re pleased to point you to an article by our president and CEO, Roger Sametz, on the front page of the National Arts Marketing Project this month.
“Brand Control to Major Tom: The New Rules of Brand Management” explores the challenges that brand managers face in this ‘new age of extreme participation’:
“No, you haven’t lost control. The notion that you can manage your brand by making and distributing messages and materials that you want “out there” is becoming quaint.
Rather, now, monologues need to be replaced by dialogues; formal market research needs to be paired with attentive listening; “advice” is offered round the clock; participation in social media is now table stakes; and customers and prospects who have always trusted friends to help them make decisions often have a huge network they can carry around with them to consult.”
You can find the full text of the article here.
We welcome your comments on the article in the comments below — let us know what you think!
And special thanks to the National Arts Marketing Project for connecting us with your passionate group of constituents!