Tracksmith, stories and experiences

Connecting a couple of dots: retail experience and luxury.

The Economist says that luxury goods manufacturers need to look at selling experiences as even the poshest products become commoditised:

Makers of luxury have come to realise that the paradox of industrial craftsmanship can be pushed only so far. To captivate new clients and keep the older ones on board, brands will have to invest shopping with a sense of occasion and give ordinary customers some of the individual attention they have lavished on their biggest-spending ones. Increasingly, that is what they are doing. When Burberry launched a perfume in September, it gave customers a chance to inscribe bottles with their own initials, both in shops and online.

One new brand I’m watching at the moment is Tracksmith, a running apparel label from Luke Scheybeler, co-founder of Rapha the company that showed that stylish clothing at a high price would sell to cyclists.ZZ4AE0A249

With no physical stores yet, and a small collection of niche products, it is using story to create an experience for its customers – the story of running, style, culture and history. And the story of its own beginning.

Since it started, earlier this year, Tracksmith has been selling a small but growing – one or two items at a time – collection of clothing based on traditional New England and Ivy League designs. (Duffer of St George did something similar in the UK in the 90s, and then the brand drifted into mass market confusion.)

The brand is – like Rapha – defined by a bold, clear sense of self, of what it is about, the story it will tell, how it will feel to buy and wear its clothing. A beautiful website is a given with these guys – and this one is perfect. It takes its time – there’s space for the products. The look and feel of the photography is consistent and exquisite – you would buy the VSCO Lightroom pre-sets if they were available.

Tracksmith is testing the market and tempting it – a steadily building collection, limited runs of products. I’ve bought a couple to try out – and I’ve had to wait a couple of months until the first t-shirt I wanted was back in stock.

What’s interesting about Tracksmith’s content strategy is that – point of sale style aside – it centres on a print publication. Meter is essentially a Rouleur for running – all about the history and culture. It comes in a digital version too, but the print looks gorgeous – if you like design or photography and running, you want to own the physical one (only $5).

ZZ0EC2AC73As a runner, I’m used to technical, functional and often pretty unstylish clothing and – frankly – content. Runners World is the staple periodical for runners. It’s good for tips and motivation, but stylish and beautifully designed it is not – and its website is an embarrassment (I say that as a paying subscriber). It’s aspirational in a performance sense, but running as a culture and a lifestyle, not so much.

Any way – connecting this brand to experience. Look what happens when one of Tracksmith’s unsurprisingly pricey t-shirts arrives in the post

 

ZZ64F0D5C1

The packaging is perfect, like receiving a gift.

And there’s a note in the form of a race number that marks that the order is one of the first 2,014 orders ever to be shipped. Everything about this feels special. Exciting. There’s a story being told and you are a part of that story is what it says. And – simple as it is – the quality of the product is exceptional.

So, Tracksmith. Watch and learn…

Digital transformation is universal

untitled

Following on from the quote about digital transformation from Russell Davies, here’s the Economist’s economics editor in his newspaper’s The World in 2015 supplement:

Virtually every firm in every industry is being shaken up by the digital revolution. No chief executive can ignore the onslaught of mobile computing, big data, artificial intelligence and the like. These new technologies offer the promise of huge efficiency gains, but also the threat of being walloped by some upstart from Silicon Valley.

Just in case there was any doubt…

He goes on to say that the financial crisis may have slowed the impact of digital, but that as the world economy picks up, so will the rate of disruption. It’s only just begun, people.

 

Coke’s alt accelerator

untitledThe Coca-Cola Founders Program is an interesting proposition: bring disruptive thinking into the heart of a giant business by letting serial-start up entrepreneurs have the run of the place and find problems they want to solve and turn into businesses.

Coke streses that this is more than your average accelerator:

Most accelerators conduct three to six month programs and focus on financial investment and mentoring. Our model is very different. We invest in founders first, before they have a startup or even an idea. We don’t dictate the problem they should solve and we give them the time and attention required to truly validate the problem, design the best product/market fit and find a business model to create a sustainable company.

A process of radical change around digital began at Coca-Cola four years ago – the 2020 Vision, the switching of 20% of its ad budget into earned media, the new emphasis on stories and co-creation over the traditional ad.

Coke’s new approach to marketing investment grew out of the need to explore digital media. They  use a 70:20:10 ratio of investment – 70% “now” (tried and tested methods), 20% “new” (experimental new media and formats) and 10% next (edge ideas and innovations). This model has seeped into the culture beyond marketing, it seems and into other areas of the business .

With companies this vast and interesting, though – you need to keep a close eye on developments. Look at them, come back three months and look again – there’s always more to see.

Coke vs. Pepsi on social media and disruption

Coke’s rival, Pepsico, was apparently “all in” on social media and digital media a few years ago – why aren’t we seeing anything as radical or interesting as the Coca Cola Founders Programme there?

It could well be that there are fascinating things happening behind closed doors, or that its PR and comms just aren’t making as much of it as Coca-Cola – but I don’t think that’s the case. There have been high profile heads of digital, accelerators, sponsorships of SXSW and technically brilliant website revamps, but not the depth and ambition of change we see at Coke.

Pepsico has approached digital as a brand marketing challenge. Social as a disruption to advertising – an important trend in advertising that needed a response from a brand built on ads. The company has recently hired a new global head of innovation with a brief to look at innovation in a “more holistic” way.

Coca-Cola’s marketing shift has been huge, but it has coupled this with  parallel commercial and operational change. The 70-20-10 model of investment and taking risks has spread far beyond marketing into how the whole business thinks about innovation and change.

This is no coincidence – Coke’s leadership came not just from a strong marketing vision but from the top – the CEO told the business what change in the digital age was going to look like. The money moved and the operations, culture and suppliers followed suit – rewarding incumbent agencies that upped their digital and earned media game or bringing in new players like Zone, as its UK content agency (which pioneered the editorial style of corporate home for Coke’s UK home page).

Coca-Cola has seen and treated digital as a strategic challenge – and that’s why we’ll keep seeing it produce inspiring innovations like the Founders Program.

Another writing app

Stephen Fry once said, I’ve never seen a smartphone I haven’t bought. My vice is writing apps. Actually it’s all writing technologies – I’m the same about notebooks, pens, typewriters, pencils, writing slopes, dictionaries and style guides. Always have been – but apps most of all, because it is on screens that most of my writing happens.

If I were being kind, I would say that this about a love of the craft, of prose, copy, the act and process of the written word. Being more critical, I would say it is a proxy for getting with it, for the real secret of the professional writer – getting on with it. If I could just find the perfect app, the perfect pen, the perfect machine, then the words will flow uninterrupted – I will find the magic combination of place, tools and thoughts to write the twenty blog posts, five medium articles, seven essays and a novel currently knocking about in the creative holding area of my subconscious.

The latest is Desk. I knew I would buy it the moment I read about it because… because… it is a minimalist writing app. Because I use Byword for work, IAWriter Pro for fiction, Google Docs for collaborative writing, Evernote for lists, Curio for outlining-mindmapping-whiteboarding-in-one-app and Scrivener if I ever think there is a danger of a book emerging.

It’s a great app for me, as it seems to have everything I love about all my other apps rolled into one –

  • minimalist writing layout (fewer distractions)
  • connects to blogging services
  • the first blog editor on the Mac that seems to make image editing really fast and easy (look – you can adjust the size and format)
  • one of those nice “night mode” things for when the glare of the screen gets too much.

All of these things add up to an app for blogging – and perhaps other writing – that helps close the gap between the intention to write a blog post and getting it published, a tip from Adam Tinworth, someone who  is without parallel in their understanding and adept use of that form.

One last thing – a thread I will pick up again later – trying out new apps for working is a worthwhile thing to do to help keep you thinking critically about workflow and how tools shape the way you think and work.

Dots, as told in Artefact Cards

Things are moving pretty quickly at work at the moment, so I’ve not had much of a chance to reflect or mention things that are going on there – but I can’t let the year slip by without mentioning one really cool thing…

Just over a month ago Brilliant Noise held its first conference, Dots: Connecting Ideas, part of the amazing Brighton Digital Festival.

Like Matt Locke says about The Story conference – a big inspiration to us in all sorts of ways – the joy of holding your own conference is that you get to choose the people you want to hear from. With the curatorial genius of Neil Perkin, it was my dream conference – a relentless series of very different but always inspiring points of view.

Adam Tinworth, the best live-blogger in the business, created posts about all of the talks, which you can read by clicking on the speaker biographies on the Dots website.

We had a limited edition set of Artefact Cards – which I love, and have blogged about before – for everyone who attended. On the way out everyone handed in one of their cards with the one most memorable or important thing they would take away from the day. We’ve made that into a poster, so you can view the crowd-sourced notes of dots that were connected on the day – there’s a higher resolution version of this here.

ZZ17A861BA

Business model design trumps product design for value creation

ZZ2567F993

At the Dots conference last month, Mark Earls gave some fresh takes on his favourite theme – humans-as-copying-machines. The best way to come up with something new, he showed, was to copy someone else, or something else. You come up with something new because, in the process of copying, you make errors.

He went further, arguing that one of the best things to do was “copy from far away” – from another field of endeavour, another country, another industry.

On the FT a week later there was an article about how new business models disrupt industries

…Apple became the biggest music retail seller without selling one CD; Netflix reinvented the video business without operating a single video store. Google continues to attack new industries with its data-based services and devices; Google’s products from glasses, to self-driving cars to smart thermostats are just a means for increasing and leveraging Google’s data-based consumer insights.

Of course, none of the business models are new, they are just copied from other industries. Copied from far away. Like Nestlé copying the Gilette razor-blade business model to sell Nespresso pods (pricing coffee at £60 a kilo).

Here’s a video of the whole interview…

 

Medium well done

I tried writing an article on Medium publishing platform for the first time this week. It was a post about values and how we use them at Brilliant Noise. It felt more like an article than a post, and it felt like it neither belonged here nor the Brilliant Noise blog in the first instance. I’m not sure why, but it felt a little more like nailing something to the cathedral door – and that was right for this piece in particular.

I really enjoyed using the Medium platform for writing. The font’s lovely and – a little monkeying around with the image for the header aside – it was elegant and simple to write in (I particularly like the long hyphens for some reason).

If you’d like to read the article, it’s called Why Values are Valuable. Let me know what you think…

ZZ057230C7

$100 campaigns

New100front

I love this  “ship early, ship often” approach social content from Lars Silberbauer, head of social media and search at Lego, shared at Social Media Week London

Describing how Lego created its social marketing campaigns, he said: “We start out by creating $100 campaigns. We of course do TV ads and have a lot of budget but I want people to think differently about social.”

The idea of the $100 spend came about as Silberbauer wanted his team to think more about the dynamic of the content and not just the spend available. The number was decided as he asked his team to empty their pockets, and the value of change held by the group was almost $100.

“Pilot and scale” is a planning mantra at Brilliant Noise. I’d like to try out a few $100 campaigns – it’s a neat way to constrain and get you trying out ideas.