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

 

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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…

Hiut: Jeans that write history

The last thing the world needs is another jeans brand. Isn’t it? With so many companies competing in so many different ways – price, name, heritage, exclusivity  – you better have something pretty special to bring to the market…

When David Hieatt opened the proceedings at the Firestarters event at Google the other evening, he told us that a new jeans brand was exactly what he was building.

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Blogs become mainstream media

In the hype-sphere the chatter is all about Foursquare and Facebook: blogging doesn’t get much of a mention.

While I still prize blogging as a form of personal media and a networked productivity and knowledge tool, its clear to see that blogs as a media format are mature and in the mainstream.

Two posts I read recently spoke of this. First, in her analysis of Google’s launch of Boutiques.com (well worth a read in itself), iCrossing journalist Jo-Ann Fortune points out that alongside fashion celebrities, the company brought on board fashion bloggers:

…Google has enlisted the help of style icon celebrities such as Olivia Palermo, the Olsen twins and Carey Mulligan and fashion bloggers including Jane of Sea of Shoes, Alix, aka The Cherry Blossom Girl and Susie Lau from London-based Style Bubble, to tell that story. These taste-shapers ‘curate’ their own boutiques, based on their favourite pieces as well as their personal style – the sum of their preferred designers, shapes, patterns and styles-, allowing those inspired by their style to join them on a virtual shopping spree.

The inclusion of fashion bloggers alongside the ‘traditional’ celebrities just goes to show how far this new breed of public personality has come. Stylist.co.uk this week disclosed how three female fashion, beauty and celebrity bloggers make between 35k and 80k a year each, revealing that the brand they build from their blog is worth much more than the blog itself.

And Reed’s blogging expert, Adam Tinworth, points to some marketing by Microsoft for its new phone as evidence of blogs in the mainstream (“another tipping point” as he puts it).

A quote. On a huge advert. In one of the mainline commuter stations. In one of the biggest cities in the world.

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As a media format blogs are still as potentially disruptive as they ever where, but some of them are firmly part of the established media landscape now…