at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Moleskine, an unMarketer that I love

In Brands on December 21, 2007 at 7:54 am

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Over the last 5 years or so I’ve seen the reemergence of the Moleskine brand, all of it done without intrusive brand noise. At its heart Molekine is a simple brand, notebooks that transcend paper and pen to become repositories for thoughts, memories, dreams and lists. I’ve carried some version of a Moleskine notebook through at least 7 different countries and numerous research projects to capture stories and ideas and have colleagues who do the same.

But I’m struck by what really sets Moleskine apart from other notebooks (of which there are many): they’ve done an incredible job of capturing the living history of the brand and in doing so, have created a humble but impressive brand culture around their products. There is a good consumer generated history here moleskinerie.com that builds on the product lore by associating it with many of the great thinkers and artists of the last hundred years.

What’s striking is that over the years there hasn’t really been a discernible change in the product. An unruled notebook here, a watercolor version there, a city styled guide, some size variations to make it comfortable to carry in a shirt pocket for easy access. Brand building and marketing have been relatively quiet with the greatest change coming in the form of distribution which seems to have exploded, leading to increased availability and awareness. It’s a great case study in how you can generate momentum without radical change or ‘innovative’ new line extensions. Sometimes the product and brand don’t need to be meddled with—here, all the brand really needed was to adjust its sales strategy.

Here is the brand story from the Moleskine site:

MOLESKINE IS THE LEGENDARY NOTEBOOK, USED BY EUROPEAN ARTISTS AND THINKERS FOR THE PAST TWO CENTURIES, FROM VAN GOGH TO PICASSO, FROM ERNEST HEMINGWAY TO BRUCE CHATWIN.

This trusty, pocket-size travel companion held sketches,
notes, stories and ideas before they were turned into
famous images or pages of beloved books.

Originally produced by small French bookbinders who
supplied the Parisian stationery shops frequented by the
international avant-garde, by the end of the twentieth
century the Moleskine notebook was no longer available.
In 1986, the last manufacturer of Moleskine, a family
operation in Tours, closed its shutters forever.

“Le vrai Moleskine n’est plus” were the lapidary words
of the owner of the stationery shop in Rue de l’Ancienne
Comédie where Chatwin stocked up on the notebooks.
The English writer had ordered a hundred of them before
leaving for Australia: he bought up all the Moleskine
that he could find, but they were not enough.

In 1998, a small Milanese publisher brought Moleskine
back again. As the self-effacing keeper of an extraordinary
tradition, Moleskine once again began to travel the globe.
To capture reality on the move, pin down details, impress
upon paper unique aspects of experience: Moleskine
is a reservoir of ideas and feelings, a battery that stores
discoveries and perceptions, and whose energy can be
tapped over time.

The legendary black notebook is once again being passed
from one pocket to the next; with its various different page
styles it accompanies the creative professions and the
imagination of our time. The adventure of Moleskine
continues, and its still-blank pages will tell the rest.

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