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The Benefit Of Clearly Articulated Brand Values

May 27, 2014

A short while ago Jason visited the Manhattan Auto Show—an annual personal tradition. On Monday he couldn’t wait to share two pieces he’d picked up there with the team: and they had nothing to do with cars.

One is a newspaper. I’m serious. Inside is Shinola’s brand campaign (credit: Partners & Spade), featuring Bruce Weber photography of Detroit “icons” (poets, teachers, students, etc.) alongside evocative copy, both more prominent than any product. The second is a brochure telling the Shinola story, and highlighting the team behind the product. These Shinola materials have sat on my desk for the past week or so, waiting for me to figure out how to articulate what they make me feel (“awesome” wasn’t going to cut it). In the meantime, I took a trip down to the Steven Alan (20 Year Anniversary) & Shinola Block Party in Tribeca to see if a visit would help sort out my thoughts (it did).

In Tribeca on a humid Thursday evening, the Shinola / Steven Alan gathering featured Roberta’s (a New York pizza institution) and George Dickel (a whisky that prides itself on “doing things the right way”). As I strolled Franklin Street, debating whether I realllly needed that dress, it hit me. It all centers on time, and the value Shinola places on it. Whether that manifests itself in a respect for the past, a commitment to the time it takes to produce anything of quality, or the investment of time (and dollars) in growing a business and brand the right way—it’s what makes the brand so captivating.

It’s why the pseudo newspaper / brand manifesto / campaign that Shinola produced and distributed at the Lincoln (a fellow Detroit supporter and supporter of innovation in industry) booth makes perfect sense.


And not just any print. Newspaper: a medium symbolic of American industry and growth, one that many discount as a relic of the past. To promote their Detroit-centric, American-made, skilled-labor dependent, luxury goods business via newspaper is just…so on point. To feature brand values (“the spirit of Detroit”) more prominently than anything Shinola actually produces speaks volumes to the type of brand they’re building: it’s about connection, creating a relationship with consumers that takes time to build, and probably costs more money than they make – at least initially. It’s about investing in building a legacy for a brand that carries the name of a once iconic, now forgotten shoe polish. To that end, it’s fitting that the opening pages of the brochure display only “Our Story” and “Our Craftspeople.”

At the end of the day, plenty of brands with big budgets spent a lot of money to produce fancy booths and materials for this show. Only one brand has really held my attention for some time: Shinola. They just thought long and hard about their values and printed them on newspaper so people like me would keep it on the corner of their desk (at this point, indefinitely), instead of tossing it away without a second glance. All that goes to say, a luxury brand’s mission and values are critical to creating real, emotional connection. Never underestimate the value of clearly articulating both to the world.

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As a New York City luxury marketing agency, The O Group has been building legendary brands for the past 35 years across the entire luxury sector including hospitality, home products and materials, fashion, luxury jewelry, fine spirits, food and wine. From our proprietary brand positioning and strategy to crafting essential creative assets needed for brand marketing and digital content, we collaborate with our clients on every part of their brand creation and experience. Our proven process has built a reputation for developing luxury branding that is disruptive, highly desirable and uniquely differentiated.