Experience Key To Shinola's Marketing

Last week I commented on experience versus email and the balance of these two marketing tools by a specific brand: The Spartan Race.  This week, I want to talk about a different balance of experience versus community, specifically in the context of a different brand: Shinola.

Shinola is based in Detroit and focuses on “American Made” products (although if you do a little digging, many of the components of their products are created in other countries and assembled in the U.S., but we can get to that later).  

It makes a wide range of products that seemingly have little to no relationship to one another other than an intense attention to quality.  The focus of the company is on watches, but there’s also high quality leather goods, bicycles, speakers and others.  

If I had to describe what I think of when I think of Shinola, I would respond with “detail.” It is attentive to detail and makes products that are immediately recognizable.



I love this brand.  The company was founded in 2011 and in just a few years they’ve created a niche that is unlike any other.  I say this because the community around their products is tireless and loyal.  They are attentive in the same way as the brand.  

I wear my Shinola watch a couple of days per week, rotating it with one other watch. When I wear my Shinola watch, specially when I wear it in a retail environment, I routinely get a comment.  

Someone inevitably notices the brand, usually another guy, and they will tell me how much they love the brand too.  They have a story about how they got their watch or who gave it to them, and they immediately ask me my story.

All that being said, I am a marketer, so I did a little digging of my own.

The fact is, Shinola is a brand first that tells an amazing story.  Are its watches that much better than anyone else’s?  Realistically not.  Are its other products that much better to command the prices associated with them?  Probably not.  Are they a luxury good on the level of brands like Louis Vuitton and Coach?  No.  

Shinola tells a great story about the redevelopment of Detroit and the quality of American-made goods, tapping into a sense of pride without being political or partisan in any way.   

It is a modern brand, with just the right balance of quality with message.  There are other brands that fit into this niche, like Toms or Allbirds.  Each of these brands has woven together a story with high quality and/or a sense of altruism to engage an audience and build a community of loyal customers.  

These are brands that work in this day and age because of the personalization of media and the short distance between promise, experience and advocacy.

In that last thought is the gist of why I wanted to write this.  You can inspire loyalty by telling a personal story.

Community should be the key driver for your brand in 2018 and going into 2019.  You want a community of users who are willing to talk about you and share your brand with others.  Doing this means you focus on the best, most loyal users and find what resonates with them.  It’s important in B2C as well as in B2B marketing.  

Understanding your audience and identifying what resonates with them, then turning that into a component of your story is where you can be the most effective.

In the case of Shinola, it’s a return to a gritty yet elegant story. The company takes a shoe polish from days gone by and jujitsus the brand into a modern take that inspires the same feelings of comfort as “mom and apple pie” without creating a sense of exclusion.  Anyone can wear a  Shinola watch and feel a sense of pride about it.

It’s an experience promised and an experience realized that creates loyalty.

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