Their brand guidelines balance between cohesion and opennessThe Moleskine notebook is not an original idea. It is the rediscovery of a legendary French notebook by a small Milanese publisher who, in 1998, put these books back into production. Today, they are coveted and beloved by designers, architects, writers, artists and travelers around the globe. With annual sales of over 200 million dollars and 35% growth per year, this brand is in high gear. For a look inside the company, I spoke with Maria Sebregondi, Head of Brand Equity and Network Relations, in Moleskine’s Milan headquarters. With a charming Italian accent, she explained with conviction: "Moleskine is a cultural icon. It is not a simple notebook, and it is not a commodity, but a free platform for creativity." A simple message fuels the brand’s resonance and consumer loyalty. Their mission is built on four pillars: imagination, travel, memory, and personal identity. Sebregondi states that there are two main target audiences: one for those focused on "creativity and the artistic side" and one for "productivity, those professionals who want to get things done." Acknowledging that current culture is all about mobility, she believes Moleskine supports "contemporary nomadism." The Moleskine experience begins with a network of "believers," from employees to partners. Even when recruiting they look for people with a passionate cultural background. [Moleskine's in-store display in Selfridge's] Everything about Moleskine’s retail presence is built to to reflect the four core characteristics. According to Sebregondi, "we control the whole merchandising display," through distributing communication materials and providing videos showing the brand values. Their brand guidelines show that these controls strike an unusual balance between cohesion and openness that allows for spontaneous creative contributions from their partners and fans. Moleskine produces 300 products that are distributed in 62 countries. Impressive for a small company that just recently grew to only about 100 people in Italy and the USA. "We have a strong network of partners, and each has its own network of retailers. Our business model is to cultivate a big network, while keeping the company small." To "amplify" their brand, the in-house Moleskine team is doing everything right. Their website offers a deft online expression of the brand with comprehensive offerings and animated videos that bring their products to life. Then there are the interactive components, such as a beta version of their travel aide MoleskineCity and their official blog, Moleskinerie, which boasts a rich visual archive that dates back to 2004. From a predominantly analog brand, they have a comprehensive social media presence: an unprecedented 75,000 Facebook fans far exceeds that of the competition. A curious dimension of Moleskine’s marketing is the absence of advertising. Instead, the company leverages word of mouth and their special editions designed for institutions such as MoMA and events like Tribeca Films and the Montreaux Jazz Festival. "We create visibility for brands in special moments close to our target and provide opportunity for people to see the brand in a special occasion." These have proven to be successful collaborations and offer beneficial exposure to their customers and a revenue source for the company.
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