An Italian Job
To understand Moleskine’s brand extensions, one needs to go back to its origin. In the late 1990’s Modo & Modo, a small Milanese publisher brought back the original notebook under the Moleskine brand. The notebook was inspired by the legends of yesteryears, artists and thinkers like Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso.
It wasn’t the most apt of times to launch a project like this given the dawn of the digital revolution and the fact that the industry was already well stocked with cheaper alternatives.
But, Moleskine believed that there was more to the notebook. Afterall, it was a repository for the owners thoughts and feelings. Something that would be treasured and preserved. In essence, while the world was advancing at a feverish pace, Moleskine was giving artists, writers, dreamers and other creatives the opportunity to retain a slowly disappearing practice of self-expression.
Today, Moleskine lays claim to a host of notebooks, planners, writing instruments, bags, accessories, apps and digital devices. In addition, it launched two initiatives, both of which display a high degree of product-market stretch. On the surface they seem unusual. But, interestingly and strategically, they make very good sense.
Moleskine’s Brand Extensions
With a clever mix of art displays, retail space and a café, Moleskine created an inspiring place for creatives to gather, network and explore their passion. Moleskine cafés combine an open and tranquil ambiance with subtle hints drawn from its products and core values.The cafés provide opportunities for communal engagement, dedicated areas for creative expression and personal spaces for quiet contemplation.
Currently, Moleskine cafés are operational in Milan, Beijing, Hamburg and Geneva. The inaugural café opened at Geneva’s Cointrin Airport in 2015 with the purpose of celebrating travel, journeys and creativity on the move. An brilliant location to motivate travelers to explore the traditional ways of documenting journeys.
Moleskine provides fans with an opportunity to break from routine and immerse themselves in creative exploration. Participants embark on an extended co-living, co-working and co-creating experience. Along with cultural excursions and inspiring workshops, travelers get the chance to discover themselves away from the world they’ve left behind. Moleskine calls these experiences – “Moleskine | Unsettled Retreats“. These retreats are currently available in Bali and Mexico City.
Why do Moleskine’s brand extensions work?
Creatives put a lot of stock into the instruments they use in their artistic projects. They develop a sort of sentimental attachment with their tools. Moleskine has leveraged this emotional connection and by going above and beyond the natural product scope, they have offered something more – an experience. We all know how important brand experience is nowadays.
The concepts of the café and retreat are unnatural extensions but they add value to the brand. They energize the primary offering. They show a genuine desire to celebrate creatives, share art and build communities. It’s also an opportunity to expose users and non-users to the brand’s product ecosystem.
Whether you are a poet, an artist, a designer or a traveler, Moleskine | Unsettled Retreats and Cafés are avenues to create dialogues with loyal customers. By their existence, they also create a bit of intrigue for non-customers.
While these new initiatives can be seen as extensions, they actually function as branded differentiators and energizers. Moleskine isn’t attempting to sell the best coffee or travel destinations. They are using these programs to promote the Moleskine brand. They are looking to forge strong meaningful relationships with customers. While the products may seem ordinary, the experiences aren’t.
Though product aesthetics can be replicated, Moleskine is inviting their audience into the brand core. Something competitors will find difficult to reproduce. What’s noteworthy, is that Moleskine has sailed with the tide, embracing technology along the way while still remaining anchored in its roots.
Personally, I feel that they have done an excellent branding job when you consider the product category they’re in. However, I do see generational impact being a threat to the brand. Much of their attention will need to be focused on making the brand relevant to the newer generation which is growing up in a technology-first world.
Moleskine’s products like the Pen+ Ellipse and digital apps are definitely a step in the right direction and I applaud the Moleskine team for their innovative product developments.
However, the question remains, “Will advances in technology dilute a brand that is based on traditional associations?”.
Credit: Images of Moleskine Café and Unsettled Retreat from Moleskine.com