It’s easy to recognize a great company story when you see it. It “grabs” you, inspires you, and—most important from a business perspective—encourages you to support the storyteller.
This kind of storytelling is what makes great branding work. Yet strangely, it’s the most commonly misunderstood component of the process. A brand is not a logo or a tagline (though those are visual manifestations of a brand). A brand is the position a company, organization, or even an individual occupies in the mind of the consumer, and the qualities and attributes that are associated with it—whether they’re real or perceived.
storytelling in action
Growing up, my only association with the word “Shinola” came from one of my granny’s favorite sayings. It’s one that originated during WWII, and referred to an old, old brand name for a dark brown shoe polish that apparently had an uncanny resemblance to something else entirely.
About a year ago, however, I had my first exposure to a new Shinola when I saw an ad in a magazine showing a beautiful, old-school-looking watch. It had a retro face with a tiny lightening bolt icon that suggested some forgotten piece of equipment I might have happened upon in my grandfather’s garage, wonderful typography for the brand name, the mysterious “Argonite” movement, and the word “Detroit.” And it was clear that lovely strap was real leather.
I wasn’t in the market for a watch, but I was intrigued enough to find out more. I went to the website for the new Shinola and read every word, starting with “Our Story.” And I fell in love.
The Shinola brand story is all about pride, handcraft, and doing the unthinkable—like starting a company that manufactures American-made watches…in Detroit. Here’s a wonderfully written clip from their website that sums it up nicely:
Why not accept that manufacturing is gone from this country? Why not let the rust and weeds finish what they started? Why not just embrace the era of disposability? And why didn’t we buy a warmer coat before we moved here?
Through three Detroit winters, we’ve asked ourselves these questions. And worked not to find our answer, but to build it.
Because we don’t think American manufacturing ever failed for being too good. Our worst didn’t come when we were at our best. It happened when we thought good was good enough.
It’s a tall order to return to form, but we’re up for it. We’re starting with the reinvigoration of a storied American brand, and a storied American city. Because we believe in the beauty of industry. The glory of manufacturing.
We know there’s not just history in Detroit, there is a future.
It’s why we are here. Making an investment in skill, at scale. Creating a community that will thrive through excellence of craft and pride of work. Where we will reclaim the making of things that are made well. And define American luxury through American quality.
I have a soft spot for American manufacturing, and for cities that have seen better times but haven’t thrown in the towel. Shinola’s branding story made me believe in what they’re trying to do for Detroit, and made me want to support it.
So I bought from Shinola. More than once. Because in my mind (where the brand lives), Shinola is about pride in American manufacturing, hand craftsmanship, hard work, solid products, and investment in the most downtrodden of places. They believe we can do better. And I do, too.