For decades, Moleskine has been renowned for its little black notebook that artists, designers, and writers carry with them everywhere to capture their first inklings of brilliant ideas. Other brands offer notebooks too, but only Moleskine, in iconic black with its external elastic band and ribbon bookmark, signals that you are an authentic and serious creative type. So, Moleskine’s announcement that it is releasing its notebooks and planners in four bright colors, in addition to black, is newsworthy. Insecure creatives may be reluctant to buy a color other than black.
Moleskine is a product that you are unlikely to see advertised on television or in print, but If you do a search for Moleskine on YouTube and Vimeo, lots of videos will pop up. That’s the way Moleskine customers like it. Moleskine has a cultlike following among designers, artists and writers enchanted with the idea of preserving their sketches, profound thoughts and poetic musing in the same kind of little black notebook used by Van Gogh, Matisse, Hemingway and Chatwin. No spiral-bound steno pads for them. No perfed sheets only good for writing down meeting minutes and grocery lists. These oil-cloth-covered black journals are meant to capture inspiration at its birth. If you believe the fans, Moleskine isn’t just a notebook or a bound sheaf of papers, it is a blank canvas for the creative mind. So, naturally this mystique lends itself to a viral marketing strategy, with new products launched on YouTube and spread through fan blogs and tweets. A Moleskine site called Detour gives viewers a voyeur’s peek into the personal Moleskine journals of well-known designers and artists, an inspiration in itself. Recently Moleskine celebrated the 30th anniversary of Pac Man with a limited edition notebook and a clever YouTube video. All of this gets linked and forwarded (as it is here), giving customers a sense of discovery and being part of a select artsy circle. Mass advertising on TV or marketing Moleskine as you would reams of copy paper and pencils would diminish its cachet. Viral marketing isn’t a strategy that works for all products, but it is right for Moleskine.
Corporate anthropologists who observe consumer behavior watch out for “workarounds” — solutions that people rig up to overcome shortcomings in the design of a product. These are typically one-off designs that are sometimes ingeniously clever and sometimes humorously strange and barely workable.
In coming up with a Moleskine cover for an Amazon Kindle e-book, Moleskine admits it eavesdropped online when bloggers posted workaround suggestions or wrote wistfully of the satisfaction they got when jotting notes on paper.
“The very idea of this new cover came from ‘notebook hackers,’ who create their own custom-made accessories weaving together paper pages and digital tools,” Moleskine says on its website. “Throughout the web, hundreds of communities and discussions can be found where such Moleskine ‘hackers’ publish their own invention.”