Moleskine write a lovely growth story

Interesting to read about the planned flotation of Moleskine, the notebook maker, with an expected value of $250mill. I blogged about this brand back in 2006 here. And since then sales have more than quadrupled from $13mill to $66mill, with a healthy $28.5 mill in profit.

Here's some learning from this success story.

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1. Distinctive product

I love the Moleskine notebooks, and have used them for many years. Moleskine is a good example of "baking the brand into the product". The product itself is distinctive, with the trade-mark elastic band holds the leather cover shut. The product is carefully crafted, with bound with thread instead of glue, has a bookmark ribbon sewn in and an elasticated inner pocket.

2. Brand story

The brand cleverly created a story, using a good dose of creative license. The brand's idea is "Legendary Notebooks", even though it was only launched in 1996.  It was inspired by similar notebooks produced by small French bookbinders and used by European artists and thinkers for the past two centuries, from Van Gogh to Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. It was journalist Bruce Chatwin who used the name "moleskine" to describe these notebooks. Below on the left is one used by Picasso, and on the left one you can buy today.

The brand's crendentials have been further enhanced by  often being used in movies.

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3. Driving distribution

The brand started using exclusive distribution to build an aspirational images, selling in bookshops such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Waterstones and FNAC. However,as time has gone on distribution has been increased to drive penetration, into more mainstream stationary and book stores, and online via Moleskine's own store and other online shops. And more recently Moleskine has started experimenting with its own pop-up stores.

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4. Core range extension

Moleskine has extended the core range of notebooks to cover a whole range of different needs. You can get diaries, artist sketch books. I like the city notebooks where you build your own journal of a city. And I use the music notebooks to write down bass guitar tunes.

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5. Selective stretch

Having built a strong core, Moleskine have recently started to stretch. But they have done this selectively, focusing on products with a link back to the core: pens, pencils and bags (to carry your notebook in). I also liek the way that they used brand properties to create a brand imprint on the new products, such as the elastic band on the bags that reminds you of the notebooks.

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In conclusion, Moleskine is a lovely example of a carefully crafted and executed brand, with a strong core business using product, distribution and extension, and then selective stretch.