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Shinola | Case Study

All companies generate action, but relatively few are truly inspiring action. That distinction seems to make a great deal of difference in both results and impact.

Have an inspiring idea above commercial intent

Shinola’s mission is clear. They want to reinvigorate a storied American city by bringing back an industry that once brought it its glory: manufacturing. They want to become the first of a new movement, where brands begin to manufacture predominantly within U.S. borders. The company has already seen the type of positive impact its unique business model can have on the economy, as they have employed over 300 people in Detroit alone, many of whom are former auto workers. While it’s costly for the company to produce many of its parts in the United States, as opposed to sourcing them overseas, it has created a warm and powerful backstory that thousands of Americans have taken pride in. It’s the reason why President Barack Obama often wears one on his wrist, or why Bill Clinton publicly stated, “We need more American success stories like Shinola in Detroit.”

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Define the alternative future you exist to prevent

Shinola understand that some people still view Detroit as a city beyond help, and have given up hope that it will ever return to its glory days. Still, Shinola is determined and confident that it can help the city return to form. Their mission is explained clearly on their website:

“We know there’s not just history in Detroit, there is a future. It’s why we are here. 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.”

However, it’s not just Detroit that Shinola wants to help restore. They want to revive the American manufacturing industry as a whole. This may come more indirectly, but Shinola hopes that more companies will follow suit. In a Crain’s Detroit Business article, CEO Steve Bock was quoted saying, “We hope Shinola can act as a business model that can be replicated in cities like Detroit across the U.S.”

It’s a tall order, but this is a brand with an inspiring purpose, and Shinola has shown no signs of slowing down.

Discover what the people they serve aspire to be and do

The past decade has been filled with negative press surrounding foreign manufacturing. Stories of unhealthy work environments and child labor have circulated headlines time and time again. Americans know that it’s not uncommon for big corporations or brands to be dishonest in regards to their manufacturing processes. As more and more companies have been exposed for a lack of morality, American citizens have grown angry. That’s why companies like Everlane work hard to share stories of their factories and factory workers. As consumers, we want to believe that the product we’re buying comes from a company with integrity, and we are often blinded to that process. It has even permeated the restaurant industry, as more and more restaurants go “farm to table”. Customers want to know where the ingredients come from.

Shinola puts an emphasis on this and shares every step of their process. Their website outlines where each part of their products are produced and assembled.

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To really drive home their Detroit pride, Shinola’s website features a journal that gives local employees a platform to share their personal stories. It’s one of the many things Shinola does that allows the buyer to feel more connected to the people and brand. It creates this feeling that even as an outsider looking in, you know the team.

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Know what their devotees love about themselves with them

A large number of Americans are patriotic. They want to buy American-made products, but they are very hard to find. Shinola has provided that solution. They have given a large consumer base the comfort of knowing that they are contributing to something homegrown. Buyers feel as if the Shinola watch they are wearing, or the Shinola bike they are riding, is a representation of their country. They’re proud to own it, and they like to share the story with their peers because it makes them feel American.

Have a dramatized inspiring idea through a small number of iconic actions

Shinola has done a fantastic job of marketing their brand backstory. From having the word “DETROIT” included in the logo to their tagline “Where American Is Made,” it’s nearly impossible to hear about the brand without associating it with something red, white and blue. Even their watches have the slogan “BUILT IN DETROIT” in big and bolded capital letters on their cases. It’s something that is small yet very noticeable, and it has become an iconic staple of the brand.

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Understand what actions drive the creation of organizational value

In this recent New York Times article, writer Alex Williams talks about his time touring the factory in Detroit. He explains that during his visit, Shinola President Jacques Panis was wearing a shower cap and a blue smock, just like all the assembly workers on duty. He goes on to say that Panis was “slapping backs and chatting with workers” during a work break.

It’s these type of small actions from the leadership that helps build strong organizational value. It’s a testament to the family culture that Shinola has created and continues to expand on. Many of the workers are from nearby neighborhoods, and there is a strong sense of community within the workplace.

Help people interrupt and redirect behaviors into habits

It’s no secret that Americans are not known for building watches. The watchmaking industry has been dominated by Switzerland. Hublot, Omega, Piaget, Tissot and Rolex are just a few of the many watch powerhouses that have come from Switzerland.

Watchmaking is an extremely detailed craft that requires intense precision. It’s not an easy task, and it’s one of the many reasons other countries have struggled to compete with the Swiss.

Shinola wanted to make quality watches, so they went to the experts. They hired watchmakers and manufacturers from Swiss watchmaker Ronda to come in and train their employees on each model for weeks at a time.

This action really helped launch the brand. Rather than source cheap foreign labor, Shinola was determined to help build that skill on their own turf. It was costly and took considerable time, but now there are Americans who have developed the skill set to become world-class watchmakers, and can pass their knowledge on to newly hired Shinola workers.

For the full list of our “10 Signs Of An Inspiring Action Company” click HERE.