Point of View

Paradigm Shift? A Nudge Will Do.

by Michael D'Antonio

In our business, we have traditionally admired the mavericks, risk-takers and magnificent bastards who make big bets, take big swings and are happy to tell you all about it. But in the modern marketplace, there is relatively less room (and fanfare) for the cowboys and relatively more whitespace (and retweets) for the pragmatic tweakers who nudge their brands toward efficiency and resiliency in far less bombastic ways.

Two simple examples would be Toms Shoes and Warby Parker frames. Toms made two smart, simple and soulful choices. First, they benchmarked off of Zappos in their desire to ask the question – when is a shoe company not a shoe company? Zappos famously became a service company under the guise of selling shoes. And it worked. Brand loyalty, advocacy and sales consistently rose until Amazon ultimately bought them for their principles instead of their inventory.

Toms stood on the shoulders of the Zappos model in that it isn’t a shoe company either. Toms is a NGO – a modern, practical, pragmatic and effective way for consumers to make a difference in the world. The value proposition is not anchored by the shoes that Toms manufactures in China, it is anchored in the ethos of One-For-One.

The result is that brand loyalty, advocacy and sales have consistently risen for the brand because people don’t buy Toms, they buy into it. And Toms achieved this with the oldest, most unsexy bullets in the retail chamber – the Buy One Get One. They simply made a tiny, yet significant tweak, to make it Buy One Give One, and they created something altogether new.

Another example is Warby Parker eyewear. With a name inspired by The Great Gatsby, the founders of this frame company took a much more humble and practical approach than their namesake. They simply capped the price point of their frames at $95. This is a significant savings from certain designer frames that can range from $200 to $300 and beyond, but not so cheap as to devalue the perceived value of the product. The other thing Warby Parker did was borrow from the car industry in that they let you test drive and send you five pairs to try. You keep/buy the ones you like and send the rest back.

This company is fast becoming a darling on Wall Street, as well as Madison Avenue, and all they have done is find a moderate/reasonable price point and allow their customers to test drive the product. Again, old school tactics reinvented for the modern marketplace. Not a bad recipe for reinvention.

The lesson here is that some of the most dynamic, modern, progressive and forward-thinking brands in the market today are simply making small, smart choices that ladder up to big things. Paradigm shifts are great, but they can often be distilled down to a simple little nudge.