Adrienne Raphel writing for The New Yorker:
Moleskine has begun to market itself as being at the forefront of the “analog-digital continuum.” In 2013, it subtly revised the story in the booklet that comes with its products: “Moleskine accompanies the creative and imaginative professions of our time: it represents, around the world, a symbol of contemporary nomadism, closely connected with the digital world.” This has a very utopian ring, but it’s sort of hard to tell what exactly it means.
In April, 2013, Moleskine went public in Italy, the first I.P.O. to enter the Milan bourse in over a year. It positioned itself not as a stationery brand but as a luxury-goods company—the reasoning being that “luxury goods” sounds much better to investors than “stationery.”
I understand that Moleskine may be of higher quality and have a well-conceived brand image, but too many things work against Moleskine in achieving this image.
First, and correct me if I’m wrong, but “luxury” and “ubiquity” rarely go hand-in-hand. Luxury, to me, means high quality and unique ownership. By this definition, if a product can be found at most retail stores and if many people use the product, luxury is eliminated from the get-go.
Second, luxury isn’t luxury without design genius. If a product is over — or under — designed, the product can’t be luxurious. The product must emit comfort in order to be luxurious.
So, in that regard, I don’t know if Moleskine’s digital attempts are the future of “digital stationery”. Nor do I believe Moleskine’s version of digital stationery is luxurious. If anything, having to take a photo of each page adds a step to the process and makes books convoluted and complex. Writing notes and keeping a journal need to stay simple so as to maintain routine and eliminate friction. I think Mod Notebooks are on a better track to introduce the digital to the analog, but even their model may be flawed. Friction and complexity do not exude comfort and, as a result, eliminate luxury.
Moleskine is by no means missing the mark — they are experiencing revenue growth year over year. One has to wonder, though, about how missions, visions and values work for or against the company’s goals. If Moleskine defines itself to impress investors, yet releases a product line inconsistent with that vision, at what point does the two-facedness hinder quality and value?
A house divided usually falls. For Moleskine’s sake, I sure hope it doesn’t.
The best argument against this is Apple’s iPhone. Many would consider the iPhone to be a luxury product. Apple certainly shoots to put the iPhone into the hands of every person on the planet. However, if every person did have an iPhone, would you look at your own iPhone as a luxury good? Would you feel that your iPhone emits comfort, extravagance and elegance (the very definition of the word “luxury”) in the same manner as if you were the only person on the planet who owned an iPhone? I don’t think so. Exclusivity is paramount to the perception of luxury. ↩
The very thought of having to ship the notebook away for a few weeks before receiving a digital copy is petrifying to me. My journals and notebooks are a collection of personal thoughts and ideas. Putting those books in the hands of some digitizing jockey may lead to my “brilliant” ideas plastered in the bathroom stall. This isn’t my idea of a perfect plan. At least not yet. ↩