Using innovation to keep your business relevant

Great Business Series // Moleskine on staying relevant

When your business is under threat and new technology provides an alternative to your core product, what do you do to survive, stay relevant, and still manage to grow?

What is Moleskine?

Moleskine is a French-designed notebook with a legendary pedigree, known to have been used by renowned artists and writers that include Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway. It is a company that produces a host of different paper notebook varieties, such as journals, sketchbooks, and planners.

What threatens Moleskine’s business?

Analogue tools, such as journals, vinyl and film photography, have recently experienced a revival of sorts thanks to the Millennial generation, the digitalisation of our age remains as Moleskine’s, or any stationery manufacturer’s, most significant threat.

The threat of the paperless office began in a 1975 Business Week article, with the introduction of computers and the prediction of automation. The influx of smartphones, tablets, laptops and a host of other gadgets continues to the push towards digitalisation and connectivity. And many companies whose main product involved paper felt the threat of the world going ‘digital’ and becoming less reliant on paper.

How does Moleskine address the threats?

Moleskine realised this potential threat. The understood that there is no connectivity as far as analogue tools go. To digitise your notes, for example, you need to scan each page, and it becomes a static document that is challenging to edit or revise.

At the core of this strategy is Moleskine’s understanding of its customers. According to Moleskine CEO, Arrigo Berni, their market are so-called “knowledge workers“; these are designers, architects, engineers, and lawyers. A Moleskine notebook provides an add-on to what smartphones or a laptop can do, which the company saw as a need, particularly after a survey of 4,000 designers which found 65 percent of them prefer a pen/notebook combination for recording ideas. After all, once these knowledge workers hash out their ideas on paper, they will need to find an efficient way to digitise their sketches and notes, which they need to develop the final documents or plans required in their respective occupations.

People like the idea of writing down their thoughts, and also be able to capture the information digitally. And so Moleskine embarked on an initiative to look at how their notebooks can be used to capture ideas on paper and digitally as well.

In 2012, Moleskine partnered with Evernote to create an Evernote Smart Notebook that allows users to migrate their analogue notes into the Evernote system by taking a photo of their notes using the Evernote smartphone app.

In 2017, Moleskine introduced the Smart Writing Set that allows users to write down notes on special notebook paper using an infrared pen, which in turn digitize notes in real time through a companion app. The new product provides users with flexibility, and notes can be synced with other apps, such as the Google Drive, Evernote, Apple’s Notes App, email, among others.

What is remarkable with Moleskine’s strategy is that it embraced its threats by innovating its existing product line. In essence, Moleskine created a new product that seamlessly integrated analogue and digital tools, and in the process, provided a flexible solution for their customers.

Today, Moleskine has a value of AUD 192 Million. It continues to innovate and use its threat to its advantage. For example, in July 2017, the company launched the Moleskine Open Innovation Program, a digital crowdsourcing platform urging its customers to submit project proposals to add to its growing line of products.

What can we learn from Moleskine?

The advancement of the digital age may significantly reduce the need for using paper, but Moleskine will be well-positioned to capture the market with its continued integration and innovation in the analogue and digital space.

There are opportunities to grow your business in the most unanticipated areas.

The paperless office was a real threat to manufacturers of paper products at that time, but it took an ingenious innovation of integrating a paper-based product with a digital idea to help a company stay relevant to its customers.

What can you do with your product? How can you modify it to better appeal to your market? How can you take your threats and embrace them to innovate your product and take advantage of these threats?

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.



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