Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blank Label and Tapping into the DIY Trend

by Whitney Coble

This week, we read an article about Blank Label, a company that allows people to creatively design their own shirts for reasonable rates.  The article gave the impression that Blank Label is a well-managed, lean company.  Aspects reminded me of other discussion points from class - the premium the company places on interactions with customers (like Zappo's) and the Continuous Process Improvement of the website (like Starbucks or Seattle Children's Hospital).

However, it was what Fan Bi, the owner, calls the "emotional value proposition" that really stood out.  And it struck me how important it is for a company to be current, relevant, and touch the nerves of its time.  Pinterest, for example, currently has 20 million users and is a DIYer's haven.  Similar to Pinterest, Blank Label is tapping into the current need that we as a society have to create something, to not just blindly consume what is put in front of us.

An interesting Huffington Post article, "Can DIY Become Tradition...?", looks at the psychology behind the push towards DIY.  Kirsten Dirksen points out that the current generation largely does not know how to make things, does not know where things come from.  We're pushing back against this now - not for environmental reasons, or to save money, but because we want to make things on our own.  Margaret, a young woman mentioned in the article, said, "Look how much more you enjoy it when you know what you've put into it."  

This appears to be same mentality fueling Blank Label's success.  Like a handmade Christmas present or casserole, creating a unique shirt provides a mental satisfaction for the person creating it (or receiving it as a gift) that is not present from walking into Jos. A. Banks.  Fan Bi has tapped into the collective emotional needs of the moment.

However, along with being "on-trend" comes the question of whether it is sustainable?  When people lose interest in Pinterest, will Blank Label flounder as well?

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