Monday, July 25, 2005

A long-copy case study: Moleskine notebooks

One of the new advertising theories floating around that is starting to get attention these days concerns the idea of "copy," or the text found in ads; in short, the theory says that extremely long, informative and intelligent copy can actually be a lot more effective than anyone in the industry had previously thought. Well, I just came across an excellent example of this last weekend, when I ended up buying a Moleskine notebook as part of implementing the "Getting Things Done" time-management system in my life. (Yes, dear readers, I have become one of those GTD freaks. God help us all.) Along with the actual notebook, Moleskine also inserts a rather long history of the product into the packaging; I'm going to retype it in its entirety here, because you need to read the whole thing to understand the point I want to make:

"Moleskine is the legendary notebook, used by European artists and thinkers for the past two centuries, from Van Gogh to Picasso, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Chatwin. This trusty, pocket-size travel companion held sketches, notes, stories and ideas before they were turned into famous images or pages of beloved books.

"Originally produced by small French bookbinders who supplied the Parisian stationary shops frequented by the international avant-garde, by the end of the twentieth century the Moleskine notebook was no longer available. In 1986, the last manufacturer of Moleskine, a family operation in Tours, closed its shutters forever. "Le vrai Moleskine n'est plus" were the lapidary words of the owner of the stationary shop in Rue de l'Ancienne Comedie where Chatwin stocked up on the notebooks. The English writer had ordered a hundred of them before leaving for Australia: he bought up all the Moleskines that he could find, but they were not enough.

"In 1998, a small Milanese publisher bought Moleskine back again. As the self-effacing keeper of an extraordinary tradition, Moleskine once again began to travel the globe. To capture reality on the move, pin down details, impress upon paper unique aspects of experience: Moleskine is a reservoir of ideas and feelings, a battery that stores discoveries and perceptions, and whose energy can be tapped over time.

"The legendary black notebook is once again being passed from one pocket to the next; with its various different page styles it accompanies the creative professions and the imagination of our time. The adventure of Moleskine continues, and its still-blank pages will tell the rest."

Man, talk about some of the most exciting ad copy I've read in my entire life! I mean, just look at all the brand-centric lessons these four paragraphs convey to the customer: that you are joining a long line of famous artists and intellectuals by using a Moleskine yourself; that Moleskines are worth the few extra dollars you pay (US$10 for me, for example, compared to $6 or 7 for their competitors), because such extra care is taken to make them sturdy and long-lasting; that you of course want your Moleskine to be sturdy and long-lasting, because you are of course a brilliant thinker yourself whose thoughts deserve to be stored in permanent form; that Moleskines are still conservative enough to be used by business professionals in an office environment without getting laughed out of the room; that there are certain things in life (travel notes, poetry, sketches, random thoughts) that are simply captured better in an old-fashioned paper notebook than all these newfangled electronic devices; that it's okay for you to get obsessive over your Moleskine, because artists a lot more famous than you have already done so themselves; and that Modo e Modo (the new owners of Moleskine) deserve to be celebrated, for providing the "public service" of saving a much-loved brand.

This, I think, is a perfect example of this long-copy theory that is gaining popularity; and perhaps most importantly, the Moleskine people understand that this long copy is entirely appropriate in this situation, because Moleskine purchasers by their very definition are profoundly more literate and intellectual than the average world citizen (else why are you spending ten bucks on a notebook in the first place?). You should keep an eye out yourself during future purchases in your life; you never know when some excellent long copy might be popping up.