Shinola’s Digital Presence: A Strategy Synonymous with Distinction and Detroit

A general breakdown of Shinola’s digital content and messaging strategy for ADV 420, New Media Driver’s License, at Michigan State University.

Shinola is a well-renowned watch, bicycle, jewelry, audio equipment, and leather goods manufacturer headquartered in Detroit. It has a concentrated digital presence, with key online themes focused on the novelty and quality of its products, the brand’s heritage within Detroit, as well as stories of inspiring entrepreneurship from across the United States. For example, on the Shinola website there is a collection of profiles about entrepreneurs under the message “Roll Up Our Sleeves.” In these blogs, Shinola documents diverse individuals who are making a positive entrepreneurial impact within their communities while using Shinola products. By utilizing this content marketing strategy, the brand hopes to not only motivate people to work hard and make a difference in their own community, but to attract visitors to the Shinola website and make them aware of the strides the company itself has made in Detroit: creating over 600 jobs since 2012. In turn, Shinola creates brand awareness and preference, and achieves greater reach, three outstanding benefits of content marketing as told in this Marketo article.

Shinola’s messaging through these themes is simple and understandable, and, most importantly, unique. The main audience Shinola is trying to connect with is middle to upper middle class, contemporary, and individualistic Millennials. For example, I’m a Millennial who owns a Shinola watch, and the brand peaked my interest because it’s synonymous with the revitalization of Detroit and offers a distinct, well-made product. The idea that Shinola advocates for Detroit and is helping shape the city’s culture is one of the main drivers of its brand persona — every Shinola store has a Detroit subheading — and people who have a connection to Detroit, like myself, will immediately appreciate this aspect of its origin. However, Shinola also highlights the stylishness and versatility of its products to expand its appeal for Millennials who may not know the Detroit area but live in another urban setting. Referring again to the Marketo piece, it’s important to have a set of well-defined personas to establish a content marketing strategy, and Shinola possesses just that.

In terms of product benefits that Shinola communicates to consumers, one of its biggest promises is to enhance individualism. With website copy like, “Watches Designed To Stand Out Anywhere,” and an Instagram post implying, “Your Shinola watch tells a story about who you are. What story does your #MyShinola tell?” the brand offers a unique selling proposition that suggests Shinola products will help customers express themselves and be different. Plus, because Shinola offers so much information about their roots in Detroit and the community members it employs, customers know they are supporting American jobs and Detroit’s economy.

But messaging will only prove effective if its consistent across various channels, and Shinola does a job of coordinating and facilitating its content. It’s very active on social media, and for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it usually combines a visual element with some engaging, concise copy; keeping the focus on products, new stories, and event information, it slightly tailors each post to best utilize its specific channel. For Pinterest, it focuses most of its effort toward sharing dynamic visuals. In addition, Shinola sends out email newsletters complete with new product information and updates. Lastly, going along with this Marketing Land article regarding inbound marketing techniques, Shinola’s SEO strategy includes a few notable keywords such as, “Detroit watches” and “leather goods.”

The usual goal with each form of digital communication is to drive traffic to the Shinola website and create customers. But even if visitors don’t buy anything, they can still browse the latest looks, find a store, ask questions, or learn more about the company and the people who help it flourish.

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