An Open Letter to The Digital Spirit of Shinola

Dear Shinola,

My name is Gerard Smith and I’m a senior at Michigan State University studying advertising and PR. As part of a 400-level course, New Media Driver’s License, I’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly study and analyze your digital marketing strategy during the past few months. From social media, inbound marketing, and SEO, to the Shinola website and its mobile capability, I’ve been very impressed with the overall consistency and functionality of your digital properties.

The Shinola website is my favorite element of your digital presence as it provides visitors with a distinct and seamless user experience, both on computers and mobile devices. It’s well-designed, well-rounded, and easy to explore, while also offering compelling background information about Shinola and its products. The page that peaks my intrigue the most, however, is the blog. Or, as it’s more appropriately titled due to the nature of your business, “The Journal.”

Presented as “An Editorial Hub Dedicated to the Spirit of Shinola,” The Journal is as genuine as it’s engaging. By telling in-depth stories about the crafting of featured Shinola products, the lives and careers of outstanding team members, the passions of various social entrepreneurs from across the country through its #RollUpOurSleeves series, and more, Shinola gives individuals a unique reason to spend time with the brand — one unrelated to shopping. Using well-written and journalistic-styled copy, eye-catching images, and professional, attention-wary video, Shinola relays extraordinary adventures surrounding both people and products.

As an avid tennis player, I enjoyed the story of Kamau Murray and his XS Tennis Foundation, a nonprofit tennis facility that offers tennis training and academic tutoring to underserved youth in the South Side of Chicago. As someone who was born in Detroit and lives right outside the city to this day, I was inspired by the tale of Mama Shu and Avalon Village, a community enhancement initiative focused on neighborhood beautification and youth development.

Indeed, from a more formal content marketing perspective, The Journal represents a significant foundation on which Shinola should continue building.

Shinola is a young luxury fashion brand. And luxury fashion marketing and advertising is a highly competitive landscape. With so much quality content being produced and promoted every day, young fashion brands that are still fully refining their personality and solidifying themselves in the larger industry need to capitalize on any kind of unusual consumer positioning angle they can acquire. Besides offering stylish and hand-assembled products, Shinola’s primary point of positioning lies in its association with contemporary urban Detroit and the city’s well-known resurgence. A clear reflection of this positioning effort can be seen strung across the main entrance of each brick and mortar store, where “Detroit” acts as the subheading to a slightly larger “Shinola.”

By aligning the brand with the idea of being a modern-day underdog, Shinola appeals to Millennial consumers who have a connection to Detroit, live in an urban setting, or view themselves as rising stars. In addition, since its founding in 2013, Shinola has further cemented its Detroit affiliation by continuously making a positive community impact through employment and facility operations, while simultaneously adding a sense of excitement and energy to the growing culture of entrepreneurship.

The spirit of Shinola embodies an attitude so definitively complementary to the spirit of Detroit, and it’s an attitude that appeals to many people, not just those from the 313. Therefore, the establishment of a platform to tell inspiring, true stories of craftsmanship, individualism, entrepreneurship, social impact, style, and much more is incredibly insightful and on-brand. Most importantly, this content deeply interests a target audience composed of individualistic Millennials whom appreciate relevant stories that reflect their own values. In turn, many of these Millennials will become site visitors, then readers, site browsers, sales leads, converted customers, repeat customers, and, finally, brand loyal.

I strongly support Shinola’s current content and inbound marketing strategy as it relates to The Journal, and encourage your company to continue investing time and money to discover and document these one of a kind stories. Delivering content that is genuine and intriguing, yet demonstrative of brand positioning is difficult to accomplish. It’s even more difficult to motivate a person to make a purchase while remaining humble in approach. However, Shinola is in a strong position to fulfill this goal and improve sales using inbound marketing.

As a native Detroiter and Shinola customer, I may be biased in my support. But, through research and breakdown, I believe this approach to creating a positive audience connection will continue to be worthwhile. I want to congratulate your brand on creating an outstanding digital strategy and can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Gerard Smith

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.

Continue reading “Shinola’s Digital Presence: A Strategy Synonymous with Distinction and Detroit”