The Store That Wouldn’t Sell: A Brand Development Story

When you think about your emotional connection to your favorite brands, what comes to mind?   Something genuine?  A sense of  belonging?  Trust?  Last spring I sat down with Stowe-based Edgewise Ski Shop owners Mila and Graham Lonetto to discuss their new website. That led not only to a terrific example of Web technologies, but also to a great story about collaboration, and getting to the heart of a Brand’s identity. 

As we chatted Graham shared a particular, memorable experience that I felt reflected the essential nature of the store’s Brand:

“A woman had come up from a major metropolitan center to outfit her children for a season of ski racing. After a few minutes conversation, I realized that she thought I was trying to “sell” her.  This (obviously wealthy) woman had become so accustomed to being treated that way that she was habitually suspicious.”

I could tell that Graham was making a subtle but important distinction between “helping” and “selling”.  This anecdote really expressed the central value of the brand: the principle that if you “help” you never have to “sell”.

To further complicate the challenge, the owners were adamant that all marketing and communications needed to reflect the owners’ modest, and down to earth persona—which kind of runs counter to the competitive nature of their industry.  From a marketing perspective it was vital to keep an eye on the economic purpose of the website, but the communications had to embody this laid-back paradigm—at first those 2 things seemed mutually exclusive.

Even though it may be counterintuitive, it was clear that we had to place Products and Services (marketing) second to Relationships and Community. We needed to show (not tell) how and why the relationship with the store will fulfill the customer’s aspirations. To modestly exemplify a community of racers that is—at the same time—competitive and open.  We wanted to present an elite community, but one that is  willing to welcome you into their circle of fun.  The cool, hip, and “in” brand for people in the know—a compelling brand that says “smart” and “safe”.

From this perspective flowed the site’s headline: “Inside Ski Racing”—free, relevant, value–added information. Studies show that the more time people invest with a company’s communications, the more likely they are to adopt and trust the brand. The concept of community and relationships is further illustrated throughout the site with: testimonials, product reviews, a gallery of photographs, the coaches page, and “friends of Edgewise”. We never have to say that relationships and community matter… that value is front and center.

Oh yeah, we also managed to call attention to all the commerce purposes of the shop by carefully ranking their relative importance, and without cluttering up the layout!

Some of the cool functions of this site include:
– custom design and layout (of course)
– wax report auto-updated from Twitter
– post/update articles on-the-fly from a data phone
– testimonials update randomly on any page refresh
– Excel Spreadsheet displays consistent format on a page—not a pdf
– integration with social networking
– content management by the client (of course)

The logo update

A new mojo deserves a new logo! Honestly, I was hoping to take this farther (more of a sports-team-looking trademark) but this is what the client was comfortable with.  It is certainly a great step forward.


How many differences can you spot? (hint: there’s eight)