Published on: February 6, 2020
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, click here.
Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
I've been doing these videos for almost exactly nine years. I went back to check the date on the YouTube MNB channel, and not only did I see when I started doing these - January 27, 2011 - but the guy who was doing it had a lot darker hair.
In skimming through the various videos, one of the things I noticed was that while my hair has gotten grayer, my wardrobe hasn't changed all that much. It is mostly jeans and sport shirts, with the occasional blazer or sweater thrown in. A lot of them are the same shirts - in fact, the shirt I wore yesterday is the exact same shirt I wore when I did a FaceTime on March 24, 2011 … a shirt from LL Bean.
A lot of my wardrobe comes from LL Bean, and a lot of it is pretty old. It sort of suits me - basic, functional, and sturdy.
Some might even say, staid. At least, that's the word that the New York Times used this week to describe the company, in an article about how, for the first time in its history, LL Bean clothing will show up on the runway at designer Todd Snyder's event at New York Fashion Week.
Owen Kelly, an LL Bean vice president, described the decision this way: “We are very loyal to our core customer and true to our outdoor ethos. But this is an opportunity to take our classics and flip them, push them forward." The company wanted to be careful with the brand, but also wanted "“to put Bean in front of a different set of eyes."
Todd Snyder puts it this way: "Don’t insult them, and at the same time take them to a new place." The method: “Forage, find, elevate.”
And Kelly says it was a perfect fit: "Todd shares our values and our mission of getting people outdoors and into an active American lifestyle."
The Times writes that "the results were culled from meticulously organized collections of old catalogs, blankets, hunting gear and garments from most decades of the past century."
It helps, experts say, that LL Bean is sort of prototypically preppy (though I've never thought of it that way), and fashionistas believe that preppy is coming back.
I think that this is a valuable lesson for every brand, no matter how successful. LL Bean, I think it is fair to say, is a pretty conservative company - still privately held, still in the Bean family. But no matter how well you're doing, it always makes sense to get in front of new eyes, to grow your brand wherever it makes sense. That's what Bean is doing by opening stores and testing different physical footprints, and that's what it is doing when its products walk down a New York fashion runway.
The great tennis star Rod Laver once said that "the time your game is most vulnerable is when you’re ahead. Never let up."
That's a great lesson for every brand. Even those that are basic, functional, sturdy and successful.
That's what is on my mind this morning, and, as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.