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Posts Tagged ‘Nau’

Nau’s Remarkable Second Life

June 30th, 2008 No comments

Horny Toad & NauAt the end of last week, Nau announced that they’re back. They’ve been acquired by another remarkable company – Horny Toad – who has agreed to handle their financing issues and has wisely supported Nau keeping its distinct and remarkable brand personality in tact.

One of the reasons they decided to hunker cited in their “comeback” blog post is the outpouring of both emotion and ideas in their Thought Kitchen blog upon the announcement of the brand and its stores shuttering. I can imagine the mixed emotions with which I would greet the prospect of being saved/consumed by another brand. I think its a testament to the team’s dedication to Nau’s mission and to its customers that they are giving Nau 2.0 a go.

For the flip side of this unique relationship, check out Horny Toad’s “We have a sister!” post which discusses the business deal not as an acquisition, but the adoption of a new family member. Funny how the choice of a few simple words can make such a difference in demonstrating what a brand stands for.

R.I.P. Nau

I never pictured announcing that a Brand Worthy of a Weekend has gone out of business, but this post is exactly that. Groundbreaking sustainable clothier Nau announced on Friday that, due to an inability to raise another round of capital, they are closing up shop. Click here to read the note from the Nau team or the Treehugger coverage.

It’s been almost 48 hours since I read the news, but I haven’t yet posted, because I’m not sure what to say. I recently heard that the Evanston, IL location of another WOM favorite, Cereality, should also be referred to in past-tense. What do we learn when brands with great Word of Mouth bone structure fail? Here’s the start of a list:

  1. Novelty is enough for me to try you once and to talk about it. If this is what you provide, I hope you are in a place that will constantly expose you to new audiences like tourists. Everyone else needs a strategy for encouraging repeated, valuable engagements with the same set of customers over time.
  2. Sustainability is important to customers, but a huge part of the population is not willing to pay “extra” for it – especially when times are tough. One of the reason the Leonardo DiCaprio light bulbs do so well is that they save you money in the process of drawing less energy.
  3. Let them see you sweat. If your business needs something – press, referrals, investors, testimonials, etc – let your loyal supporters know so they have the opportunity to rally to your aide. Honestly, if I had know last week that Nau needed help, I would have let my networks know and bought items myself if I thought it would have kept them around to fight the good fight another day.

What are your takeaways?
P.S. Good news for shoppers – remaining stock is 50% off at nau.com

Nau: Why They’re Fans

February 10th, 2008 No comments

While I am a fan of what Nau stands for, I thought it would be better to turn over Nau’s “Why I’m A Fan” post to the folks who wear the clothes and truly get it.

catch up ladyCatchUp Lady, whose post was my first exposure to Nau.

“I would definitely spend a weekend with the Nau brand. With so many companies “green washing” and merely paying lip service to corporate social responsibility it’s nice to see a company that actually IS doing no evil. I think a company like Nau that walks the walk really resonates with my generation – and I’ll bet we see more companies following their lead in the future. Plus, my cousin works for Nau (disclaimer!) and if I took a weekend out there I’d actually get to both experience a great brand AND spend time with family!”

Chris WojdaChris Wojda of the Incite Kitchen

In his nomination of Nau as a Brand Worthy of a Weeekend: Think Patagonia with a little more Patagonia sprinkled on top. Then add a strong twist of Calvin Klein and Armani design aesthetic… and there you have it. Masters at building a sense of community rather than a marketing campaign.

In response to the question “Why are you a fan?”: I’m a fan of Nau because the brand has a clear purpose beyond making money. In my opinion, every great brand has a double or triple bottom line philosophy. They don’t rely on positioning and image, they rely on having a shared purpose with a core group of consumers to sell who they are to the rest of the world…All that said, their style is great. They not only make clothes that will perform while outdoors (freedom of movement, wick away sweat, keep you dry, breathable), their clothes are also made to perform indoors or in an urban environment (designed so that you don’t always look like you just got back from summiting Mt. Hood).

What would you expect from a weekend with Nau? I would expect a time where work and play were one in the same. As with most passionate people, the group at Nau seems to be the type that doesn’t separate work and pleasure because the two totally bleed into each other for them. They would be completely sold out to their brand and cause and very talkative about it. I’d expect a lot of Stumptown coffee (that’s another brand you should explore), a lot of people riding their bikes to and from the office, and a lot of conversation about affairs that on the surface have not a thing to do with selling apparel. They get their inspiration from a lot of places and clearly don’t chase cool. I’d expect a lot of collaboration in their office which would have few walls, few conference rooms, but a lot of sketches, articles, photos, ads, and other shit scattered through-out as inspiration. I wouldn’t expect them to be very secretive as they are more interested in collaboration than competition.

Nau: Sustainable Business Grows Sustainable WOM

February 9th, 2008 No comments

2 months ago, I was unaware that Nau existed. This is not terribly surprising as I am not the target audience for “technical outdoor items”. What I am in the market for is examples of companies that are creating fans from the inside out and Nau was sent to me as a recommendation just as I was learning about it in other venues. Nau doesn’t just fit the bill of a Brand Worthy of a Weekend, they change the game. Worthiness didn’t just happen here – it is the basis of the company’s founding.

Nau.comNau – a Polynesian word of welcome and inclusion – was formed in 2004 by former executives from high end outdoor & lifestyle brands (Nike, Patagonia, Adidas to name a few). They came together to build a company that found “a better way” for every product and business process. Here are just some of the core elements:

Product: Nau sells technical outdoor items and casual sportswear that express their design philosophy of beauty, performance and sustainability. Nau has engineered 24 of the 32 fabrics used in their clothing to ensure that they are paying off on all elements of the philosophy. Nau uses recycled materials in fabrics as well as biopolymers (polyester-like materials made from agricultural sources) in order to grow the demand for such developments. One the most interesting is PLA (polylactic acid) is a synthetic made from corn instead of petroleum. But before you worry that these are the next gen of hemp clothes – take a look. These new fabrics have the same feel and look of virgin fabrics and don’t require sacrifices on design or style. Like the company, their clothes are also built to last – engineered for multiple uses, easy care, and subtle color choices to stay in style.

Participation: Instead of just giving a percentage of sales to charity (as Target and others do), Nau gives a whopping 5% of sales to a handpicked group of organziations fighting for environmental and social change (vs. just dealing with the consequences of programs). At the time of purchase either online or in one of Nau’s webfronts, customers can select which of the organizations will directly benefit from their purchase. It may seem like a small gesture, but by soliciting participation in this way, Nau is truly benefitting their “Partners for Change” with awareness and co-ownership of the customers who chose to support them.

Sustainability: There is a lot of talk about sustainability these days, but Nau lives it. From a remarkable headquarters that uses passive ventilation, recycled wood, and natural light and heat control to hiring external auditors to ensure the practices of their manufacturing, sustainability is baked into everything Nau does. Nau distributes their own products and, in addition to online sales, has 4 “webfront” stores to offer a place for customers to experience the brand and be able to try on clothes. Like all of Nau’s practices, they are designed for maximum efficiency and minimum impact. At a mere 2,200 sq feet on average, they carry very little stock (reduced shipping impact) and require little to heat and cool. They company buys wind and solar credits to offset the impact from the stores and headquarters operation. When you purchase an item at the webfront, you are offered a 10% discount if you do not take the item with you and have one like it shipped to you in recognition of the savings to the store for not having to carry lots of inventory.

Influencers: Nau recognizes the importance of influencers to the growth of their business and even boasts a “VP of Influencers” who hails from Nike. Influencers are seen as the face of Nau in the field and the representation of the company spirit. They identify 3 major communities that map to the elements of Nau’s brand identity: athletes (technical outdoor performance), artists (beauty of design), and activists (environmental and social change). Influencers have the ability to purchase Nau at a substantial discount, offer feedback on improving product performance, and participate in shaping the brand by blogging on the Nau site.

How does all this drive WOM? There is so much conversational capital here that it’s hard to know where to start, but when I asked folks in marketing at Nau how new customers find out about them, here is how they responded:

“The goal of most of our marketing & PR efforts (and, in part, our work with out Partners for Change) is to facilitate conversations around our products, our company, and our environmental and social mission. One small example: We don’t put logos on our clothing. If someone likes your coat and wants to know what you’re wearing, they have to ask. Our hope is that we have designed our product and our company to be interesting enough to spark discussion without us having to be too heavy-handed about it.”

As I mentioned at the top of this post, Nau raises the bar. Giving your customers something to talk about is difficult anough in this cluttered world, but doing it while being as subtle as the colors of Nau’s clothing line takes far more finesse.

Check back tomorrow where I’ll be sharing the words of some of Nau’s biggest fans and why they’d spend a weekend with these folks….