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 – 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….