I like American Giant, and you should too.
Why do I care about them (frankly, why does someone like any company)? My first intuition is, “Because I like what the company makes.” In this case, I really like American Giant’s signature sweatshirt, and I am not alone. Slate calls it “The greatest hoodie ever made.” Wired calls it the “world’s best sweatshirt.” Men’s Journal calls it their “go-to hoodie.”
But, I think that answer is too simplistic. Yes, American Giant makes great sweatshirts. Seriously. I own a couple. They’re amazing. If you weaved a calendar, you would make the weekends out of this fabric. But, great sweatshirts alone don’t win you “almost irrational loyalty” among fans like the company has found. (The quote is from CEO Bayard Winthrop in a recent FastCompany story.)
American Giant’s secret isn’t its quality. The secret is its brand and its work ethic. The company isn’t a massive marketing behemoth. You won’t pass its billboards stretched along highways spidering out across the country. You won’t see TV commercials profiling famous musicians that end with a slow fade to the American Giant logo. What you will find, when you walk into the American Giant offices, is this:
Hell, I saw it and was ready to join the company. As a challenger brand, this is exactly how you need to position yourself. When you’re not the dominant player in a space, you’d better be working your face off, and American Giant is. It’s not afraid to show it, either. The brand is built on time-consuming, considered, honest, no-corners-cut manufacturing methods. And customers respond to it.
As it turns out, it’s not only what you make that matters. It’s how you make it. Or as author Simon Sinek puts it in his TEDxPugetSound talk, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” As Simon says — and yes, I went there — “The goal isn’t to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
This same belief is captured nicely in that FastCompany article by Drake Baer: “Customers don’t need a bunch of professional athletes to tell them what to buy; they can look it up themselves. And as companies like Toms reveal, people are going to support the brands that mean something to them.”
American Giant represents a return to a time when America made quality things that everyone wanted to buy — and could. That’s a much more compelling message to your customers than just telling them your sweatshirt looks good (but, have I mentioned how damn good their clothes look?). People who think that’s a good thing think that American Giant is a good thing. And, loyal customers evangelize about the things they’re passionate about. No matter how big your marketing budget is, you can’t buy passion. You have to earn it.
These guys earn it.