One of the most beautiful, understated brands of our times

There’s a brand that has slowly but surely been building itself up to become a case study for how to launch in a (seemingly) dying category.

Monocle Magazine launched in 2007.  I actually discovered it one morning in Waitrose when I was looking to buy the paper. I saw this magazine with some trendy looking Japanese kids on the cover which caught my eye as I’d been looking at purchasing some A Bathing Ape clothes.  The size of the magazine and the cover design made me decide to give it a go and I’ve been an avid reader ever since.

I loved the Manga style comics that they had in their first couple of years (Tyler, you should seriously bring that back).

But whilst the above are great are were a fantastic first taster for a brand, what has kept me as a customer has been the editorial content – it is completely different to anything else in style and design (Wired being the only comparable publication I can think of) – and the fact that they’ve built the offering to their customers gradually, ensuring they surprised and delighted their audience.  For example, since launch they have added the following ‘extensions’ to the main publishing offering:

– weekly podcasts tackling a variety of subjects from furniture design to military to aviation

– physical shops in London, Tokyo, LA and others to come no doubt

– brand partnerships for Monocle branded products – from boxer shorts through to tables

It has been done in such an understated and carefully curated way that you know that anything they do will be of excellent quality and will have been thought through before bringing it out to market.

The team are outspoken fans of craftsmanship and you can see that they carry this attention to detail and pride into creating every issue, like it is a work of art.  This care make everything they do and bring out feel very small in scale and familial, so you feel as though you are part of a special group for knowing about it.

But more than this, the thing that I most admire is how they have done it in a dying industry.  Whilst everyone is saying that print is dead, magazines are giving away subscriptions and everyone in the industry is thinking how to charge for content online, the guys at Monocle have turned that on its head.  Their focus is on print (over the Summer they released a ‘newspaper for your holiday’ version of the magazine to ‘combat’ the iPad/Kindle craze), and they actually charge you more for subscribing (I’m one of those).  And people pay for it, in fact nearly 150,000 worldwide.   But what else would you expect from Tyler Brule (excellent profile from Businessweek),  the man who brough Wallpaper to the world?  Tyler is clearly in control of the brand and has a very defined vision for where he wants to take it and so far I don’t think anyone could say he’s been wrong.  I also envy his jet-setting lifestyle of flying from Tokyo, to Lebanon to Sao Paulo and staying in beautiful places and houses – we should all be so lucky…

I highly recommend you read it and I promise you will be hooked.  It’s a beautiful magazine, a beatiful story and a beautiful brand.

So, for now, I’m saving all my Monocle magazines so that, if I were to win the lottery this weekend, I can visit all the fantastic cities, hotels, beaches etc that Monocle has recommended.

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