Jacques Panis joined Shinola, the Detroit-based maker of high-end watches, bicycles and leather goods, in 2010, charged with leading the company’s product development and strategic brand direction. He was named president three years later. Panis is also an active board member of The Detroit Institute of Arts and The Detroit Children’s Fund.
Prior to Shinola, Panis oversaw the interactive division of animation studio ReelFX (owned by Bedrock Manufacturing, Shinola’s parent company), where he was a founding member of Webosaurs, a children’s online gaming platform.
Brand authenticity and purpose are high on Panis’ list of priorities, as he explains in this edition of “4 Questions for Digital Innovators.”
1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Brands often approach marketing by creating a lifestyle around the products or services they offer. However, consumers today are privy to what is fabricated and what is the real deal. At Shinola, we have always made it a priority to present our narrative in an extremely transparent fashion. Our process from the beginning gave the community a clear view into everything we are doing here at Shinola.
With Shinola’s mission being predicated on meaningful job creation in the U.S. and the story of the people building these beautiful, high-quality products, we have and continue to be a brand that works daily to share our story through a transparent lens.
2. Why is this so important?
It is what the consumer demands today. Consumers are calling for authenticity and a purpose behind the products they are buying. Having this honest exchange and presenting the customer with the opportunity to engage in a very in-depth manner gives them peace of mind when buying into a relatively new brand.
3. How will this improve the customer experience?
The customer’s experience should be more than just buying a product. It should be an understanding and relationship with the brand. The experience should drive home the spirit of your story and what makes your story unique, all while selling your product. When the experience properly delivers the narrative, it enlightens, informs, and helps consumers move through the purchase with trust.
We approach retail as a 360-degree sensory experience, incorporating elements that immerse the customer in our mission. This makes for a fulfilling experience and an even more fulfilling purchase.
Personnel also plays a huge role. For example, our store staff, who are truly brand ambassadors, are there to speak about our products. [They also] educate new and existing consumers about Shinola and what we are continuing to do in Detroit and across the U.S.
The key is to work hard to ensure that your values are clear to every customer who interacts with the brand so they can appreciate it first and foremost before making the purchase. This improves the customer’s experience, keeping them coming back to the brand as you grow and evolve.
4. How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
Putting together an authentic and transparent marketing plan will lead to a more effective outcome. Rather than feeling deceived by a false narrative, the customer knows exactly what they are getting from the brand. There are ways to be creative and unique while still telling a real story.