Open Brands

The company I currently work at, MPower Open, is undergoing a seismic shift from a classic software company to an open brand. Since we’re small, part of the transformation includes a company-wide reading assignment of Kelly Mooney’s The Open Brand. While the book contains a lot of millennial/Gen-Y drivel, the key take away is that open brands are defined by their customers and online community, not the classical marketing department. Our migration to an open source platform offered as Software as a Service (SaaS) is just the first step.

The whole open brand concept is interesting. After reading the book, I’ve noticed most the brands I appreciate are open brands, in the sense they build community around themselves and listen to that community. There are also brands that pretend they’re open when they’re really not.

As an example of the latter, I put forth Maxpedition. They make pretty cool bags and supplanted Eagle Creek as my favorite bag maker. Eagle Creek used to make very nice, high quality bags, but in recent years has started to use extremely cheap materials. Driving up quarterly earnings apparently became more important than doing the right thing for their customers. I wouldn’t touch an Eagle Creek bag now.

Anyway, back to Maxpedition. I recently purchased one of their laptop bags. It is not on the same level of quality as the older Eagle Creek bags, but I liked the room, and the pockets. One problem with it is the shoulder strap. They really screwed it up. It does not have a non-slip surface, so I almost lost my laptop three times in the first day from having it slip off my shoulder.

Noticing that Maxpedition has a cutomer comments section on the product page, I left feedback saying I liked the bag but that the shoulder strap was flawed. Maxpedition violated the cardinal rule of open brands — they edited my feedback to omit the part about the strap and only including the positive stuff.

This is a company that does not get it. If you’re going to tread into open brand space, you have to be willing to take your lumps and feedback. Maxpedition has demonstrated their asshats who just don’t get it, and has lost a customer in me. I’d also encourage others to steer clear of them.

So I’m looking forward to digging deeper into what it means to be an open brand. There are also some great examples out there (Amazon) to model ourselves after. And if anyone knows of another good bag maker, let me know. 🙂

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