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Why Socks Matter

In the ancient city of Rome, behind the Pantheon, sits a tiny tailor shop that has crafted the Pope’s garments since 1798. Six generations of the Gammarelli family have been charged with fabricating his hats, robes and even his socks—socks made from the finest wool or cotton lisle, hand-linked and reinforced in the heels and toes, worn only once before being discarded.

Why such a laborious task for such an insignificant article of clothing? Why so much effort for a pair of hosiery that can barely be seen? Why not just get a pair of Gold Toes or any other generic sock and be done with the whole arduous ordeal?

Because socks matter, damn it.

Socks, like any fine detail, possibly reveal more about someone than anything else. Though the more popular idiom is that the, “Devil is in the Details,” the phrase, “God is in the Details,” is just as true. If you’re willing to embrace the small things, you will be better prepared to achieve the bigger and greater ones. Here are a few reasons why we should take it easy on the Birkenstocks and flip-flops and embrace socks as a secret weapon in our march toward victory.

 

In a grown up, dress up world of black, blue and white socks, it can be very easy to get lost in a sea of uniformity, much the same way that parity products and services can get lost amongst supermarket shelves and Google results. What makes the difference is a detail that shows personality—something that a consumer can believe in, relate to or have a beer with. A herringbone pattern here, a stripe there or cyborgs all over.

Maybe you’re Pepsi, representing the culture of youth over your competitor’s classic legacy; a soap that promotes real beauty like Dove; or you’re just a Swedish company like the Happy Socks that represents the glee that comes with putting on a pair of colorful stockings. When everything looks the same, a little personality makes a big difference.

 

Just who is your audience? Can they be defined by age, sex, location, household income or something a bit more nuanced? As more and more products invade store shelves, we can’t rely on standard demographics to define our audience and our place in the market. We need to look for the finer details—places where we can make a difference, especially when you’re a challenger to a larger, more-well known brand.

Everyone is the audience for socks, but who would have guessed the market for them would be so diverse? We’ll trust J. Crew for a comfortable pair of socks with a casual flair, Injinji for the comfort of socks with toes in them when we’re running a marathon in the dead of winter and a pair of socks with a cape attached to feel playful and adventurous. The possibilities have become endless for a standard commodity product. So should the way we view our audience have endless possibilities.

 

The way a person purchases products online has evolved. Only 2–5 percent of online shoppers makes their purchase in the same session. The buyer journey isn’t a straight line, but filled with twists, turns and little details that marketers must be prepared to follow to reap benefits.

If someone were searching for diabetic socks, they would probably do some research at various sites online, look in a brick and mortar at the actual product and mull it over a bit before making their decision. With proper insights, we can tailor remarketing ads to where they are in the buying journey, segment our audience and serve them ads that provide the right incentive at the right moment, pushing them to make that highly coveted conversion and form a beneficial relationship.

 

How many times have you met someone who seemed really nice, smart and well-put-together, then you see his socks? He sits down—his pant leg raising the appropriate length—revealing his socks and, ultimately, his attention to detail, or lack thereof.

The difference between being number one and number two, the most trusted, respected, creative and forward-thinking, are the details. Doing your research on a company before engaging them and how you can impact their business, properly aligning the lorem ipsum on website comps and providing sample headlines, forming an authentic relationship with prospective content resource before pitching: these are small things that make a big impression and ensure top quality success.

 

In the midst of a recent client pitch meeting, our President and our CEO decided to have a “sock-off”, challenging each other for hosiery supremacy.

Of course, this was a excuse to insert some humor into a very tense and very important meeting—much the same way that many upstarts in Silicon Valley have donned socks featuring funky colors, patterns and ninjas, spurring the trend in men’s fashion. These entrepreneurs, feeling constrained in suits, wanted a way to show off their personality while still fitting the mold of someone that could be taken seriously. And though it may be hard to imagine someone with ninja socks or pink and green stockings seriously, when you’ve cross your I’s, dotted your T’s and know your stuff, you can get away with showing off a bit when it comes to your undergarments.

 

Charles Eames, the master of modern design, was quoted as saying, “The details are not just the details. The details make the design.” This same logic can be applied in a myriad of ways across any field. As annoying as the details of a project—the last hurdles in our race to the finish line—can be, they are just as important, as any other part of the project, if not more.

Details define the user experience, the way a customer interacts with us, how they feel about us, how we’re different, how we’re special and so much more. It’s putting the bow on a present, the curl in our hair and the cherry on top. It’s the signs we look for that make something special. We can do without them, sure, but who’d want to?

Why be ordinary when paying attention to our socks and the other little allegedly insignificant things in our life can make us extraordinary?

Comments

  1. March 02, 2013 @ 3:31 am
    Nic says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Socks have been a nifty little business meeting trick for me for years – I sit in the waiting room of a big pitch with my legs folded and my brightly coloured socks just peaking out.

    Every time without fail the conversation would start with my socks and then get onto business.

  2. March 04, 2013 @ 9:20 am
    Ken says:

    Exactly, Nic. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. March 13, 2013 @ 2:38 pm
    Shavonne says:

    I abolutely love this article. Great insight…and a very unique perspective! :)