Let’s Talk About Hats!

Well you’re either reading this because you just love hats or the silly title pulled you in and I have just one paragraph to get you to stay.  Well here goes!  Have you ever seen a hat with an instruction manual?  Well, in a bit of an homage to Canada where I am for about 10 days, let’s talk about the Tilley Hat.  More specifically, the brilliant marketing and customer loyalty enjoyed by the brand.  Read on.

Tilly Hat

Tilley Endurables, as the manufacturer of the eponymous hat is nothing is not customer focused.  They compete in a space that is seriously crowded.  There are dozens of similar products on the market and yet there is something of a mystique about the company that other firms just cannot match for all the money in the world.  What is it?  I call it authenticity.

The brand is authentic.  If there is one takeaway to be gained from the four page instruction manual every Tilley hat includes in the ‘hidden pocket’ it is that a brand can gain global recognition by being authentic in its approach to the product and its clients.

Created in 1980 by Alex Tilley, the product came about because he wanted a hat that would float, stay on, be unshrinkable, last indefinitely, and look good.  It proved to be a challenging find.  In business speak he had an itch (the quest for the perfect hat) and he decided to scratch it (design his perfect hat).  Like most entrepreneurs and others wanting to shake the status quo, he did not know that such a thing was considered impossible by the industry.  Well, by 1984 he had a burgeoning business that was expanding into other areas of apparel.  It became, as the company now says, ‘an overnight success after 30 years’.

From this start we see the company identify itself with total client satisfaction.  Incredibly detailed instruction is given on the proper way to tighten the wind strap, how brass fittings will patina over time, how the hat floats, and other trivia that keep a product story geek like me reading.  Wear it out and they will take care of you.  Destroy it and they will replace it for 50% of what you paid up to two years after purchase.  Its called insurance, but who the heck ever thought of including it with a hat?  They did, and it becomes a part of the brand legend.

It is about so much more than the hat.  It’s about passion – love – of what they do and who they do it for.

Do you have a story to tell in your business?  Have you taken a moment to reflect on the story of your brand, your innovation, your business passion.  That is where the gold lies in brand building.  That is where real client connection can be made.  Think of companies like MailChimp, Emirates Airlines, Caterpillar, Apple.  Think of smaller, local businesses, that you deal with every day.  What makes them special in their unique sectors of the business is that they have a passion for their story – their reason for being – and a passion for their clients.  To take from the title of the book by Ken Blanchard, they create Raving Fans.  You can too.

The next time you think you sell or work in a mundane industry, a business with many competitors, think about the lowly hat, specifically the story of the Tilley Hat and what it can teach you in your business.

Do you have an example of a company that has excellent customer service?  Do you have any specific examples of outstanding client relationships and relationship building?  Please take a moment to share them here in a comment.  It is always great to read of the elements that appeal to others around excellent service.

I live in the Cayman Islands and I'm married to Christina. We have two incredible children, Ryan, attending Northeastern University in Boston, MA, and Taylor, attending Trinity College School, in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. I own several businesses in Cayman. My list of 'pasts' include past chairman of the Cayman Islands Special Economic Zone Authority, past president of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, and past president of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.

Please note: I moderate comments and reserve the right to delete or edit those that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Hats!

  1. I’ve had a Tilley Hat for years — it’s indestructible, gives great sun protection and won’t blow off your head when you’re not paying attention because of the clever straps! I love it and take it everywhere!