Moo-ve over Moleskine, there’s a new player in town.
You may have heard about this little company called MOO, best known for their original and high-quality business cards. Perhaps you’ve seen their clever advertising around London, with posters that say “Introduce yourself. Properly. Don’t be a what’s-his-face.”
But did you know that MOO began as a start-up in 2004, and has since grown to become one of the world’s fastest growing print businesses, employing over 400 people with a turnover of £75 million last year?
It’s actually an interesting story.
CEO Richard Moross founded the company when he was 26 years old with a lot of passion but very little experience. It was originally called Pleasure Cards with the line “We’re the new coolest thing!” Needless to say, it failed to take off.
In hindsight, Moross sees the mistakes he made. You don’t tell people what’s cool. In 2006, out of money and time, Moross decided to try something different. He rebranded the company to MOO and changed their slogan to “Hello, we’re just a little printing company. We love to print.”
The humble approach worked, and instead of just giving customers its own designs, MOO created a platform where its customers could also design their own. Shortly after, the company went on to secure million-pound investments and later, key partnership deals with companies such as Flickr, Etsy, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Thanks to a combination of lessons learned, rebranding, timing and financing, the business took off. They are also known for their fantastic company culture and customer service, major brownie points to them.
So what has all this got to do with notebooks, I hear you ask?
I was just about to get to that. Now a successful company, MOO has plans. Big plans. And one of those plans is to penetrate the notebook market, competing with the likes of Moleskine.
At the end of 2016, MOO launched its first hardback notebook collection, MOO-style. Everything about it looks so carefully considered and selected as if their very goal was to create the best notebook ever.
They come in six different colours, each with 176 pages. There is a coloured section in the middle, to be used as a partition between the two halves of the book, a space for note-taking, doodling or whatever you want.
The pages are Swedish Munken Kristall paper that won’t yellow with age, and come with a slipcover to protect the book and later archive it. Everything about it looks and feels quality. And of course, it being made by MOO, also comes with an optional stick-on pocket for storing a business card or two.
But in the words of Shania Twain, that don’t impress me much.
Quite simply, it’s the unique lay-flat binding that won me over. Every page of the notebook, regardless of whether you’re at the beginning, middle or end, lays beautifully, perfectly, flat. Apparently also a godsend for left-handed writers. You have to see it to believe it.
If you’re already familiar with Moleskine notebooks, you’ll know that they too have done a fantastic job at diversifying their product offerings to suit all types of users and uses. But alas, none of them have a lay-flat spine.
But is it fair to pit one against the other?
What about Moleskine’s story? Ok, ok. Let me finish. Moleskin is an Italian company founded in 1997. Interestingly, they used to be called Modo & Modo until 2006 when they underwent a rebranding (the same year as MOO!) and adopted the name Moleskine.
Under their new name, they expanded their product range from a single spring-bound notebook to what you see today, a suite of luxury notebooks, planners, journals, sketchbooks, wallets and backpacks.
Their aesthetic is classic, based on the iconic notebooks you’d find in Paris in the 19th or 20th century. Their vision was to resurrect the notebook as a key source of inspiration and creation, as it was for Picasso or Hemingway.
What Moleskin did for notebooks, MOO did for business cards. Of course, both MOO and Moleskine could have been made obsolete in today’s day and age, replaced by iPhone contacts and digital notebooks. But instead, they show impressive growth rates. It’s the same phenomena seen with vinyl records, for example.
Still, the threat of a paperless future hangs over them.
Although MOO’s CEO is strongly convinced that the business card is here to stay, both are responding with future-proofed, hybrid-like products. MOO is working on Business Cards +, which embeds a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip into their business cards, allowing recipients to add contact details into a mobile phone with just a tap.
Moleskine, meanwhile, seek to reaffirm their relevance to the digital world as a critical companion to the more “creative and imaginative professions”. They have launched a “smart writing set” that allows you to write with pen and paper and then digitize your notes. The product is in partnership with Evernote, a company who began purely online and has now gone in the opposite direction, launching its paper notebook offering together with Moleskine.
Ultimately, while MOO and Moleskine now find themselves as competitors in the notebook world, it’s also the digital world that they have to compete with.
A MOO notebook will set you back £14.99, compared to £11.99 for a Moleskin classic or £17.99 for their Blend Limited Collection.