For the husband and wife team behind Twelve South, a young company in South Carolina that focuses on producing one of a kind accessories for the Apple Mac line, the key to success in a down economy revolves around creating products that can tell a story without relying on mainstream marketing strategies.
The name behind Leigh Ann and Andrew Green’s company comes from the Nashville neighborhood they lived in as newlyweds, but the concept behind the company goes beyond mere location.
“Twelve South stands for the fact that as a company, we don’t want to have hundreds of products that are only known by a SKU number,” Andrew says. “We want to make about a dozen accessories a year and know their names and passionately evangelize them.”
To most, starting a company during a recession sounds risky, but taking lessons from some of today’s biggest leaders in business, the Greens saw opportunity in 2009.
“You see an insurgence of creative people who find themselves out of a job in a recession,” Leigh Ann says, “and that’s when your creative juices have to really start flowing, because you have to fight to survive.”
“And if you look to recent history, dips in the economy have created some of the most powerful businesses on the planet,” Andrew adds. “Google, for example, launched in the middle of a dip. We saw a place in the market for the direction we were heading, and that is always a positive, regardless of what the economy says.”
Not even two years old, Twelve South has earned critical success among Mac enthusiasts and was even listed in the “Oprah’s Favorite Things” edition of O Magazine for one of its products, the BookBook; a protective hardback leather casing for MacBooks and iPads with a cosmetic twist.
“You can take the BookBook into a meeting, and people wonder why you’re carrying around a 150-year-old antique book until you unzip it to reveal an ultra-modern MacBook,” Andrew says. “The product becomes the story, and it doesn’t need an ad campaign to make it remarkable. It’s remarkable in its own right, and it is picked up and talked about, because everyone loves a good story.”
While many companies direct a large amount of their budget towards online marketing and developing immense social media communities, the Greens prefer to keep it simple by investing more in creating reliable products that can then market themselves by word of mouth. Instead of creating a corporate Twelve South presence, Andrew builds intimate relationships with existing and potential customers via Twitter and Facebook — through his personal accounts.
“We don’t utilize social media or try to exploit it for pure marketing as many of our competitors have,” Andrew says. “I think it is more interesting for the customer to talk directly to somebody that is actually involved in the design and manufacturing of the product.”
For the Greens, cold, faceless numbers on spreadsheets won’t be able to measure their success. It will be the stories told by their customers.