“When we started producing the Manifesto poster, we worked with one letterpress printer part-time,” Pfortmuller said in an e-mail. “Now we work with two producers, and one of them has hired an extra person to keep up with the strong demand.”
Radparvar is pleasantly surprised when people thank him for the manifesto. “It’s as if no one told people that you should be enjoying life,” he said. “Maybe you just have to see something lots of time to act on it.”
Last week, Holstee released a video featuring New York city cyclists saying lines from the manifesto. Thorpey, an avid cyclist with roots in the New York bike scene, volunteered to help find the video’s “stars” and to distribute it through his networks and through social media. The video has since been viewed more than 70,000 times.
“I’m so grateful for the impact that the poster has had on my life and the success that I’ve found since then,” Thorpey said. “I wouldn’t ask for anything in return. If they have this impact on me, why can’t they have it on another entrepreneur?”
Scott Rick, a professor of marketing at University of Michigan, likens the manifesto to the “Just Do It” slogan popularized by Nike. The difference, Rick said, is that Holstee explained what the “it” is.
“‘Just do it’ got people buying shoes, leaving bad marriages, asking people to prom,” Rick said. “This company seems to be very credible and genuine, so it’s a familiar message but from a more sincere source.”
Holstee’s success also signals a shift in the tastes of consumers — and consequently, how small businesses are marketing to them.
“People do look for meaning in a different way in the things they buy now,” said social business strategist Olivia Khalili of CauseCapitalism.com. “They want to feel like, ‘my products can do more than just be a product.’”
A 2010 survey by Opinion Research Corporation for the Cone Communications firm found 41 percent of Americans said they bought a product because it was associated with a cause or issue in the last year — double the number who said they did so in 1993.
That said, few companies succeed in simply selling their tag lines emblazoned on paper. Rick said Holstee’s transparent feel and inspirational message could help them boost sales of their other products, as well.
“If people are choosing between Urban Outfitters and Holstee, Urban Outfitters might be seen as more of a corporate entity,” he said. “This lets people get a similar product but with less guilt.”
Holstee’s current product line is fairly limited, leading Khalili to wonder whether the company’s word-of-mouth marketing outpaced their supply. Many of the company’s pendants, shirts, scarf-like “neck fins,” baby bibs and aviator sunglasses are currently sold out.
Radparvar isn’t concerned, however, saying the company plans to launch several new products in time for the holidays, including a black faux-fur wallet designed in partnership with PETA and new T-shirts made from hemp fabric. They also plan to collaborate more with other designers on products sold in their “Curated by Holstee” section.
One thing the company isn’t selling: bicycles. The decision to feature cyclists in the manifesto video wasn’t a product marketing ploy, which led to some confusion when the video was first released.
“People were saying, ‘This is a really amazing video, but what the heck is Holstee?” Radparvar said. “We just love riding bicycles. It’s part of who we are.”