March is a pretty exciting month here at the global headquarters. We are in the process of unveiling to the world something we’ve been working on for about eighteen months, a new brand of notebooks called Plumb.
Knock Knock, artist Tucker Nichols, and design firm MacFadden & Thorpe are collaborating on a new brand of notebooks envisioned, designed, and illustrated by contemporary artists. The result is one of the projects that I’m personally most proud of in my career.
Plumb is still a little quiet as we queue everything up, but you can visit a preview website that will turn into a full-blown e-commerce site by mid-March. Plumb is also going to start trickling in to your favorite stores, the ones with the really special stuff. The Plumb blog is set to go with posts about the process and the artists involved. And then we’ll start to really tell the Plumb story.
Craig Hetzer, Tucker Nichols, Scott Thorpe, and Brett MacFadden review Plumb's first manufacturing samples in the observation tower at the de Young Museum, where we were about to see the glorious David Hockney exhibit.
In the meantime, we’re having a fun launch party in San Francisco, this Thursday, March 6, at Gallery 16, at Third and Bryant, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. If you’re in the neighborhood, please join us—it’s Tucker’s and MacFadden & Thorpe’s stomping grounds, with my childhood and high school friends thrown in for good hometown measure.
NOSTALGIA 2014: Writing this post got me feeling nostalgic for my bitterness about Valentine's Day, an emotion that miraculously passed a couple years ago without even requiring a significant other. That nostalgia got me nostalgic for some of Knock Knock's now-retired Valentine's Day ink-on-paper.
The best Valentine’s Day of my life was in high school, and I can’t say that many since have even come close. Kind of sad that the standout was twenty-five years ago. By contrast, I seem to have a great New Year’s Eve—the other over-promise-and-under-deliver holiday—about every five years, separated by ones that aren’t merely mediocre but instead pretty much suck.
That superlative February 14 took place during either my sophomore or junior year. My boyfriend, whom I was with for almost all four years of high school, not counting periodic tumultuous separations, sprinkled what must have been ten gallons of confetti over my bedroom—bed, desk, floor, window sills—then placed eight inflated balloons on my bed, each with one letter Sharpied onto them: I LOVE YOU. There may also have been rose petals. When I walked in on the surprise, I was beside myself with the romance of it all. My mother did not share my excitement, in part because she thought the relationship was too intense and too young, but specifically because the confetti turned out to be all but ineradicable. Looking back from my vantage point as a real adult with a real life to keep in order, I realize that the truly romantic gesture would have been for Erik to clean the installation up afterward. The confetti on the floor was probably a half-inch deep, requiring one vacuum cleaner bag after another. Years later, when the room was repainted, we found more confetti. I’m sure a few pieces remain laminated into the walls. Read On
Most people would have had the rear-facing Janus wearing 2013 novelty sunglasses, but I prefer to focus exclusively on 2014.
Welcome, January! Welcome, 2014! So far, you feel exactly the same to me as December 2013 did. Okay, I’m a lot closer to having to go back to work than I was in December, mere days ago, and I’m going to be at work for the majority of you, January, but I honor you despite the fact that you mark the end of my vacation.
I honor you because you are named after Janus, the god of two faces. Yes, one is looking forward, and the other is looking back, but that’s still two-faced to me. Also, you’re the god of doors, which I go through on a regular basis. I don’t think it was you who opined “When one door closes, another opens,” which is good because I think it’s kind of a bullshit saying.
I also look to you, January, for putting a kibosh on the whole holiday thing. I might not be so happy about the end-of-vacation element, but I’m relieved that all the outings and events and errands and social expectations are done with for a while. I’m exhausted, and I don’t even have to deal with kids and relatives and such, so I can only imagine how the breeders must feel.
Even though I finally understand, at the age of forty-four, that New Year’s resolutions are bunkum, I do appreciate you, January, for allowing all of us to feel so very fresh and new and hopeful. And I know that the media appreciate you for that tired chestnut “New Year, New You,” an angle that will forever suck in our tummies and our dollars at the newsstand.
Now, 2014, I know this sounds improbable, but I already appreciate you and wish to honor you by misusing Sanskrit words. Like Sanskrit, there’s a lot I’ll never learn, but the world will learn what I’ve learned about never learning with one particular title in Knock Knock’s Fall 2014 release—but I can’t say what that is yet, other than to note that it makes clever use of the word “fuck.” And also, 2014, you’re going to help us introduce some collaborations the likes of which Knock Knock has never before done, taking the company in exciting new directions. But that’s still classified, too. As is some innovation in the digital arena. Basically, there’s not much I can tell you—but you’ve got a front-row seat.
2014, what I think I most appreciate about you is that you haven’t really happened yet. Everything is still possible, all is still new. You may think that’s the case for every year, but I didn’t feel that way about 2013. 2014, you are clearly the superior year. What you do have in common with your predecessors, though, is that for about 6 weeks you will allow me to feel the uncharted frontier of the future, like when I was in high school and college and had no idea how long adulthood would be.
I beseech you, 2014, to live up to your hype. You can totally do it—you can be the year in which everybody says “I can feel it—it’s going to be a good one” and it actually happens. To everybody. Except a few people of my choosing. 2014, you have upon you the mantle of a hungry generation sick of 2013 and 2012 and 2011. Enough already with prior years: we’re gunning for change and you’re the one to hit the target (including on gun control). I can tell you this, 2014: next December, you will be nominated for “Best Year” and you will win by a landslide.
This last Thursday, as you no doubt already know, constituted the only Thanksgiving for quite a while in which the holiday coincided with Chanukah. Here’s the Wikipedia lowdown:
Thanksgivukkah is a portmanteau neologism given to the convergence of the American holiday of Thanksgiving and the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah on Thursday, November 28, 2013. It was the result of a rare coincidence between the lunisolar Hebrew calendar (whose dates reflect both the moon phase and the time of the solar year, and which can have between 353 and 385 days per year) and the Gregorian calendar. Because the calendars are not calculated the same way, Hanukkah appears at a different time each year on the Gregorian calendar.
The term “Thanksgivukkah” was trademarked by a Boston-area resident who, along with her sister-in-law, created a Facebook page and a Twitter account devoted to the phenomenon. Boston Magazine reported that the once-in-a-lifetime concept was embraced around the U.S.
It’s suitably rare as to be noticeable:
As can be verified on any calendar conversion site, between the years 2014 and 2640, the first day of Hanukkah will fall in November only 33 times. It will not precede nor coincide with Thanksgiving, and as Thanksgiving is already close to the end of November, it is worthwhile to break these 33 cases down so as to clearly understand the Thanksgivukkah phenomenon generally.
The Boston lady and her sister-in-law must have done the math: 33 out of the 626 years between 2014 and 2640 makes 5.27 percent—way higher, it bears noting, than the percentage of Jews among the world population, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.2 to 0.25 percent (in the United States, it’s 1.71 to 2.12 percent). Living primarily in the Bay Area, New York City, and Los Angeles as I have, it’s easy to forget how few of us there actually are.
The Jewish-American holiday inferiority complex is almost a cliché. As a friend recently noted, there’s really no comparison. In one column, Easter: chocolate, egg dyeing and hunts, baskets and bonnets; in the other column, Passover: a long book to pass around the table and read before you eat, bitter herbs, saltwater, boxed matzoh, Manischevitz wine. It’s almost like Christianity was invented to out-ritual everything else—oh, wait, it was. (Remember how Christianity absorbed and then overtook all pagan and other pre-Christian religions? Sort of like how movies started opening on Christmas Day and the crowds of goyim edged out the Jews in the theaters?) I have cousins who are ultra-orthodox Jews—they keep kosher, men and women are often separate, the women wear wigs and the men wear hats and curls—and I think their children may be the only Jews I’ve ever met who haven’t envied Christmas celebrators.
When I was in elementary school, I asked my mother for a Christmas tree every year and consistently got the same answer: “You don’t adopt another religion’s rituals just because they’re better than your own.” I remember such an acute feeling of loneliness on Christmas day—the streets empty of people to play with, all my friends busy with their families and their big gift reveals (versus the eight little gifts, stringing you along one night to the next), a special meal, the smell of pine, the singing of beautiful Christmas carols. Even my Jewish friends’ families saw fit to celebrate both holidays.
As an adult, because I don’t have children (who are always the centerpiece of holidays driven by commerce and ritual) or an extended family that gathers, I’ve gotten away from the December activities in which so many people are engaged: buying gifts, traveling to be with family for the holidays, receiving gifts, decorating, cooking, eating. Except maybe the eating. Of course I think a lot about the holidays for product development, sales, and marketing, but this just further distances me from the emotion and real-life impact of the holidays.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, was and continues to be one of my two favorite holidays (the other being Halloween), a preference I shared with my mother. I most associate Thanksgiving with cooking all day with my mom, my aunt, and my godmother, all kibbitzing and cooking and chopping and nibbling to the soundtrack of the Beatles or Carly Simon. Also, I always loved the meal. This year, to have had the childhood stillness of Chanukah cross with the warmth and vigor of Thanksgiving feels sweet, sort of like when your birthday falls on a holiday and you think the fireworks are for you.
One of the food trucks at the Knock Knock holiday party will be Dogtown Dogs—"Dogtown" being a nickname for Venice. It's only fitting (for us) that their tagline is "Irreverently Good Dogs."
The gathering I’m really excited for this year, however, is our holiday party. Knock Knock has long done the dinner-plus-one thing at restaurants, everybody trotting out their significant others (or, you know, not) for a sit-down with plenty of booze and rollicking games of white elephant. Ever since I rented space in our office complex back in 2002, though, I’ve fantasized about throwing a huge bash in our courtyard parking lot. With a band. And a stage. Our beloved, by-the-book landlord has given us permission to do it. There will be kegs. Food trucks. Wine in boxes. Heat lamps. String lights on posts. The last time it rained on the December date of our party was 2007, so fingers crossed!
I wish I could invite you all. For that matter, I wish that I could alleviate suffering in the world. Most importantly, I wish that I could drink more heavily than is appropriate for a CEO at an office party, but who are we kidding? I end up doing it every year anyway.
Merry happy to you and yours, see you on the flip side of 2013, and in the meantime, remember that Knock Knock gives good gift!*
*That is a subtle way of saying “Please spend lots of money on our site and with our retailers to commemorate a holiday I’ve just deconstructed to suit my own purposes.”
Get the wit and gift it this holiday season, y’all! If you do, maybe we'll make a real logo for it!
Knock Knock has had a number of slogans over the years: “We Put the Fun in Functional” is the most elemental and lasting, but we’ve also used “We Give Good Gift” and “Avid Supporters of the No. 2 Pencil Since Sometime in 2002.” This holiday season, we’re reaching out with “Gift the Wit!” (exclamation point included, because we’re so exclamatory).
The “Gift the Wit!” campaign is about helping Knock Knock fans give the holiday gift of wit to their friends and loved ones. (See? We really do care. So buy our stuff.) But for me and this November Head Honcho Hello, the phrase brought to mind that Knock Knock also gifts the wit to you through our social media activities. We try hard to broadcast interesting, funny, beautiful, and/or informative messages across the platforms, on topics that we ourselves enjoy, but with the hopes of putting a (likely sardonic) smile on your face. Plus, every once in a while we throw in a gratuitous puppy picture. The remarkable thing is that you also gift us back in your comments and shares and likes.
A favorite Facebook moment—while I was traveling, my friend and dogsitter (and professional dancer) SaraAnne posted this great snap proving that Paco was having a better time with her than he does with me.
It turns out that I love social media, or at least I loveFacebook (feel free to follow or friend me—I’m the public kind of Facebooker, and I don’t have kids or believe in taking pictures of food, so that’s a relief, right?); I’m starting to love Instagram; and I’m trying really hard to love Twitter. Plus I had an extramedial affair with Pinterest for a while. As a not-too-frequent networker, I totally don’t get LinkedIn, especially when people I don’t know endorse me for something. Also, do I really need another inbox? Oy, they all have their own inboxes.
Each platform is its own nut to crack. Professionally, it’s been important for me to understand what these networks are and how they operate, who participates in them, etc. Does Knock Knock need to be on all of them, or just some? How much effort should we put into each? And so on and so forth.
My 92-year-old grandmother chose this Instagram filter herself.
It’s probably not news to you that social media is a big part of corporate marketing these days. I do a surprising amount of thinking about social media—what it means in our lives, both personally and professionally; whether it’s a waste or good use of time; the difference between my social media personality as the head and founder of Knock Knock vs. Knock Knock’s social media voice as a company. For those of you who don’t have much involvement in branding activities, yes, these are the kinds of things into which we brand mavens put quite a bit of thought.
The thing I love most about Knock Knock’s Facebook and other social media activities is the interaction with customers and other kindred spirits. Since 94 percent of our business is wholesale, i.e., to retailers and buyers, that means we have little contact with our end consumer. When we’re trying to analyze who our customer is, I liken it to typing with mittens on, because we’re at one remove from the real people, and most of the information we get is anecdotal, from retailers and buyers and sales reps.
An example of my efforts to succeed at Twitter.
Some of you may have participated in a survey we did recently to find out more about you—thank you! The results were fascinating, but much seemed more likely to apply to our 6 percent direct-to-consumer customers than to the mysterious brick-and-mortar 94 percent. Ergo I love watching comments and conversations on Knock Knock’s social media to get a sense of our community’s texture and nuance (though of course that population is self-selected, also).
I’m so active on Facebook that sometimes friends comment, “How do you get any work done?” or “What the hell do you do all day?” Thanks for that, people. But it’s also a valid question. I have Facebook open all the time and refer to it constantly. Somehow, it has folded seamlessly into the background for microbreaks and check-ins. One of my jobs as CEO and semi–executive creative director at Knock Knock is to know what’s going on—news, memes, zeitgeisty stuff. Not only am I one of the major contributors to Knock Knock’s social media content (sending articles and links, etc., to Mel, our incredible digital and marketing coordinator), but I get book and product ideas from cruising the culture. I follow various business publications, which give me fantastic entrepreneurial guidance. Beyond the ongoing conversation with others like myself who like fleeting chat, I basically use Facebook as an RSS feed for what’s going on in the world.
The Pinterest pin of mine that got the most repins. I haven’t been on Pinterest much in the last few months. It may have been a passing fad.
There are many who disparage social media as a superficial time suck (I don’t want to give the ever-annoying Jonathan Franzen any more play, but he’s the most recent whiner; I’d much rather read about the ever amazing Jennifer Weiner’s wonderful Franzenfreude campaign; and besides, I totally couldn’t get through Franzen’s interminable novel Freedom). I’d possibly be a more focused person without social media, though I can’t point to any pre- and post-social-media differences in my work habits. I’m a quick reader and a quick typer and, I think, mostly a good multitasker, even though that’s becoming an oxymoron in the popular press these days. There’s also evidence that our brains are changing to accommodate the Internet and all its exponents. Because contemporary life is so busy and complicated, with so many things vying for our attention, every once in a while I do entertain the idea of deleting my accounts and going cold turkey. But I do actually believe that my online activities are a benefit both to me and to Knock Knock. So is watching the Real Housewives of Anywhere Except Miami, but that’s a justification for another column.
I wish I’d thought of punking LinkedIn, but Conan beat me to the very successful punch. This is, as far as I can tell, the best use of LinkedIn ever.
The natural question then arises whether I would allow Knock Knock’s employees the same engagement with social media throughout the workday. The answer? It depends. For those whose job is being in on the cultural conversation on an ongoing basis, it’s necessary. I would expect that they not do a whole lot of social communication during that time. I myself mostly don’t, instead focusing on reading articles and sharing them and thinking of things and making quips and all the things that actually go with my job description.
So, those of you who ask me whether I get any work done with all the time I spend on social media, here’s your answer: YES. And maybe even more than you.
Sleeping and regular digestion are two real human superpowers with which some are blessed and not others. I know many people (mostly men) who are able to fall asleep anytime, any place, on command. They don’t even have reading lights by their beds because they turn off the overhead before they climb under the covers, asleep by the time their noggins hit the pillows.
I was tagged on Facebook in this picture from high school (I’m the person I circled in red). I will have you know that I was likely up late studying (note the open book on my lap), not partying, which I confined primarily to weekends. FAQ: Berkeley High School; Berkeley, CA; senior year, 1986/87.
Probably because I’ve always struggled with bouts of insomnia (the can’t-fall-asleep kind, not the can’t-stay-asleep variant) and also because, ever since early childhood, I am a remember-my-dreams-every-night, paging-Doctor-Freud type of dreamer, I am fascinated by sleep and dreaming. It’s amazing that something we spend more of our time doing than any other specific activity has only become a serious target of scientific study in the last thirty years or so. It’s long been thought of as the absence of consciousness rather than a distinctive and interesting state unto itself. Now that studies are uncovering sleep’s critical role in, for example, memory, reading all the reports and analyses has me like a kid in an Ambien store.
It’s a huge improvement in all our lives that we are in a historical moment of valuing sleep, both quality and duration. During high school, college, and my twenties, sleep reports were a game of one-downsmanship—bragging to one another about how little sleep we were able to manage. (I was, during this period, known among my groups of friends as the queen of the all-nighter.) In June 2011, I saw Arianna Huffington speak about the importance of sleep. It’s become one of her causes—I particularly love this column title “Women, It’s Time to Sleep Our Way to the Top. Literally.”
People have controversial feelings about Arianna Huffington, but I think she’s an amazing woman—and a good sleeper.
We are truly in the midst of a shift in thinking on this important life activity. It feels almost as revolutionary as advising people to consume 5,000 calories a day—could it really be true? Sleep has been under direct assault since the invention of electric light, with subsequent incursions such as television, computers, and handheld devices. Just as we can now buy any fruit or vegetable, regardless of season, so too can we pretend that night is day with the help of human tools. Who wouldn’t want to sleep less, for productivity? But if sleeping less actually diminishes productivity, are we helped by lying to ourselves about what we really need? Friends of mine who are parents of adolescents bemoan their children’s lack of sleep at the most important time in their lives, when their bodies and brains are growing, because of school and commute schedules that start at 7:00 a.m. and homework (like my own during high school) that demands a bedtime past midnight.
Our new sleep stuff: 1. The Get Some Sleep Pad segues your mind to snooze and doesn't burn your tongue like chamomile tea.; 2. The Dream Journal helps you log, sketch, and self-interpret your dreams in an easy-to-use format. So, even the completely insane ones will somewhat make sense.; 3. Our Dream Masks will be available later this month, and include XXX, Romantic Comedy, and Superhero Action-Adventure, so you can dream away into your fave flick genre.
When Knock Knock envisions new seasonal product releases (hopefully after a good night’s sleep), sometimes we think about product types (pads? boxes? flipbooks?) and other times we ponder themes (cooking? dating? WTF?). For Fall 2013, we wanted to create sleep-related products. You know, to justify the entire team’s sleeping in. To that end we created Dream Masks (ready in the Knock Knock store 10/7) to help you direct your dreams to your favorite movie genre (their powers of suggestion could really work if you follow lucid-dreaming techniques); the Dream Journal, which can truly help you understand and gain more control of your dreams; and the Get Some Sleep Pad to help insomniacs like myself cross things off and quiet our minds.
What do we put in boxes but our crap? Here at Knock Knock, we like to call it as we see it.
I love a box.
Almost three years after moving into my current house, everything is beautiful and well organized except my home office, in the converted garage. I just can’t seem to finish it. I’m pleased, however, that much of Knock Knock’s early organization is still serving me in good stead—I used to store all my sewing and craft supplies and collections at Knock Knock until we no longer had the room, so those boxes were carefully organized and label-maker-labeled. Bonus: you can see Knock Knock’s early wrapping paper at middle left.
I love a big box, a small box, a decorative box, a utilitarian box. I love boxes with words, and if they don’t have words, I adorn them with my own, often with my fetishized P-Touch label maker.
If there’s a metal label holder, however, I just about plotz and then I create a computer template for paper rectangles, perfectly sized and with the font of my pleasure, trimmed not with sloppy scissors but with X-Acto knife and ruler. I actually took more than one class on box making at the Center for Book Arts, in New York City, and as a result I am a whiz at step-wall construction.
I have more boxes than I have stuff, and not many people can say that. In fact, that might be just one more embarrassing thing about myself to add to an already long list.
I am my own target market. In 2004, Knock Knock was fortunate to be the subject of a profile in the Wall Street Journal that focused on something I’d been practicing for years but never clarified enough to name: aspirational organization, the art of buying things that make us feel organized without actually doing the work. Or, as the WSJ put it, the “growing national obsession with ‘preparing’ to get things done.”
And . . . more boxes!
That article opened with this gem: “If procrastination is a sin, Jen Bilik is in a bit of trouble. When the house is messy, she’ll fritter away hours shopping for clear plastic storage bins rather than just, say, picking up the mess.” That’s still true, even though I am well aware of pioneering organizer Julie Morgenstern’s sage formula, Sort, Purge, Assign a home, Containerize, Equalize (SPACE), I still like to skip straight to the good stuff: containerizing. It’s just more fun to decorate than declutterate (I made that last word up on the spot, FYI).
I can spend hours in an office supplies section. I’ve never gotten out of the Container Store for less than $100. I like to store small stuff in small boxes that I then put into larger boxes. And so on.
I guess it goes without saying, then, that I really, really, really love Knock Knock’s new boxes. I’ve always thought corrugated cardboard didn’t get the respect it deserves, and after a decade spent disparaging the use of gradients in graphic design, I’m now in love with their subtle application. How much fun is it to open a box and get a splash of color?
Two points of box-obsession interest here. One, note the numbered metal boxes (1 to 9) that are still in their original box. Two, the metal label holders that I plan to put on my bookshelves to identify genres.
I should tell you to SPA before you C (Sort, Purge, and Assign before Containerizing), but if you’re anything like me, I know you’ll just go straight to the fun C. And I will be right there with you.
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The Knock Knock marketing team just created the most kick-ass video ever. EVER. I’m really, really proud to debut it here, an introduction to an innovative children’s book in our Fall 2013 list, Hide & Eek!, by Hat-trick, the amazingly talented folks I met at Design Indaba a couple years back, and illustrated by Rebecca Sutherland.
Oh my god, it’s just so good.
The video is just beyond. But what’s even more beyond than the video’s beyond is that, as with the experience I outlined in last month’s Head Honcho Hello, this kick-ass video was made without any input whatsoever from me. I doubt that most people who aren’t entrepreneurs will understand how happy and proud this could make a lady. But the gratification isn’t just pride, and it doesn’t just stem from the fact that I no longer have to work ninety hours a week: a team that can execute without its founder (or, indeed, any one person in particular) is vital to the health of a young company, and critical to its value down the road.
“Single-point failure” was one of the first pieces of execuspeak I learned when I entered the strange world of business. Indeed, there was so much weird jargon that we created Corporate Flashcards just to explore that rich and freaky world. No sooner had I learned what single-point failure meant than it became my biggest nemesis. One formal definition of single-point failure is “a part of a system that, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working.” In business, it basically means that there’s no backup: one person and only one person does, knows, or encodes something, and he or she goes out of commission. Or quits. Or dies.
In the early stages of a business, single-point failure is one of the biggest risks an entrepreneur faces because a young company’s staff is so scant. At first you have a few people each wearing multiple hats. Then you have one accountant, one manufacturing person, one ops person, etc. Each one of them is single-point failure. We’re now at a point that in every department we have at least double-point failure, meaning that two people have to die (or, you know, leave) before Knock Knock is good and truly screwed.
One of the biggest challenges with Knock Knock, though, has been its creative focus. Knock Knock’s voice started as my voice, and I concepted almost everything and wrote every word. If I had wanted to sell the company in those days, I wouldn’t have had a company to sell. I would have been selling only myself (which, believe me, I’m not above doing). It was the superstar model of business, with everybody else executing on the things I envisioned. Never mind what would have happened to Knock Knock had I gotten hit by the proverbial bus.
Together with Knock Knock’s management team, I began focusing on this challenge about six years ago. Hiring the right folks was a big part of solving the problem, but the biggest hurdle was replacing myself. And I couldn’t just replace myself with another single-point-failure superstar. If I wanted Knock Knock to be my (and others’) nest egg down the road, Knock Knock needed to be a team capable of creating and distributing great products without requiring any one person, a team equipped with the company’s DNA and know-how and proprietary processes. An analogy: the Spanish city of Ávila is completely surrounded by a stone wall built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It is said that each and every stone has been replaced during the wall’s maintenance over a millennium, yet it is still the same wall. That’s what you want with a team, with a company.
Now THAT'S an old wall. Or is it?
The right creative makers—writers, editors, designers, creative directors—aren’t so easy to find. They’re the chefs of Knock Knock’s secret sauce. And the company’s proprietary processes around creating neato products are far more difficult to articulate and formalize than the operational stuff. That means (unfortunately for the operational team members) that the moments when I realize this entire team kicks serious ass and can do about 95 percent of the business without me are more frequently when creative projects come to fruition. The operational team is less visible and their vital contributions are often apparent only when things go awry, poor souls. I do frequently find myself, however, asking something about international logistics or general ledgers or manufacturing compliance or routing guides or buyer turnover, etc., and the answers make me understand that this team has so far surpassed me in sophistication and capability that, well, I kvell with pride. And feel a little embarrassed that I might have asked a stupid question, or proposed that a software problem be fixed with, say, a typewriter. Plus, there’s not a small amount of gratitude that I don’t have to do or know the details of that stuff anymore.
Someday I and the management team of Knock Knock will likely decide to sell the company—or maybe just retire to be absentee owner/managers and still draw a paycheck (I’ve always thought “passive income” was an oxymoron, but maybe I’ll be proven wrong). I don’t know when that day will come, and it’s not in the immediately foreseeable future. When we do, however, the value of the company will be determined not by my ongoing contributions, but by the ability of Knock Knock to continue its own legacy. And that’s exactly what I see and feel when I’m presented with something as awesome as our Hide and Eek! video, something I had nothing to do with, something I probably would have done differently (and likely not as well), something that I got to enjoy more as a proud parent than as an accomplished creator. That’s when I really, really like my job.*
*You’re probably wondering what my job actually is at this point, given that everybody can do everything without me. I would say my role has evolved from doing just about everything—chief cook and bottle washer—to being the sprinkler of fairy dust, asker of hard questions, initiator of new projects and strategies, big-picture overseer, lawyer liaison (barf), and mascot. Mascot might just be my favorite.
Why would anybody think they could copy this, our best-selling product of all time? It's for grocery shopping, not copying!
We’ve all heard the saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I’d like to make the distinction between “inspired by” and “full-on copycat” here. Since Knock Knock was founded, in 2002, we’ve been proud to see our influence all over the marketplace. We believe in staying on our game so that our creativity always keeps us ahead of the curve and we appreciate that if we are successful, there will be protegé products.
Copying, however, is another thing entirely. This last twelve months has been, in the words of Queen Elizabeth, an annus horribilusfor us with respect to complete and utter knockoffs. These have come from every direction: domestic chain retailers where we all shop (and to which Knock Knock already sells its product!), international publishers and manufacturers of some repute, and in places like Etsy® and Pinterest® and Flickr® and Reddit® (our attorney made us put in those annoying ®s), in which individuals take credit for our work and either try to sell it or copy it freely. When I say “copying,” I mean pretty much scanning our product and outputting it on a color printer.
This is a funny copycat. The people who copy us are not funny. They're cynical thieves.
Knock Knock feels very strongly that these knockoffs are wrong—unethical and damaging to both the marketplace and to morality. Knock Knock products are intensely labor intensive. The concepting, writing, and design that goes into a Knock Knock product requires a lot of work—and overhead, by way of salaries we pay to amazing creative people—to get it just right. To take our efforts and labors of love and copy them is not only stealing, it is offensive at the deepest level. That’s why we have aggressively enforced our rights and been successful in removing numerous inferior, copycat products from the market.
We are primarily learning of these knockoffs from sales reps, distributors, employees, customers, and other friends of Knock Knock. Once we learn of alleged infringements, they are turned over to our outside legal counsel for aggressive enforcement.
We would be eternally grateful if you would keep your eyes open for Knock Knock knockoffs (both in retail stores and online) and send our way when you see them, even if you’re not sure if something qualifies as a copyright or trademark infringement. Just take a picture and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org so that Knock Knock and its attorneys can determine whether it’s an infringement. Also tell your friends! The more eyeballs, the better!
I wanted to end on a happy note. Here's a smiley face.
The success of Knock Knock—and that of our creative peer companies, and of all people and groups that put their thoughts into the world—stems from the originality of our creativity. Please help us in keeping the marketplace a safe place for such work.