control the conversation by improving the conversation

E-mail to Tom Mahon, Bespoke Savile Row Tailor:
Dear Tom,
Here are some thoughts I’ve had since our last conversation:
1. I’ve put a Tom Mahon blogad on to the gapingvoid sidebar. I used our line “Forget Armani. These suits are seriously intimidating.” Sure. It’s strong language, but a “power suit” is supposed to be intimidating. And yeah, sure, Armani makes damn fine suits. But they’re a different schtick altogether from the classic English bespoke suit. Armani is all about the “dolce vita”. English suits are about Alpha males locking horns. No messing around.
2. The first rule of Cluetrain is, “All markets are conversations.” From your standpoint, that means you have to start “owning the Savile Row conversation”.
“Conversation Ownership” is not rocket science. Owning a conversation means: that the higher up the foodchain you go, the more likely they’re talking about you, and not somebody else.
For example- when people are talking about home computers, most likely Macintosh, Windows or Dell will be mentioned. These three pretty much own the conversation. Sure, there are others- Sony, Gateway etc- but for the most part, these 3 get to call the shots.
Right now the market (the demand) for genuine Savile Row suits is shared among 10-20 thousand dedicated customers, who give all their business to the few dozen established tailoring firms on Savile Row, on a fairly frequent and long-term basis.
Out of these thousands, let’s say there are 1,000 customers who (a) really know their stuff and (b) and have the money and the enthusiasm to give Savile Row their business every year or two. These are what you’d call the Alpha Customers. They’re not just wealthy and powerful, but buying a suit is almost an art to them. They’re smart. They’re with-it. They’re passionate about the product. They care, and it matters. They know the difference between the real deal and the fakers. They can look at a suit on another man from across the room at a fancy dinner party and probably tell you which tailor did the cutting. In other words, they’re seriously informed.
So here’s the question: out of this 1000, how many are talking about Tom Mahon? And how frequently? Seriously.
It’s a simple “power law” Tom, the Alphas are either talking about you or they’re not. And if they’re not, you’ve got a problem.
3. You have the talent and the goods worthy of the Alpha Customers’ attention. But they’re not talking about you, or at least, not enough of them are.
This is where the Cluetrain comes in. Don’t wait for the conversation to magically change to Mr. Tom Mahon. Join the conversation.
Join. The. Conversation.
Start a blog. The Alphas don’t just want the suit. They want “The Information”. They want the substance. They want the gossip, and the insights, they want the insider’s view. They want “The Kinetic Quality”. They don’t just want to understand the mystique, they also want to be part of it.
When somebody at a party gives them the usual, whiney “Actually, I think off-the-shelf JC Penny suits are just as good” crap, they want to be able to respond, and respond with a vengeance. They want the little Beta Male crushed like an insect. They want to be able to say “Actually, Little Beta Male, you are wrong, for this reason, this reason, this reason, this reason, this reason…. Oh, and by the way your girlfriend now wants to sleep with me.”
Like I said, the game is about locking horns.
With a blog, you can start this conversation. Inform, entertain, share insights. Give them “The Information”. And give it to them better than anybody alive. When somebody with a real passion for tailored suits wants his fix, wants to know more, Tom Mahon’s blog should be their first port of call. Tom Mahon’s blog should be where the strongest medicine is first to be found, bar none.
Control the conversation by improving the conversation. It’s that simple.
[You can e-mail Tom Mahon here.]


  1. A Tom Mahon blog would be interesting.
    I’m not sure if his customers are the horn-locking sex-crazed beasts you describe, I haven’t (as far as I know) met any.
    I hope that if Tom blogs he does so to talk about the things that he cares about. If finding ways to humiliate beta males and pick up girls are what he’s passionate about, that would be an interesting blog. But equally, if his real passion is finding the ultimate mothball, then I hope he writes about that.
    What makes a blog slide up the list in my newsreader is my sense (faulty though it may be) of the authenticity of the voice.
    I want to know what gets Tom going. Some of his customers might identify with his love of a particular cloth; others might want to know about some of things he struggles with.
    Sure, a blog designed to support business may focus on some things more than others, but I still want to hear the authentic voice of the writer.
    Tom need look no further than Gaping Void to see these principles in practice…

  2. “Sure, a blog designed to support business may focus on some things more than others, but I still want to hear the authentic voice of the writer.”
    Yep, Johnnie, I agree 100% with that.
    The “Authentic Voice” (kudos to Evelyn Rodriguez for coining the term) is key.

  3. Ok. Deep breath.
    My opinion: People like Tom need a blog as much as a fish needs a bicycle.
    The typical Saville Row customer is not a blog reader. He, in all likelyhood, doesn’t even know what a blog is. And even if he’d knew, why read about what one’s tailor has to say? He’s there to make suits, as long as he does that well he’ll have a market.
    Tom needs to offer superior service and style to a market that tends to be extremely loyal to ‘their’ taylor, once that relationship has been built.

  4. Was in a meeting somewhere and I put a (perfectly respectable think it was a Boss jacket) jacket on the back of a round backed chair and it fell on the floor as happens from time to time.
    “Break my tailors heart…” I joked.
    Senior pin stripe type retorts. “If I were you, I would break his f****** neck…”
    Actually tailoring does matter, for the same reason that officer’s uniforms are better cut than the enslited men’s…
    Now I know that in this mileu that should not matter, but if you have to go into legacy meatspace where some of the money is still being released, if not directly managed, then that sh*t still matters…
    Since then I’ve been a Jermyn Street and expensive off the rack buyer.

  5. Directing a conversation with your customer base is a great idea. Assuming people fly to London to buy a hand tailored suit because they want to intimidate their beta male counterparts is silly.
    90% of the suits on Savile Row are good enough for the most discriminating buyer. Its the buying experience that will make one tailor more successful than another.
    Make the experience memorable, scarce, or unique.
    P.S. The only people that want intimidating suits are lawyers and insecure executives. Neither are ‘sneezers’ that will help your brand reach the ‘tipping point’.

  6. Alpha males eh! Whats that all about? Where would the world be without the male sex drive?
    No skyscrapers, no forth rail/san francisco bridges, no saturn V space rockets, no men on the moon, no masters of the universe…
    All achieved by guys who wanted to make it with girls but just couldn’t get the hang of playing the guitar…
    If every man was Elvis Presley we’d still be hanging around waiting for somebody to invent the wheel.

  7. Ok so what I know about advertising could probably be written on the back of a stamp and while I agree with the concepts of Blogs-as-Ads and the need for an authentic voice… I actually agree with Andreas in this (very particular) case.
    A blogging tailor is not what is needed, however the concept of being the subject of conversation is. I’d have thought that, with Saville Row tailors and that ilk, word of mouth is the key in the bespoke suit buying Alpha-male market. I just don’t think that blogging is the be-all answer to that.
    I’d like to think that High-Powered-Businessmen are too busy being High Powered to read blogs…

  8. “Alpha males eh! Whats that all about? Where would the world be without the male sex drive?”
    Ca mon, this is a no-brainer:
    “You better stay away from him, he’ll rip your lungs out, Tim. Huh, I’d like to meet his tailor.”
    ( (c) Warren Zevon)
    And that’s how peanut butter is made. Questions?

  9. Seems to me that an Alpha Male already knows how to crush little Beta Males like bugs. That’s why he’s an Alpha. He also knows that the best way to buy an Alpha Suit (or car, or boat, or airplane) is to ask other people who own them.
    Yeah, there’s a conversation in there, but I’m not convinced it takes place online.

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