Warning: this article contains words/emojis you may find offensive.
Palace Skateboards is the funniest retailer on the planet.
That’s not a difficult thing to be. It’s not like John Lewis are cracking easy gags with its followers or Gap is sharing hilarious Photoshops of Donald Trump’s weird chin thing.
Sure Waterstone’s Oxford St is pretty imaginative with its tweets, they provoke an occasional “yes very amusing”, but this is only compared to other brands on Twitter. And as we’ve all experienced, brands on Twitter cover a very limited spectrum between deadly dull and embarrassing uncle/auntie.
— House of Fraser (@houseoffraser) February 1, 2016
Palace (a London based clothing and skateboard brand) manages to do something far better than all of the others. Something that transcends ’retail’ or ‘brand’ – they make me laugh my ass off. Regularly. And this has me coming back for more in the same way that humour sites like Bad Kids Jokes or Awkward Family Photos have done in the past.
Take for example this monstrosity…
Just putting aside the sheer puerility of it, just look at the work that went into making it. Palace Skateboards doesn’t tweet very often, but when it does, it makes it count. And what makes this tweet better (and funnier) is the subsequent retweet, which shows there really is more thought behind what appears to be Palace not giving two shits.
When I sat down to write about Palace it began as a ‘what can marketers learn from Palace type thing’, but really… what can you possibly learn from Palace? Be funnier? Don’t give a flying feck about anything? Be ruder? Confuse anyone over the age of 30 by referring to all visitors personally as blad?
That’s all fine, but if you’re Tesco or Clark’s Shoes this is hardly practical. Although I think if Tesco sent the above tweet it might find appreciation in some unchartered market. But then it wouldn’t be worth all the ensuing Drum think-pieces.
So how does Palace get away with it?
Because it’s in its DNA. It started off as a brash, nonconformist entity and carried on doing exactly that, right up until this very point when Rihanna and Jonah Hill are sporting its brand on television and Palace can sit back with a shrug say “well we must be doing something right.”
Of course it helps that Palace is a skateboard brand, and therefore there’s a natural punk spirit and anti-authoritarian ethos that comes with… hmm… I just a felt wave of nausea… like deep down I know this is cripplingly disingenuous… the wheels are coming off this thing now… Like the last thing Palace needs is for some 35 year-old in an office in Hammersmith to deconstruct what makes the brand ‘work’ and hypothesise what ‘key learnings’ can be taken away by marketers, so other brands can offer diluted, pissweak copies of what Palace does so well.
So I’m just going to stop doing that.
You can’t copy Palace. In fact, please don’t. You won’t be authentic. And that’s the point of Palace. It does what it wants. It could all have failed horribly, but it didn’t. And even if it had, you can easily imagine Palace wouldn’t have cared. But, if you look on its ecommerce store, 95% of its stuff is sold out. And these guys sell shirts for £100. And they don’t even call the shirt section ‘shirts’, they call it ‘shirting’. WTAF. Good luck replicating that. Perhaps the only thing you can take away from this is: ‘be yourself’ or something equally barf-inducing.
There are some important practical things you definitely should learn here though. Firstly, the simplicity of its ecommerce checkout. In one-click you’re taken directly to a single Paypal screen and that’s that. It’s all mobile responsive too.
In fact the whole website is completely unfussy, dead easy to navigate, with giant product images and clear add-to-cart buttons and quick access to customer service info… it’s just so effortless, you don’t even notice the beauty of it. Not that anyone regularly using it would give a crap about any of that. All that matter is that it works and that you can buy something within three taps on a mobile.
As I mentioned earlier, Palace’s Twitter account* is something everyone can learn from too. Take a look at the number of tweets compared to the number of followers…
Most of my friends on Twitter are the exact inverse of that. It proves there’s value in knowing when the hell to shut up and stop polluting everyone’s timelines with endless repetitive garbage.
Instead Palace retweet their followers way more than any other brand I know, which is an easy way to shore up love for the brand and create loyalty.
*Palace doesn’t even have its website address in the bio section or have a background picture. What the hell are they even doing!?
Perhaps this is all hype though. And god knows Palace is good at hype. Its ecommerce store isn’t even open all year around (imagine the steely nerve of a retailer that doesn’t open its website all year around??)
And Palace drops its seasonal collections at midnight UK time, with early tantalising warnings delivered across social (with additional mentions of limited stock) and the range is made available to view on-site before they’re available to buy.
This is a tactic similar to Mondo, a small pop culture retailer based in Austin, which uses scarcity to terrify its fans into scooping up its terribly niche products immediately at the drop of a tweet (a tweet you’ve been waiting for all day long.)
Of course it helps if your product is sufficiently cool enough. And yes Palace is undeniably a cool brand (if such a thing can be quantified), but it’s one that really makes a statement on behalf of the person adopting the Palace logo, “Yeah I’m provocative and I don’t give a rat’s ass about what people think and I like functional, slightly too large skate wear.”
That’s the other thing about Palace. It’s clothes aren’t that remarkable. Apart from the eye-blistering VHS DIGI Print shirt (see below), it’s all fairly unremarkable. In fact much of it is tame compared to Upper Playground or similar skate brands.
And that’s where we come back to the opening statement. The thing about Palace is that it’s funny as hell. I can sit and read its product descriptions all day long. And that’s why my hand gravitates towards my credit card on every visit. I need a shirt. Most retail brands are boring. Palace makes me happy. I may as well give them my money. When was the last time TopMan made me laugh? Probably when they introduced deep V-neck t-shirts.
And with that, we get to the best part of the article. Purely for my own amusement, here are my very favourite product descriptions from the Palace website. These are – and I’m not shitting you here – poetic in their construction, format and rhythm. And funny. Honestly. That’s why Palace is loved, that’s why Palace has got where it is today…
Because of these…
Please find me the person who writes these. I want to give them a job.
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