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business models, strategies and technologies

The Mahabis universe and a philosophy of slippers

Mahabis slippers – changing the entire narrative about leisure, as well as echoing new discoveries in decision-making theory

To the average Brit, slippers sound like the death knell for any pretensions at coolness, a precursor of post-middle-age domesticity, dullness passively benched in front of the house altar, blending in colourlessly with tasteless wallpaper and leatherette sofas. Distilled naff-dom.

But that was before the arrival of Mahabis –  slippers for the über-cool, designed in London, made of pure wool in Portugal, and with a detachable Italian rubber sole

downtime. redesigned

Yeah, they’re nice, they’re comfortable (admitted, I bought a pair – hence my interest) and they’ve received rave reviews in all the denizens-of-good-taste design journals (not why I bought mine).

All the middle-aged taste notes and echoes of sagging staidness are artfully counteracted by languid, Scandinavian-style minimalism, multicultural models (all young, sleek and slim, bien sûr) and elegantly laid out white space. But apart from the technology thinking beneath the surface (read here), what makes Mahabis particularly interesting is the “brand story” they’ve managed to sculpt.

According to Mahabis creator, Ankur Shah, the slipper is a brand you associate with the comfort and protection of home, but with the edge and excitement of adventure. The wording of the company’s ads and website –”timeless freedom”, etc. – manages to give them first dibs on the whole idea of downtime, relaxation and just about any and every flavour of physical well-being. They’ve co-opted the whole idea of leisure – downtime – in whatever context we as the consumer choose to formulate it. Smartly done.

we are the place you go when you want to switch off. when you’ve stopped trying to change the world. when you’ve put your feet up.

Mahabis enjoyed explosive growth, selling close to one million pairs of their segment-stretching slippers in four years, but was forced to call in administrators at the end of 2018, before being rescued by mattress-in-a-box company Simba.

From brand marketing to conceptual philosophy

The Mahabis story is all good brand marketing, but I recently realised there is also an additional dimension somewhat more profound than merely hoodwinking us gullible consumers.

I’ve been trawling the groundbreaking ideas about decision-making theory and behavioural economics introduced by the remarkable Daniel Kahnemann/Amos Tversky duo (see Thinking, Fast and Slow). These ideas have effectively kyboshed many of the traditional tenets of economics, as well as leaving gaping holes in the conventional understanding of how we make decisions in messy, real-world contexts. One of their many almost irritatingly down-to-earth findings is that people are effectively blind to logic when it is embedded in any kind of story or narrative. At a very fundamental level, people don’t choose between things – they choose between descriptions of things, as a result of framing effects and choice architecture.

I have a strong feeling this superbly argued and now widely accepted perspective is going to have big impacts on branding ideas, when it finally percolates down. If it applies to slippers, it probably works for just about anything.



External info
https://mahabis.com/pages/the-brand https://vimeo.com/9875330