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Could being named the ‘best ever’ be bad?

Kai Ryssdal Mar 26, 2013
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Farhad Manjoo really, really loves his hoodie from American Giant. So much so, he reviewed it for Slate, where he writes a technology column. The headline pretty much summed it up: This is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made.

What should have been a marketer’s dream posed significant problems for American Giant. Readers bought it — the headline, and the hoodie. Sweatshirts sold out. Pre-orders sold out. And the company was forced to scale up before it was ready, at a cost of millions of dollars in investment.

Manjoo talked to the CEO of American Giant, who said that since the article appeared in December, those upgrades have allowed their pipeline to operate at 15 to 20 times its prior capacity.

Although the backlog persists. A look at American Giant’s site today shows a four-to-six week wait for hoodies to ship.

Unlike app or software development companies that are able to quickly scale up when a viral story turns a small business into a overnight success, manufacturers are limited by making a tangible object.

“For a business that makes stuff in the real world, for them to scale up takes much more resources, planning and time,” Manjoo said. “It takes a long time to make sweatshirts.”

Because American Giant stakes its reputation on bringing manufacturing back the U.S., the company wasn’t prepared to move operations overseas to try to scale up more quickly.

And, Manjoo says, they think it wouldn’t have been any faster. Quality was one concern. And unlike Apple or other megacorporations known for taking on workers quickly, American Giant didn’t have contacts in the region.

“It’s difficult for a small American business to quickly get new facilities to figure out where to produce more stuff,” he said.

But despite the wait for his second hoodie, the love isn’t gone for Manjoo. He says he still wears his every day.

Read the full column, The Only Problem with the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made, on Slate.

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