Today at online retailer Fab, travel startup Wander is hawking shirts with its logo for $24.
What makes this sale notable — besides giving you a chance to buy "the classic Wander Deer, along with a Beer, Eagle, and Astronaut for 40% off" — is that Wander hasn't even launched yet.
It was April 2012 when Wander raised $1.2 million in a round led by NextView Ventures' Rob Go and Jeff Clavier's SoftTech VC.
Some of that $1.2 million has apparently gone to creating T-shirts. The Fab sale gives the following explanation:
Wander is an online community founded by Keenan Cummings and Jeremy Fisher, two design-minded travel junkies who want to know what places are important to you.
To begin with, they asked a group of artists to make posters and tees of what wandering looks like to them. This selection details the vibrant results.
The startup has been strip-teasing its travel site with so much success that the media continues to have no idea what it is.
Does DesignTripper + Gogobot = Wander?
Or is it Etsy + Wallpaper?
The best answer come from Techcrunch, which has called it “a combination of Tumblr and Pinterest, Yelp, Tripadvisor and Foursquare." That description calls to mind one of the Wander posters, which quotes the late scientist Carl Sagan:
"I don't know where I'm going, but I am on my way."
We may soon—finally—discover what Wander is about. Selected people have been testing it with live demos.
Perhaps Wander's marketing plan of touting a product without ever telling you what it is work as successfully as Toyota's 1986 campaign for Lexus, which created a buzz around the new automobile without showing the vehicle in TV and billboard ads for months in advance of its showroom debut.
But there's a risk of a backlash. Some potential users may come to agree with the commentator on Q&A site Quora who wrote:
I'm starting to feel that their marketing strategy is a bit sleazy.
What we do know is that the perplexing marketing style is intentional. The T-shirt sale isn't the first Wander marketing stunt seeking to generate advance buzz.
It previously ran a game called Click the Cow. Users earned (worthless) points for clicking on a cow (one point) or sharing or liking the site (100 points).
Magic mystery machine
Co-founder Jeremy Fisher has previously told Business Insider that his company won't be about saving information about places as a research tool for upcoming trips. Fisher said:
We saw a gap between curation and location that wasn't being tapped. There are improvised user behaviors happening on other networks that we've observed, and this is a platform for those behaviors.
In an interview with Techcrunch, Fisher described Wander as "a way to the see the world through other people eyes."
This is an interesting echo of something that Josh Williams, the co-founder and CEO of Gowalla, blogged recently, recalling what had been going through his mind and the minds of his team during the height of Gowalla's life:
What we really wanted was for people to see the world through the eyes of their friends.
Now here’s the M. Night Shyamalan moment for you:
It turns out there was another app that shared a similar vision called Burbn. They were building yet another check-in type service loaded with every feature but the kitchen sink. But early user feedback, coupled with a desire to avoid the check-in battle shitshow already in progress, led them to drop everything to focus on one simple feature: Photos.
They made the act of taking and sharing photos (many of which just happened to be location-tagged) fast, simple and fun.
They made their own rules. They called it Instagram.
That whole “see the world through the eyes of their friends” thing? Turns out Instagram did a pretty good job of this.
While we were busy playing tug-of-war over check-ins, someone else found a path to the goal with less friction.
About a year after the launch of Instagram, Gowalla's service would shut down and several of us would join Facebook.
Will Wander be as successful as Instagram?
Or will Wander follow the route of Gowalla attracting lots of hip designers with good vibes, but not solving a practical problem or focusing on doing a single useful thing right?
Either way, one thing is crystal clear. Those are some hip T-shirts. (And the posters are Brooklyn cool, too.)