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Ask GH: Best growth hacks for a clothing company?
I was asked on Twitter if I had any good growth hacks for clothing companies and thought the community might have some ideas as well. My thoughts in the comments.
I used to run a clothing company a couple years ago in high school and we did pretty well. I tried a TON of different things, so I'll share some of my favorites / most notable:
1. This is simple in theory, but was actually the most difficult to successfully execute -- giving away free clothing to somewhat influential "underground" artists, musicians and models. We were a streetwear brand, so we promoted rappers who had fan bases, toured, took their craft seriously and who we liked. This is crucial. You really need to understand and be a fan of your niche, otherwise it will come off as disingenuous.
Same for artists and models. Go after a group of people with relevant followings. Give them free clothing and make them feel special. Don't just say "I'm gonna send you a t-shirt. Put this on and instagram it"
We learned early and often how sensitive creatives can be with their work.
protip: Models love attention (go figure) and go after the rappers' managers if they're bigger, as well as producers. These guys are often in the background and love it when you come to them and offer them free clothing too. We did this for Wale's manager, who definitely is not an underground artist by any means.
2. (my favorite) we uploaded music videos of rap songs to YouTube and included a link to our site. I wish I kept track of all this stuff, but collectively, we have a lot of views. While the traffic wasn't the best quality, it aligned with the brand and definitely boosted sales quite a bit.
3. This goes back to #1, but since we believed in and supported our artists, they believed in and supported us. This was crucial not just for them wearing the brand in their videos and shows, but because they all knew a guy who knew a guy who owned a streetwear boutique type of deal. This was our warm intro to boutique shops around the country (and a few internationally, but that was based on ego since shipping at our margins)
4. Want the help of influencers but they won't respond to your email because EVERYONE has a 'clothing company'? Go the extra mile. Bobby Kim (bobbyhundreds) co-founder and CEO of The Hundreds once blogged that he always wanted a vintage Garfield telephone but couldn't find one. So I found one, bought it for him ($30) and was instantly connected to a guy I idolized for 2 years. He probably was kind of surprised about the phone and the fact that I hand-wrote a letter to him, and he was cool enough to reach out, help and intro me to a few people. And trust me, and intro from Bobby in streetwear is as good as it gets.
5. Hustle and leverage EVERY connection possible. I grew up in NJ, so NYC was about an hour away. I'd walk into stores and get rejected. People said, we really like your designs and brand, but unless (insert celebrity) wears this, then we won't buy it. So again, we knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Mac Miller and Kyre Irving. Neither of them cared about the brand, but Mac Miller wore it at a show because he liked the design and Kyrie's a Jersey guy so I guess he was just showing his support. A picture was all we needed.
funny story: JoJo Simmons (son of Rev Run, nephew of Russel Simmons and also a Jersey kid) wore it on a Hot 97 interview (filmed for their talk show + radio) where he denied claims of hooking up w/ a transvestite in a club...hey, no publicity is bad publicity!
6. Sometimes you just gotta fake it. A friend of mine knew a guy with an Aston Martin, so we included that in a photoshoot along with some other expensive items and I think people thought we were rich because of that. All of a sudden, we were "cool"
Things we should have done but didn't -- Create an awesome blog filled with stories, pictures and cool people (TheHundreds.com NAILS this in every respect -- Bobby Kim, co-founder of TH, is still my favorite person to follow)
We created one cool video, but should have done more. I spent a lot of time meeting people and really liked what I did. The business is not longer around because we lost interest in an industry that's not particularly lucrative once you're out of HS, but it sure as hell was fun to run. We still keep in touch with a ton of rappers (some who are now signed) and I get some cool perks now and again from it. But spending your nights Skyping manufacturers in China / India and speccing designs gets old after awhile.
Another thing we did, that I didn't want to include as a marketing play since it wasn't meant for that, was we really supported out hometown after Hurricane Sandy. Bracelets, donations, partnerships, etc. One of our designers made a design that blew up on the interwebs (something like 50k shares in 10 hours) and he later got scooped up by a major clothing brand the next town over. But, it was for a good cause and it helped our brand. More importantly, we helped our hometown recover, even if it was marginal.
If I think of more, I'll drop them in here. But, it was mostly just a love for our brand and niche and a lot of hustle that just felt like play.
Great response. Love the real stories.
TL;DR: Hustle. HARD.
This is awesome!
Dude, awesome response. Definitely going to share some of these tips with a friend of mine who started his own line.
Thanks! What kind of clothing is your friend making?
I can help with any questions he/she may have, especially around things like where to buy clothes, printing, custom vs. stock, inventory, manufacturing and all the boring stuff. I learned the hard way, so I definitely would like to help anyone avoid some common mistakes.
Once your friend is ready to start getting the word out I can provide relevant intros / ideas as well.
My email is bpindulic at gmail
This is very consistent with my experience. I've actually had skateboarders, metal musicians and minor celebrities all actually buy our t-shirts without us even knowing- and then we see the pictures on Facebook and Instagram. It's pretty amazing. I've seen my t-shirts pop up on popular videos and in pretty photographs of people travelling abroad... all of this is great marketing for us.
Here's what I came up with:
Modcloth-adding a be the buyer/buyers choice sticker to products resulted in a 30% lift in sales for those products
The chive-launched a Bill "f-ing" Murray t-shirt and can't keep them in stock. Great use of cultural icon.
Nike-when they announced actually making the Nikes that Marty McFly wears in Back to the Future 2 for charity
Teespring-Unveiling a t-shirt a day designed by the community and only available for sale for a single day
Net-a-porter/Jackthreads/huckberry-Making content and lifestyle the priority over commerce
Country outfitters-does an amazing job w/Facebook commerce
Warby Parker-the try five at home, where they send you five pairs to try on and decide what you like best
Zappos-year round returns
Rent the runway-show the dress on actual customers, with real customer feedback
Bonobos-get Harbaugh in bonobos campaign around the super bowl
Threadless-crowd sourcing designs
Toms Shoes-one for me, one for someone who needs them
Lots of people doing interesting instagram commerce
Most important–CRO on your ecommerce funnel
I spend very little time on e-commerce sites, but I have to admit JackThreads' ability to create a sense of user urgency with expiring sales, exploding shopping cart discounts and "limited inventory" is pretty psychologically compelling. When I went to the site I basically had to talk myself down with "they're funnel hacking you" because I almost bought like 6 things in 15 mins.
Excellent example. JackThreads is a great site, run by great people.
They have a really cool story, too. The founder ran the company from his home (warehouse included) for several years, even when the company was generating revenue in the millions. Once he realized how ridiculous it was to have 18 wheelers dropping off packages to his home, he finally relocated into a more proper office.
I think it was somewhere in the middle of Ohio...pretty cool
One of the coolest growth hacks I've seen was by a lesser known but very successful clothing company called "Likeable Assholes." In the early days of Twitter they were able to create trending topics at will to create awareness for their clothing but then Twitter changed its algorithm and made it harder to create trending topics. Also they noticed people stopped clicking on Twitter links.
Despite Twitter's networking power, they did something drastic and deleted Twitter and then focused their efforts on Instagram. What they did with IG was ingenious. They began making funny and popular memes and then placing their brand's Instagram on them. These memes would go viral and would bring tons of people to their Instagram and their website which helped grow the company exponentially.
Betabrand gives you a discount if you upload a picture of yourself wearing their clothes - http://www.betabrand.com/modelcitizen.
Adding a large number of pictures of people wearing that product to a product page probably increases conversion rate, as well gives them more content to use in various places.
People probably also share a lot of the pictures, put them on instagram, etc.
There's a more detailed article here - http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/04/how-betabrand-creates-the-most-engaging-content-in-online-retail115/ - on PBS, for reasons beyond my understanding.
I've seen a couple retailers put UGC to good use with social contests. Take a picture of yourself in their stuff and upload it to social with their hashtag to be entered in a chance to win a big sweepstakes offering. Spread out over a lot of customers I think it's probably a better deal than giving every individual a discount. Karmaloop does this stuff really well.
One of the things I did with http://ltdex.com was to spend a bunch of time every week, searching for fashion, t-shirt, etc blogs, and emailing them, asking if they'd post about our designs, etc. Sometimes we'd send free samples out etc, it got us some decent PR, and more importantly sold tees. (plug: I automated this process with https://robogrowth.com)
One that made me regret I stopped buying from gilt group - they sent notifications of when they had stuff on sale in my size* based on my order history
*for women, size is a big deal. I sort of wish at times I could see what the measurements of a brands fit model was and how the patterns were scaled so I could figure out if I will fit into clothing.
Wow Brandon, your reply is amazing! Now I want an excuse to try some of the stories you shared!
As far as growth hacks for clothing companies, I've seen Frank & Oak use the subscription model quite effectively. If I recall correctly, you get money back if you're part of the "hunt club" which basically means you are subscribed to buy $45 of store credit each month. Keeps people coming back (though it will hurt initial conversions).
Trunk Club is my favorite example of an amazing clothing company though. You tell them what you want (in general terms), and their personal shoppers send a box with 6-7 items they think you'll want. You keep what you want and return the rest - free shipping both ways.
A slightly different way to advertise is http://www.iwearyourshirt.com/
Don't know about costs but it's an unusual way to get exposure
Such an interesting discussion
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