Developing your brand as a startup is a tall task. In fact even though starting a company today might be easier, launching a brand is tougher than ever before due to the proliferation of new companies hitting the market. What we believe is the key is taking the time to know exactly who you’re targeting and what they’re looking for. We asked some successful, funded fashion startups to see what marketing and branding advice they had.
“Go long in online video content. At thredUP we've seen the story-telling aspect of video helps engage customers better and turn them into stronger customers and brand advocates. While the upfront costs may be higher, we've seen the ROI in the short and long-term.” -- James Reinhart, chief executive officer of ThredUP.
ThredUP is a startup based out of San Francisco that allows you to buy and sell women’s and children’s clothing online and in person. By taking the existing consignment store and making it more convenient for customers around the country, thredUP was able to develop a brand that works in today’s business environment. They've raised $131 million in venture capital, including from Goldman Sachs.
Taking a look at Reinhart’s quote, it’s clear that information is power for thredUP. He spoke about why meaningful content is the key to telling your brand and engaging customers. In order to develop that content, you have to know who your customers are and what your brand does for them.
Ministry of Supply.
“Speak to the benefit -- what does your product "unlock" that no others can? It's not enough to speak to your process, philosophy, or technology -- no matter how good those are.” -- Aman Advani, CEO of Ministry of Supply.
Ministry of Supply is an accomplished brand founded by MIT students who saw that clothes weren’t functional enough. Today’s workers are hurried between downtime, playtime and work and their clothes aren’t built for that. Too often, they’re limited by sweat stains and bad fits. By designing clothes that overcome these limitations, Ministry of Supply has enjoyed plenty of press coverage, including this video about a suit you can jog to work in. They've raised $6 million from investors.
For Ministry of Supply, information is just as important. They knew exactly what problems their customers faced, and figured out a way to solve them. By focusing on the benefits their product offers and the competition cannot, they’ve been able to truly unlock their brand’s potential.
"It's been interesting to learn first hand that the features specific customer segments look for and seek out when searching for a certain product often varies greatly. This has highlighted the importance of understanding what each of our customer segments look for in our shoes (e.g., design, quality, styling), so we can effectively speak to these customers." -- Lane Gerson, CEO of Jack Erwin.
At the beginning, Jack Erwin consisted only of its two founders Lane Gerson and Ariel Nelson. Currently, they have a fitting room located in the heart of New York City, a popular online storefront, and a team of almost two dozen. They succeeded by noticing that there was a distinct lack of high-quality and affordable men’s shoe wear, and then focusing on filling that need consistently. To help them, they've raised $12 million including from shoe conglomerate Brown Show Company.
By Gerson’s quote above, it’s clear how important the customer experience is to Jack Erwin. Every single decision is based on consumer preferences, whether it’s style or price-based. By using this information strategically, they have been able to build themselves into a truly formidable fashion brand.
The lesson here is simple. You need to know who your customers are, what they want, and how you can provide it to them. Take the time to gather and implement this data carefully, and your brand will be on it's way to raise capital and attract customers.