So I actually started my own boutique, and it's an online boutique that sells things like haircare products, makeup products, and even skin care products. You've probably heard of thousands of people with a similar idea or business to mine, and that's just the people you know there could be millions more out there. With so much competition in an industry it can be very discouraging, and I actually almost closed my business down at the start because I was having trouble making sales. Then I started to realize it wasn't about going out and finding customers, but rather forcing them to come to me. I bought a few online courses about digital marketing and after a few weeks studying I took to the internet. I made paid ad after paid ad, post after post, and hashtag after hashtag. Anything I could do to raise some brand awareness and actually develop a brand people would recognize or give a chance. The results weren't immediate but eventually I started to see results and I recently stepped away from my regular 9-5. The point of this story is that education is key and if you want to grow your business learn skills that you can apply to building your brand, also stop focusing on finding the ideal customer, but instead create an imagine that brings them to you.
A lot of clients come to us saying they want to be more respected in their space. They know their competitors are trusted and they want the same recognition, if not more.
This feels even more important now after the absolute disaster that was 2020. Consumers and clients alike just want to be able to count on brands and not stress over whether they’re making the right decision.
Marketers seem to know this. When we teamed up with Semrush to explore keyword search data in 2020 related to marketing goals, brand awareness and authority showed steady upward trends.
If you’re one of these marketers, I have some strategies you can use to improve your brand’s authority this year. It can’t happen overnight, but you can start implementing these strategies now to see results over time.
I have some strategies you can use to improve your brand’s authority this year.
Strategy #1: Get media coverage
Media coverage can build the authority of your brand in a few ways.
For one, it’s hard for people to trust you if they don’t know you exist. Of course, you can pay for ads or kill it on social to get your name out there, but media coverage has other benefits, as well.
When reputable publications and websites reference your brand and link to your site, they’re sending a signal that they trust what you have to say. It’s third-party confirmation that you know what you’re talking about and/or have something to offer.
For example, for our client Stoneside, we surveyed folks to see how many purchased and cared for houseplants in 2020.
Of course, getting media coverage isn’t easy. You need newsworthy content or an expert opinion to contribute, and you need to know how to pitch it to writers.
Small budget options
Are there industry blogs you can write a guest post for? Are there peers in your industry who are looking for quotes for their content? Start building connections with other industry experts. Cite their work in your content and build a rapport.
For example, I sometimes work with marketing tool brands like Semrush and BuzzSumo because those brands align well with Fractl, as we all work in the same industry.
You can also sign up for HARO, in which journalists post requests to speak to particular types of experts. However, it’s not often you’ll see relevant requests, and even then it’s a toss up whether they’ll reach out to you specifically.
Larger budget options
If you can afford it, a combination of content marketing and digital PR is the way to go. If you have resources internally — marketing folks who are savvy with data analysis and content creation — you can start by seeing if you have any internal data that would be interesting to a wider audience.
So, about a month ago, I started building Bluetooth speakers in my garage. It's fairly simple to do, I haven't sold many yet, but it's been fun doing the whole thing. Now I'm interested in creating a premium brand around my speakers, similar to Apple, Starbucks, or Vans. Companies have succeeded in creating a status symbol out of other music related products like airpods, so I think it's do able, I just don't have experience in this field.
Hey all. I'm doing a little research on startups as brands. Just a quick question – is brand building important for startups these days? Is it important for your company? If "yes", what tactics do you use for your company brand building? If "no", why you think it's not important?
Maisonette, a four-year-old, New York-based company has aimed from the outset to become a one-stop curated shop for everything a family might need for their young children.
That plan appears to be working. Today, the company — which launched with preppy young children’s apparel and has steadily built out categories that include home decor, home furniture, toys, gear, and accessories — says it doubled its number of customers last year and tripled its revenue. Indeed, even as COVID could have crimped its style — sales of children’s dress-up clothes slowed for a time — its DIY and STEM toy sales shot up 1,400%.
Though the company keeps its sales numbers private, its growth is interesting, particularly given the unabated growth of Amazon, which became the nation’s leading apparel retailer somewhere around the end of 2018.
Seemingly, much of Maisonette’s traction owes to the trust it has built with customers, who see its offerings as high-end yet accessible relative to the many high-end fashion brands that are also increasingly focused on the children’s market, like Gucci and Burberry.
Specifically, the 75-person company has a merchandising team that prides itself on working with independent brands and surfacing items that are hard to find elsewhere.
Maisonette also launched its own apparel line roughly 30 months ago called Maison Me. Focused around “elevated basics” at a more reasonable price point, the line, made in China, is seeing brisk sales to families who buy items time and again as their kids outgrow or wear holes in them, says the company.
It helps that Maisonette’s founders have an eye for what’s chic. Cofounder Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza Roccia met at Vogue magazine, where Durrett spent 15 years, joining the staff straight from Princeton and becoming its director of events (work that earned her a high profile in fashion circles). Roccia joined straight from Georgetown the same year, 2003, and left as the magazine’s accessories editor in 2008.
For those who might be curious, their former boss, Anna Wintour, is a champion of theirs. Yet they also have some other powerful advocates, including NEA investor Tony Florence, a kind of e-commerce whisperer who has also led previous investments on behalf of his firm in Jet, Goop, and Casper.
NEA is an investor in Maisonette, as is Thrive Capital and the growth-stage venture firm G Squared, which just today announced it led a $ 30 million round in the company that brings its total funding to $ 50 million.
Another ally is Marissa Mayer, who first met Durrett back in 2009 when Mayer was still known as Google’s first female engineer its most fashionable executive. Not only has their friendship endured — Mayer says she named one of her twin daughters Sylvana because she adored the name — but Mayer is on the board of Maisonette, where she has presumably helped refine its data strategy, including around an inherent advantage that the company enjoys: its very young customers.
“One of the things that’s really helpful when it comes to data and e-commerce is when you can capture people at a particular life stage,” Mayer explains. “It’s why people liked wedding registries. You get married, then you have children and [the retailer] can follow the children’s ages and start anticipating that customer’s needs and what they’re going to want two years from now.”
In terms of “predictable supply chain, for inventory selection, for just being able to meet that moment, having insight into those stages is really important and helpful,” she says. It can also be very lucrative for Maisonette as it continues to build out its business, notes Mayer.
Certainly, much is working in the company’s favor already. To Mayer’s point, Roccia says that more than half of Maisonette’s sales last year came from repeat customers. More, it already has an audience of more than 800,000 people who either receive emails from the company or follow its social media channels. (Maisonette also features a healthy dose of content at its site.)
Unlike some e-commerce businesses, Maisonette is asset-lite, too. Though it has opened a handful of pop-up stores previously and was contemplating a bigger move into retail (“that’s now on pause,” says Durrett), the company doesn’t have warehouses to manage. Instead, items are shipped directly to customers from the various retailers featured at its site.
Perhaps most meaningful of all, the company is competing in what is a massive and growing market. In the U.S. alone, the children’s apparel market is estimated to be $ 34 billion. Meanwhile, the children’s market is $ 630 billion globally. While Maisonette is selling to U.S. customers alone right now, it plans to use some of that new funding to move into international markets, says Roccia, who has been living in Milan with her own four children during the pandemic, while Durrett began working out Maisonette’s mostly empty Brooklyn headquarters in January to create a bit of space from her three.
Indeed, on a Zoom call from their far-flung locations, they talk at length about parents needing to create new space to work from home right now, as well as to update rooms for kids attending virtual school. While no one asked for a global shutdown, home decor is a “category that has picked up due to the Covid effect,” notes Roccia.
Asked what other trends the two are tracking — for example, Maisonette features the mommy-and-me clothing pairings that have become big business in recent years — Roccia says that even with the world shut down, it remains a “huge” trend. “It started with holiday pajamas — that was kind of the catalyst to this whole movement — and now swimwear and just casual dressing has become a pretty big piece of the business, too.”
As for what Durrett has noticed, she laughs. “Llamas are big. We sell a llama music player that we had to bring back on the site several times over the holidays.” Also “rainbows and unicorns. As cliche as it sounds, we literally can’t keep them in stock.”
Unicorns, she adds, “are a thing.”
What are the costs, benefits & alternatives to using a design studio for: Brand Identity, Packaging, Print, & Typeface.
- What does it typically cost?
- Is there a particular area that’s well worth it?
- Thoughts on using a design studio for branding before launching for the first time or using one after generating cash to then rebrand and grow?
- What does working with a design studio look like?
- Important questions to ask & things to consider when choosing?
- Alternatives to using a design studio? How to go about creating an inspiring and powerful brand identity in-house at a low cost in the beginning stages?
I’m starting a new series called The Bootstrap Chronicles – cool stories about self-funded company beginnings.
Why? Two reasons… entertainment and inspiration.
First, these are fun to research, fun to write and fun to read. So, if you get nothing more than entertainment from them, I'm happy.
If they happen to inspire you in your business as well, even better.
First one's below. Hope you enjoy!
The Bootstrap Chronicles #001 – BrewDog
If your top-selling US beer is named Elvis Juice and you receive a threatening letter from Elvis Presley’s estate, how would you react?
School friends and BrewDog cofounders James Watt and Martin Dickie did what any sensible cofounders would do.
First, they legally changed their names to Elvis. Both of them.
They doubled down by changing their email, driving licenses etc.
Finally, they sent a semi-serious counter claim, demanding the Presley estate pay a fee for “using our name in all of your music”.
A level-headed, rational response. Or not.
Ingenious or infuriating?
This type of marketing stunt has peppered BrewDog’s history.
And there are few companies that divide opinion quite as much.
But love them or loathe them, their rise has been astonishing.
So, how did two men and a dog go from sleeping in a warehouse to forming a cult brand worth a staggering £1.8 billion valuation?
Two Men and a Dog
Bored of their jobs and sick of the “stuffy ales and fizzy yellow lagers” that surrounded them, Elvis ‘James’ Watt and Elvis ‘Martin’ Dickie decided to create their own beer.
This was 2006 – Dickie was working at a brewery called Thornbridge while Watt was working on a fishing boat in the North Atlantic.
The beer epiphany occurred, appropriately, over a beer. A Sierra Nevada Pale Ale purchased at Tesco’s, to be precise.
Watt experienced an “awakening” due to the tipple’s “bomb of flavour”. Suddenly, instead of piss-coloured lager and god-awful stout, beer flavour experimentation seemed a great idea.
So, with brewing kit in tow, they retreated to Dickie’s mum’s garage and got to brewing.
Their first batch was ruined when a phone and set of car keys somehow ended up in the mash.
A cheap-ass garden hose was to blame for the second batch tasting “really strongly of plastic”.
On just their third crack they were on to a winner. Impressive.
Next step: getting people to agree with them.
The first of those people was Michael Jackson. No, not that one.
The MJ in question was the late beer and whisky writer who was revered in the industry.
With an imperial stout they’d aged in a Scotch whisky barrel they headed to London and handed it to Jackson.
His immediate reaction, according to Dickie, was ‘Guys, you need to give up the day job.’
This glowing endorsement helped them take the plunge, and Dickie promptly moved back to his parents’ house to cut down his outgoings.
They topped-up their combined savings of £30,000 with a “scary” £20,000 bank loan, then got to work.
The first six months were comically bad. They had no money to pay for help so, in Watt’s own words "we were welding, wiring, falling off ladders and electrocuting ourselves”.
These were humble beginnings – they bought second-hand brewing equipment and rented a drafty, ramshackle warehouse in Aberdeenshire.
To stay afloat, and to stay warm, the pair and eponymous dog would often work 20-hour days.
In between sleeping on sacks of malt, they filled bottles by hand and traversed north-east Scotland, literally selling beer out the back of a van, trying to drum up interest at farmers’ markets.
It was tough going, with interest low. On good days, they were selling just a few cases.
With funds shrinking by the day, they started to miss loan payments (which was almost disastrous further down the line).
Still, they persevered. Rather than getting disheartened, they continued adding beers to their range.
This proved crucial.
The pivotal moment came when Watt entered a selection of beers into a Tesco-run competition
The prize: a place on the shelves of the UK supermarket giant.
They did pretty well.
Of the four beers they’d entered, the panel of people “who knew something about beer,” ranked them first, second, third and fourth.
“It felt pretty amazing.” admitted Dickie.
In reality, it was a good news, bad news-type situation.
At Tesco HQ, they learned the contract would be for 2,000 cases a week to stock 500 stores.
He must have some poker face, our Watt.
Without flinching he said “no problem,” saying nothing of the fact the whole operation was two guys filling bottles by hand.
But the first shipment wasn’t due for four months, so that’s how long they had to work it out.
To have any hope, they needed £150,000 to set up a bottling line and new fermentation tank.
Their first port of call?
Back to the bank who gave them their initial loan.
Being creative with the truth
BrewDog was making no money at this point and, more importantly, was not even making its monthly loan repayments. Tesco-Schmesco, they weren’t getting more money.
Undeterred, the pair showed considerable cojones by popping next door and lying through their teeth:
"Martin and I still had our suits on, so we went next door to HSBC and told them our bank had just offered an amazing finance deal on a bottling line and fermentation tank but if they could match it, we'd think about shifting to HSBC."
Of course, it's a story with a happy ending – they secured themselves the HSBC loan and got cracking.
In the end, the first Tesco-bound beer came off the line just two days before they were due to ship!
The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
Persevering through lean times, staying true to their original idea, an off-the-cuff decision to enter a competition, bluffing Tesco, a ballsy move to mislead HSBC – all defining moments.
And it all combined to transform them from a company unable to pay the bills, losing money and going nowhere to one stocked nationwide and, later, exporting internationally.
That's it – first one in the bag! Would love to hear your thoughts about whether it was entertaining, useful and/or inspirational.
Regardless, really appreciate you taking the time to read!