But don’t lump it in with the thousands of other online-only
fashion retailers because Betabrand is totally unique.
The company relies on its customers to model clothing, share
ecommerce pages with their friends, and produce beautiful
videos of hip people wearing Betabrand clothing. More
than simple crowdsourcing, Betabrand sources ideas and
inspiration from customers to make it a totally authentic
We spoke to Chris Lindland, Betabrand founder
and content marketing visionary, about how he
makes it all work.
may be the
never heard of.
1. Betabrand gives its customers
reasons to go a little crazy.
Along with plain khakis and shirts, Betabrand sells
clothing that gets attention, like Disco Pants, Sport Karate
Casuals and Bike to Work Pants. The designs are so fun and
interesting that customers are inspired to buy.
Lindland: We made 100 pairs of Disco Pants on a lark. We’ve sold well
more than 20,000 pairs by now. What happened is, people took photos
of themselves wearing this stuff, showing new audiences how to wear
and use these products. At the beginning, the Burning Man crowd went bananas
over it, then golfers got into it, and now the BASE jumping community has
adopted it. And it just keeps going and going.
2. The company embraces,
celebrates — and sells — quirkiness.
The company’s Think Tank solicits ideas from customers.
The most promising ideas are sketched out by in-house
designers and put on the site for voting. Case in point:
pants with a banana pocket. We asked Lindland,
“How can you be sure you won’t go off the rails?”
“How can you be sure you won’t go off the rails?”
Lindland: The banana pocket? That’s what our Think Tank is about.
Let me tell you how much we’ve invested in that banana pocket. It was
an idea that a junior graphic designer of ours sketched. So in terms of
hours and time invested in that one, you’re looking at about two to three hours.
If that idea is popular, we’ll have all kinds of signups from customers who want
it, which essentially gives us a mailing list of customers to whom we can then sell
the initial few hundred items.
We don’t need to invest any more
dollars in that concept until we’ve seen
that people actually want it.
Betabrand even has fun with product descriptions.
Why describe Disco Pants by their size and fabric
specifications when you can do this?
3. If you’re trying to reflect what your
customers want, why not ask
customers to model?
Betabrand uses a totally unique way to garner social page
views. When customers upload photos of themselves in
Betabrand clothing, they get a unique URL to share with
friends and family — a link that leads to the e-commerce
site. From your friends’ perspective, you look like the
latest Betabrand model.
Lindland: Then we thought, why does there just have to be a single
Disco Pants page? What if there were 1,000 Disco Pants pages, and
each one was headlined by whoever uploaded the most recent photo?
What we did was create a hack that enabled people to insert themselves as image
number one in the gallery, and then that unique URL was something they could
share with their friends and family.
We filed a patent on it. It’s something
done by nobody else. It allows you to
basically throw a purchase button on your
forehead and mail it to your friends.
4. Photographers? Videographers?
Naaah! Let customers handle that too!
Lindland believes the GoPro camera and other portable,
high-def cameras can revolutionize how marketers do their
jobs… if marketers are willing to give up control.
Lindland: Chances are good the people you’re selling your products to
own really high-quality HD devices. People have affordable HD cameras
strapped all over their bodies. To me it’s thrilling because it speaks of a
wide-open world where you can have mountains of storytelling performed by your
customers, and they put a unique and very personalized spin on the product that
you sell through their social networks.
Lindland: When GoPro came
out, it really changed my view
of the potential of customer
marketing. Now everything beautiful
on Earth is captured by ordinary
people — not photographers who
cost a ton of money. You can go through
it all and pull out the things that are
good for your brand. Then your brand
begins to look like this wondrous
reflection of human experience.
The GoPro is a rugged,
used most often to
company sells a series of
mounting systems to attach the
camera to your body, racecars,
surfboards and bikes (to name
just a few) to capture amazing
footage. And the starting price
for its entry-level camera — just
$199 — puts it well within the
reach of amateurs everywhere.
Amateur videographers rejoice!
Betabrand got a flood of attention when it debuted its
Executive Hoodie at roughly the same time as Facebook’s
IPO. (Mark Zuckerberg is famous for wearing casual
hoodies to business meetings, so why not a Merino wool,
pin-striped hoodie for the new billionare?)
Lindland: Betabrand has been a big-time press darling because we’ve
been making products that people like to talk about. What’s interesting
now is to ask, ‘Can we sell you a pair of khaki pants? Can we sell you a
white T-shirt?’ How do we start selling other parts of the wardrobe — products
that may not have such supreme novelty?
6. Don’t get caught up in the
perfect sheen of your brand.
Because Betabrand solicits photographs from customers,
it gets plenty of images that may not be ‘brand-ready’ for
the majority of art directors. To stay true to its roots
as a social clothing company, Betabrand doesn’t let
these hang ups get in the way.
Lindland: We want to enable people to be the principal model, no
matter how good or bad their image is because 100 percent of the
people who upload images think their photo is good or
interesting — while an editor will probably think only
1 or 2 percent of photos are good or “on
brand.” The photo may be out of focus, or
the person doesn’t fit our demographic. It
doesn’t matter. That singular piece of our
website is owned by that person.
Want to read more about Betabrand’s quirky-but-effective strategy?
Find the entire interview with Chris Lindland here:
Betabrand was featured in our August 2013 issue of
Chief Content Officer magazine. To get more content
like this, sign up for your free subscription:
All images courtesy of www.betabrand.com.
Design by Joseph Kalinowski.
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