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Quirky Content


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How Betabrand created a viral social clothing brand. (And what you can learn from it.)

Published in: Business, Technology

Quirky Content

  1. 1. How Betabrand created a viral social clothing brand. (And what you can learn from it.) By Clare McDermott QUIRKY CONTENT
  2. 2. Betabrand sells strangely appealing oddities like this: Disco Tuxedo Jacket
  3. 3. And this: Sport Karate Casuals
  4. 4. And (most famously) this: Disco Track Shorts
  5. 5. 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 social brand. We spoke to Chris Lindland, Betabrand founder and content marketing visionary, about how he makes it all work.
  6. 6. Why Betabrand may be the most exciting company you’ve never heard of.
  7. 7. 1. Betabrand gives its customers reasons to go a little crazy.
  8. 8. 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.
  9. 9. 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.
  10. 10. 2. The company embraces, celebrates — and sells — quirkiness.
  11. 11. 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?”
  12. 12. “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.
  13. 13. Betabrand even has fun with product descriptions. Why describe Disco Pants by their size and fabric specifications when you can do this?
  14. 14. 3. If you’re trying to reflect what your customers want, why not ask customers to model?
  15. 15. 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.
  16. 16. 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.
  17. 17. 4. Photographers? Videographers? Naaah! Let customers handle that too!
  18. 18. 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.
  19. 19. 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.
  20. 20. 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, “wearable” camera used most often to capture high-definition, adrenaline-soaked videography. The 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!
  21. 21. 5. Keep it quirky.
  22. 22. 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?)
  23. 23. 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?
  24. 24. 6. Don’t get caught up in the perfect sheen of your brand.
  25. 25. 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.
  26. 26. 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.
  27. 27. 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 Design by Joseph Kalinowski.