Part of the reason I love running The Marketing Meetup is that I love seeing great marketing in action. As Rand Fishkin puts it, ‘marketing done well can be a noble act’, because it matches a ‘need’ to a solution, which ultimately improves someone’s life.
So when a company absolutely markets the sh*t out of me in a compelling way, I can’t help but feel like I want to 1) sit back and clap, and 2) learn as much as I can from them.
Everyone knows the usual suspects, Nike, Patagonia, blah blah.
Today, I want to focus on the latter, investigate what they’ve done so well, and see what we can learn from their approach, in effect, reverse engineering their marketing strategy from the outside in.
One. I hope I’m not the only person who when they receive an online order of clothes, they send 90% of it back because it doesn’t fit, didn’t look like the picture, is clearly made of poor materials, and not to mention – is bad for the environment. My experience with SoaT was opposite to all these things.
Two. My friend Richard Wood put it best when he said…
I’m going to split this dissection into three parts: market orientation, strategy, and tactics. By the end, we’ll hopefully have a bit of a playbook on how this eCommerce startup took my money, and made me happy about it.
A pre-warning here too, this isn’t a short article, so put your feet up and pop the kettle on. By the end, you’ll hopefully have observed how a brand who is nailing their marketing and be able to take inspiration.
It should be said at this stage I have no affiliation with SoaT, apart from being a customer.
What you need to know…
Son of a Tailor are an eCommerce brand who make custom made t shirts. They don’t do ‘sizes’ in the way other companies do – instead, they use an algorithm based on your height, weight, and shoe size to determine what tee to make for you when you order. We’ll get into the rest later.
Loosely, by market orientation we mean looking to understand what the market wants, and basing your product around that – rather than creating a product and looking for the market.
In the case of Son of a Tailor, they would have seen:
- A more responsible, eco driven demand, with matching price point: 32% of consumers would pay more for a product from a brand that they believe is committed to sustainability. 28% of consumers would stop shopping with brands if they didn’t produce sustainably. (Nosto, 2019)
- A demand for personalised service in clothing. JD.com’s Richard Liu said “[Customers] want something special. Something you cannot and in your circle or in your neighbourhood or in your company.”
- An increased middle class globally, driven in particular by China and India (ec.Europa.eu, Growing Consumerism)
Additionally, the clothing market is also beginning to benefit from a period of incoporating advancements in tech into the fold, through AI and ML, meaning personalisation at scale is now possible in ways that would have never been possible before.
On a very high level, these insights show there is something there. The Son of the Tailor team would have undoubtably spent many an hour going ‘I wish there was a clothing company that did…’ and then found more compelling answer than whatever the competition were producing at the time.
With these insights in mind, the Son of a Tailor team had some pretty clear things to go at in the strategy stage. They needed a product that was personal, responsible, globally available, with cost being less important if the other buttons could be hit.
Through an awareness of the trends, SoaT would be able to start creating an idea of an individual they can help.
Happily, the people SoaT settled on helping is largely given away through their sizing mechanism. First, the tees are targeted at men. Next, I found the ’35 years old’ bit interesting, as this would be the age where many people start gaining more disposable income to be able to invest in more long term staple items, rather than looking at fast fashion items.
The remaining dimensions (as shown in the image below) can be taken in two ways: 1. They’ve taken average sizes of men and plonked them in, or 2. They’ve created an ideal man who would wear their clothing and used these as a default.
Son of a Tailor also include reviews from GQ and Esquire on their site, which while having the social proof effect, also give an indication of the kind of person looking to buy from the site.
From here, we can derive the following loose persona, who I have named Magnus (because that feels about right):
“Magnus is a 35 year old man in the throws of a successful professional career. He balances work with an interest in fitness, but is also increasingly becoming interested in making choices that also protect the environment.
Magnus doesn’t mind investing in quality items if he feels they are going to last due to an increased level of disposable income, meaning heritage and materials is important to him. He equally doesn’t have the time or inclination to be shopping at fast fashion brands or the high street however. Magnus is also in GQ and Esquire’s target market: males interested in fashion, style and culture.”
It’s crucial to note at this stage that this persona is mainly made up of psychographic thoughts and attitudes, rather than the usual ‘Clive has three cats and a MA in Business’. My lesson here is when creating personas, base it around needs, not just characteristics.
As this is a high level view of Son of a Tailor, we’re not going into too much depth on the strategy, but it’s again logical to move from insight to audience to message.
In this case, SoaT have a few clear messages running throughout all their external communications. These communications have once again been matched to the demands of Magnus, which in turn, was informed by the market at large. The staples of which are:
- Made to order in a custom fit – personalised and special for you
- High levels of materials and craftpersonship using long fibre cotton
- Responsible production – Made with little waste by a team in Portugal
- Internationally available.
These three messages help SoaT stand out vs the competition in the following ways…
- vs other young start up clothing brands – Completely custom made tees in your size, instead of just personalising from a number of options
- vs old school tailors – Product is focussed on t shirts and smart causal wear
- vs fast fashion – we’re more expensive because we’re premium, made just for you, and ethical
This positioning is crucial for two reasons.
First, there is a litany of brands competing for the same customers with very similar offerings. These three messages add a depth to the offering, differentiating SoaT from anything else I’ve seen on the market.
Second, SoaT have chosen to compete on something other than price. One of my favourite Marketing Meetup talks (by John Moss and Chris Smith) left me with the lesson of ‘the first step to negotiation is persuasion’. In this case SoaT are persuading on the basis of anything but price.
The lesson here: understand the market, what you can offer to it, and what the key messages are. To any marketers asking the question ‘how do I stand out in a crowded market?’ This is the answer.
So, the meaty bit. Four messages. Four P’s. Five stages of the marketing promotion lifecycle. Awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, advocacy. Let’s start with the four P’s.
Product wise, I don’t know why they settled on mens t-shirts to start off with, possibly because their founder, Jess, is a good looking Danish man who wanted t-shirts to match himself, but that is where they began. Sometimes, that’s enough.
SoaT lead on the tees, their range also extends to jumpers, scarfs, and tees in wool, too. While the hook is very much t-shirt focussed, once you’re on site, it’s clear there is much more on site, also benefitting from the tech.
A smart move on their part is different colours are released monthly, and are in limited availability. This not only builds anticipation for a new release, but also gives the marketing team something to speak to the audience about on a regular basis. For me, I started by testing out in some staple colours, before branching out into some more colourful tees to brighten up my wardrobe.
One of the genius moves by SoaT is their pricing system. The tees are expensive, coming in at £36 to £48, justified by all the reasons explained so far in the analysis. (I feel like I need to justify myself here by saying experience has shown me with the the old adage of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ applies to fast fashion t shirts, and I instead intend to have SoaT tees for years to come.)
However, pricing scales with the amount of items brought, with a 12.5% discount applied at 2 items purchased, and 25% at 5 items purchased. Personally, I fell fowl of the ‘oh, I’ll just add another tee to make it to the discount level’.
One of the reasons I really love this strategy is it means SoaT need never engage in the sale culture blighting the retail market these days. This is the price. This is the discount if you buy x amount. Suck it or leave it.
Again proving the value of market orientation, there is a statistical justification for the high price point, based on the other messages, meaning so long as the promotional channels convey enough quality and ethical chops, the customer can justify the increased price point.
SoaT operate online exclusively. They represent a new wave of online retailers, with the additional layer being this company could never have existed even 10 years ago.
One of the crucial advantages here is despite being based in Denmark and manufactured in Portugal, their reach can be more or less global, as shown by a bit of handy VPN’ing. One of the opportunities for SoaT as they grow will be heading into the growing middle-classes of India and China. SoaT’s job therefore becomes largely one of marketing, and if I was on the team, with a heavy focus on digital, too.
And finally, promotion, or more accurately, how I happily fell for SoaT’s spell. While this is the bit all marketers speak about, note it’s a small part of the piece so far and the tactical slots wouldn’t fit in without market orientation, strategy, and 3 other solid P’s.
The way I’ve chosen to analyse their channels is through a fairly basic marketing lifecycle approach. While it’s a useful mode don’t fall into the trap of thinking these things work lineally – people will ping pong all over the place, which is why a solid CRM and attribution model is important.
I first became aware of SoaT through their instagram ads. Annoyingly, I’ve been unable to re-find them, but I do remember it to be a video of a chap putting on a plain white tee of theirs. While he was in shape and good looking, I do also remember thinking he was an achievable level of in shape and good looking, which in my case made it feel more relatable. For a marketer, this might also be a handy thing I’ve never thought of… a photo shoot with someone who represents your target audience: it definitely brings the context the customer operates in to life.
Clicking through to the website, the same video is playing with a quick and easy explanation of what SoaT do. It’s clear right there (agencies take note! Just say what you do!). Using the same video is also wise too, as it creates a more unified experience (and is easier on the budget).
On my first interaction, I didn’t convert. In fact, I went to the SoaT website a few times before even understanding the concept. Not because it’s not clear, but just because I’m busy and was just browsing.
After this point, I was followed fairly relentlessly through remarketing, which kept the brand top of mind for me.
This is one of the joys of the experience for me. Again, marketing geek here.
A few weeks after my first interaction with SoaT, I was frustrated with fast fashion choices meaning I was yet again throwing away a bunch of clothes I didn’t even consider that old. Researching the solution, I found out that ‘long-staple cotton’ is the answer. Essentially a higher grade cotton made to last.
My next port of call was to Google ’long-staple cotton tees’, and guess who had wrote a blog post about how they use long staple cotton?
Moreover, the company also made clear the t shirts would come in a size I could choose. As someone who likes a longer length of tee… the price became worth an experiment.
What’s interesting for me here is quite often I would consider content marketing more at the awareness stage of things, but here, my final ‘click’ before purchase came from a typically non-acquisition focussed channel. Not only does this show the value of content in bringing people to your site, but also how stereotypes about the roles of acquisition vs non-acquisition based channels aren’t always true.
The process of buying a SoaT tee is unlike any other. You’re first greeted with colour choices, the option to personalise the tee with initials (again a nod to the personalisation trend), and then onto sizing using the aforementioned algorithm. After you’re given your size, you’re able to customise the tee to your liking (longer length, shorter sleeves, etc)
Interestingly, there are no returns with SoaT, because the items are made to order. They’ve got around this through a ‘Perfect Fit Guarantee’. Essentially, if the tee isn’t perfect first time, they’ll make the changes they need to to make it perfect, free of charge with a new tee. Copywriting on site gave a friendly, useful tone, which to me made it feel like taking advantage of the perfect fit guarantee was almost expected, which increased my confidence in the product. The social proof of trust pilot reviews found on the homepage, with plenty of folks stating how they took advantage of the guarantee also was useful. The lesson here: copywriting and social proof matter.
The whole experience felt like an event, and by the end, I felt excited. This was actually reinforced through a longer delivery time as the tees are made to order. By the time they arrived, it had been two weeks of eager anticipation rather than a few clicks and something arriving.
Three things really impressed me at the retention stage.
- The tee was phenomenal. I can see it’s already going to last me years.
- The tee had a little handwritten note from the tailor who put it together making this again feel like an experience just for me. Just imagine a big brand trying to do that?
- Even though the tee was brilliant, it wasn’t ‘perfect’. I got in touch with the customer service team, and they couldn’t have been any more lovely.
And here-in lies a lesson. I think one of the biggest strengths of any marketing division is their customer service: it’s so much cheaper to keep old customers and have them return than it is to keep finding new ones.
One of the regular bits of praise for SoaT on their Trustpilot ratings is their customer service team. The challenge for tomorrow will be keeping up with this as demand grows with it. Being honest, I found response time to be an area which could be improved, even if the responses I eventually got were brilliant. This feels overly critical at this stage given their size, but it’s certainly something they should be mindful of, and possibly a place if I was making the marketing plan for next year where I would be investing more in people like Hildur, the person who responded to my email.
The lesson for marketers here is that customer service should never ever be an afterthought. Treat those already paying you like the kings and queens they are. Marketing should absolutely have a hand in customer support.
One final element that has kept me coming back is the release of their colour calendar, which each month offers a refresh on the range. This offers great fodder for the SoaT to send beautiful emails and post organically on social channels, which they do!
The lesson here is twofold: always to hold something back so you can keep coming back to the customer with something new, and building expectation around a release is a wonderful way to once again build an element of experience into your brand that feels just a bit magic. Yes, they’re just tees, but they’re also something you’ve waited for – and in today’s world where everything is on demand… isn’t that a nice thing?
One thing I’m yet to experience from SoaT is any kind of advocacy efforts. So far as I’m aware, they don’t have an affiliate scheme, nor have I received any prompts to share my items on social, or with friends. Again, it might be too early days for them, but this feels like an opportunity for them to improve.
For me, this does feel like an opportunity many marketers miss. Not only are your customers your revenue source, but they’re also potentially the best source of marketing you have (McKinsey suggests that “word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones.”)
Never, ever neglect to turn your biggest fans into your best source of marketing, too.
Clearly, I don’t have access to SoaT’s data, but if I did, the metrics I would be using to judge their success would be:
Awareness: Instagram top of funnel ads: Reach, and clicks
Consideration: SEO: Clicks to conversions
Purchase: Basket value, abandoned carts
Retention: Lifetime value and Number of interactions with customer service (to determine customer service cost, too)
Advocacy: N/A at the moment, based on their current activity
Through the exploration of Son of a Tailor, we can see a coherent, joined up marketing strategy that follows the market demand, through to product development and then all the way through to the retention stage.
The thing I can’t emphasise here enough is the orientation and strategy stages. Marketers can learn from SoaT by not dipping into tactics too soon, and actually taking the time to develop a voice that permeates every single bit of communication a brand puts out into the world.
Here, we see a great example of a company I’m happy to exchange my money in return for their wares, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all would love to do a bit more of? 🙂
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