Welcome to the Social Spotlight, where we dive deep into what we love about a brand’s approach to a specific social campaign. From strategy through execution and results, we’ll examine what makes the best brands on social tick — and leave you with some key takeaways to consider for your own brand’s social strategy.
Transparency and authenticity are two of the most sought-after brand beliefs for consumers who, more than ever before, want to put their money where their values are. But the records of social media are riddled with brands that have attempted purpose-driven marketing without realizing that consumers need more than surface-level PR commitment. Without a purpose-driven business behind the stunts, the message rings hollow. But when a brand builds purpose into the very fiber of its business, the marketing is the easy part. Take fashion brand Everlane, which uses social not for flashy content meant solely to sell, but for deep and authentic storytelling about the purpose-driven business it’s built.
Founded in 2010, Everlane has been mission-aware from the start. Founder Michael Preysman turned his entrepreneurial energy into a quest of sorts: to demystify the clothing industry. By doing basic reconnaissance on how, where and at what cost clothing is made, he immediately saw an industry ripe for disruption by simply telling the truth. He found, for instance, that a $50 designer t-shirt cost just $7.50 to make. The additional cost wasn’t driven by pure demand; rather, it was driven by the cost of getting the t-shirts to the customer. Wholesalers, distributors, importers and other “middle men” were all taking a cut. All Preysman had to do was to find a way to sell directly to his customers–and then make sure they knew that cutting out the middle men was the reason Everlane was able to sell those same high-quality t-shirts for $16 instead of $50. And thus, one of the world’s most transparent brands was born.
Everlane has also been conscious and transparent about how it designs and markets its offerings. Rather than developing full collections (i.e. “Spring 2020”) that are built around a theme and marketed as a whole, Everlane designs singular pieces with input from all areas of the company, releases them and iterates as necessary when feedback comes in from its customers. The pieces are sold year-round and marketed as part of a lifestyle, rather than a “look.” Instead of talking about each product’s features, Everlane focuses on how customers will use it. By selling timeless staples (Preysman once joked to the New Yorker than “no one gets laid in Everlane”), creating a vision for consumers of how, when and where they could wear each piece and openly soliciting feedback to make each product better, Everlane has built authenticity into the fabric of the brand. And because the entire business is built on transparency and authenticity, social can just be the place where those stories unfold.
- Goals: Most of the Social Spotlights we’ve done have included awareness as a primary goal for social. Everlane is no exception, but in this case it’s not pure brand awareness as much as it is awareness of what makes the brand unique: radical transparency into its business. I’d also throw in a healthy dose of awareness about how the fashion industry works, which also sets Everlane up to stand out by standing up for the consumer’s dollar. And in a business so often plagued by middleman inefficiencies that get passed along to customers in the form of higher retail prices, that’s remarkable. Engagement is another social goal that is front and center for Everlane, as evidenced by its community-driven initiatives like Transparency Tuesdays. In these low-lift Q&A sessions on Instagram stories, Everlane community managers take questions from its social audience about everything from why international returns are so expensive to when the brand will release a new high-waisted straight leg jean.
- Offline connection: Like other popular DTC e-comm brands (Warby Parker, Bonobos, Allbirds) that have entered the brick and mortar retail space, Everlane sought a more tactile experience that created connection between its digital store and its physical products. There are plenty of touches that make Everlane’s retail locations–in New York, LA and San Francisco–an extension of the online experience, from iPads that allow customers to easily combine in-store and e-comm purchases into one transaction onsite, to an SMS-powered reservation system for fitting rooms. The experience for the consumer is seamless between online and IRL, much like they already live their lives. Plus one for a frictionless shopping trip!
- Key channels: In line with the brand’s dedication to authenticity and transparency, Everlane’s most effective social channels are the ones that allow for more natural, unpolished and timely content. Both Instagram Stories and Snapchat are outlets for Transparency Tuesdays, as well as behind-the-scenes looks at how the company is recycling plastic bottles and discarded wool to create new products, updates on employee life at Everlane and peeks of the products out in the real world. These humanizing looks at the values the brand eschews and the lifestyle moments it seeks to create for its customers serve to bring the audience firmly into the story of Everlane, and who wouldn’t want to support a brand that so readily and authentically invites you to be a part of it?
Everlane has built a multi-hundred-million dollar business on the idea that people want to know what they’re buying. And the more the brand shows them about how it designs, makes and sells its products, the more those same people are willing to purchase. The key, of course, is to start with a business you’re proud to be transparent about and then to find the right levers to pull in that bring your customers into your story.
- So the correct order is: purpose-driven business first, purpose-driven marketing second. True authenticity lies in believable stories, and the most believable stories are the ones that are true. So identify and act on the values that you want to talk about before you open your marketing mouth.
- Let real people tell stories to real people. Influencers can be effective in the right situations, but chances are the real people who build your brand every day are the best voices to authentically and transparently tell your story.
- Don’t automatically assume that you have to translate your e-comm experience to a traditional retail experience if you want to give your customers a place to meet you IRL. Too often we think the brick-and-mortar has to lead while digital supports it, but Everlane has proven that the effective digital experience can be the leader, with the tactile experience following.