There is a handful of strategies to pursue in a world dominated by platforms. Digital brands going directly to customers (and thus having to build a direct relationship with them) is one of those. After headlines from Dollar Shave Club (now at Unilever) and Bonobos (now at Walmart), Casper will be going public soon. (Let‘s not talk about that other recent mattresses IPO.)
Mack Weldon, a mens underwear essentials brand, is another interesting new entrant in that field.
Mack Weldon started in 2011 selling underwear and socks. Now it has t-shirts, sweats, shorts and even swimsuits, but “we have a very specific and a very restrictive approach when it comes to what we make,” Berger said.
Mack Weldon sticks to essential, non-seasonal items that aren’t trendy. “And we have to make some sort of design or performance innovation,” Berger added. That could be the stealth pocket on their sweat pants or a swim fabric designed for fast drying.
Besides the non-seasonal approach for all its products, which simplifies operations quite a bit, what sets Mack Weldon apart is the company’s firm focus on communicating with existing and potential customers, and doing it all in-house:
The company makes its biggest tech investments in digital marketing, beta testing messages and segmenting its clientele for precise pitches.
“Any company that’s worth their salt in the digitally native realm is doing some or all of that themselves, rather than outsourcing,” Berger said.
The company started podcasting under an agency’s guidance, but the campaign didn’t take off until a member of staff took over. When they quit giving hosts really technical briefs and focused on giving talent some underwear and building a relationship, the results were “like 10X,” Berger said.
(Emphasis by me. With ‚podcasting‘ they don‘t mean content marketing but Mack Weldon ads in podcasts.)
Expertise in digital marketing and communication is a valuable core competency that gets cultivated at those successful digital direct-to-consumer brands:
A digital native company looks at whether a new customer came from Facebook or Google search, whether their first purchase was socks or underwear and how often they click on emails when they vary the messages’ frequency.
Learning to think in these terms gets into the bones of people who start at companies like Berger’s.
“The reason why Walmart is interested in businesses like Bonobos, the reason Unilever is interested in Dollar Shave Club,” Berger said. “I would argue that at least 50 percent of that rationale for those deals is people.”
Earlier this year, Mack Weldon launched its first retail partnership with Equinox.
Founded in 2011, Mack Weldon has raised $13 million over three rounds to date.
More on this topic:
* Dollar Shave Club, Jet.com & the Rise of $1B+ Acquisitions by ‘Non-Tech’ Companies
* Here’s the Investment Thesis of the VC Behind Jet.com and Dollar Shave Club
* Samsonite Pulls a Unilever and Snaps up eBags for $105 Million
* Walmart Is Acquiring Bonobos for $310 Million in Cash