Fans are everything.
These are the people who love your brand and your products so much they can’t wait to tell their friends. They eagerly wait for your newest launch; they follow you on all your social media channels; they like your posts; and they enter your giveaways. These are the loyal customers your brand relies on.
Brand advocates are the lifeblood of any successful business. Given the much higher cost of acquiring new customers, you need loyal customers who will follow you to the end of the earth (or at least watch all your Instagram stories).
Apple is the perfect example of this. While some of its products in later years haven’t been quite as exciting, it’s still ticking along nicely thanks to its rabid fans — many of whom wouldn’t even consider buying another company’s phones or laptops.
But how do you build a global following like this? It isn’t easy. For every Apple, there are hundreds or thousands of brand wannabes who buy fake followers and pay for engagement from their customer base. It’s incredibly hard to authentically and organically build up brand loyalty.
But it is possible!
Following in Apple’s footsteps, we’ve put together a list of B2C brands that have built up a loyal following of fans that have enabled them to grow and expand their businesses rapidly. We hope you can learn a few lessons about brand loyalty and apply them to your own business.
1. Cotopaxi: Event-driven brand buzz
Socially and environmentally-conscious outdoor clothing brand Cotopaxi is named after an active Volcano in Ecuador near where its founder grew up. Living up to its exciting name, the brand organizes an event for adventure seekers that creates a major buzz for the brand, but isn’t directly linked to its products.
Questival is a 24-hour “Choose Your Own Adventure” event where you have to complete quirky challenges in a specific city to earn points for your team. Part of the challenge involves submitting a photo or video of you completing the task to get points. It’s a perfect example of leveraging user-generated content in your marketing campaigns and drives serious organic engagement. One recent challenge even involved getting a celebrity with over 50K Twitter followers to retweet your Cotopaxi post.
Each participant in a Questival gets a free Cotopaxi backpack, which if you think of the sheer number of extra people wandering around cities with a neon backpack, helps to generate even more buzz. Questival participants may not have heard of the Cotopaxi brand before participating, but you’ll be sure they remember the brand afterward.
STAT: There have been 45,982 posts (as of September 2018) on Instagram with the hashtag #questival.
2. Glossier: A community built on reviews
Into the Gloss has long been a well-respected, go-to website for skincare tips and advice. Glossier grew its B2C brand directly from Into the Gloss and, even more interestingly, most of its early employees started out as customers and readers of the blog. In other words, the brand truly understands the skincare challenges that ordinary people face and has the great customer service to prove it.
Glossier has quickly one of the most hyped skincare brands at the moment. This is partly due to its strategy of growing through word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews, rather than a traditional marketing strategy. The brand prides itself on providing honest reviews of its products, showing the most positive and negative reviews first, instead of surfacing only the five-star reviews at the top.
By becoming a trusted resource for skincare advice and product reviews, Glossier was able to organically build a community of hyper-engaged buyers.
STAT: Instagram followers: 1.4 million
3. Away: Influencers powering brand
Suitcase brand Away launched in 2015 with the risky strategy of having just one product — a high-quality suitcase. But it paid off, as the company sold 50,000 pieces of luggage in its first year and is already turning a profit. Away’s marketing strategy involves two key elements: partnering with influencers and plugging into the burgeoning travel blogging and podcast market.
Away has partnered with a variety of celebrities and organizations to introduce its suitcases to a wide range of different demographics, always raving about the quality of the product. This includes influencers like Karlie Kloss, the NBA, and the movie Minions. It is also marketing itself through its magazine called Here, a podcast called Airplane Mode, and is now trying to upsell its customers travel accessories.
By starting with a simple product focus and a strong influencer marketing strategy, the brand was able to leverage a huge fanbase very quickly.
STAT: Number of suitcases sold in the first year: 50,000
4. Mizzen+Main: Personality always wins
Men’s shirt retailer Mizzen+Main has also been using an influencer marketing strategy to generate hype around its brand. But more importantly, they’ve added a cheeky personality to all of their marketing efforts.
Not only do sporting stars advertise Mizzen+Main stretchy performance-fabric shirts — check out golf legend Phil Mickelson’s viral dad dancing commercial — they also create collections in partnership them, along with customized web addresses.
For example, the company’s collection created in partnership with JJ Watt Collection had the web address of https://www.comfortable.af/jj. Comfortable, AF. They were able to build a huge following by showing a lot of personality and an ability to laugh at themselves.
STAT: To date, the Phil Mickelson commercial has had almost 800,000 views on YouTube.
5. Need Supply: Stay true to your roots
Need Supply Co has grown its fan base by embracing indie fashion designers, as well as designer labels that weren’t available in its native Richmond, Virginia back in the pre-internet days of the early 1990s. The company started out selling vintage Levis and has developed its brand by staying true to its vintage and indie roots, while always showcasing new and established local designers.
Just like Away, Need Supply decided to get into the content business to grow its brand name, with the launch of a bi-annual magazine Human Being Journal. They also invest heavily in fashion-driven editorial content on their website.
While the company may have been set up before online shopping took off, it embraced ecommerce with open arms and used it to grow an international following. Now, they have stores all over the world, including in Japan.
STAT: Need Supply has grown 63% over the past three years, which secured the brand a spot on the list of Richmond’s top 25 fastest-growing companies.
6. Mother Denim: A princess doesn’t hurt, either
It pays to have friends in high places. When Meghan Markle wore a pair of Mother Denim jeans at her first public appearance with Prince Harry, the brand sold out of its stock of the Looker Ankle Fray In Love Gun style in just three days. The brand is now also favored by celebrities such as Gigi Hadid, Reese Witherspoon, and Jenna Dawson.
Mother Denim already had a strong following before Princess Meghan wore their jeans, though. The company’s marketing strategy makes sure the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously and shows some personality — its Fall 2018 collecting is called Giddy Up, which includes a jacket called Revenge on Superstition Mountain — with old-fashioned values and hospitality (hence the name “Mother”).
The team worked hard to build a strong brand, and only then were they able to land the biggest possible buyer. You may not be able to convince a princess to wear your product, but you never know what will happen.
STAT: The day after Meghan wore the company’s jeans, there was an almost 200% increase in website traffic. There’s also now a 4000-person waiting list for some items.
7. Dannijo: Always be aspirational
Jewelry brand Dannijo was only set up in 2008, but it already counts Beyonce and Sarah Jessica as fans. The founders — sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder — credit their storytelling approach as the reason they’ve been able to build up such a significant following in such a short time.
They’ve created an aspirational narrative around themselves where they post pictures wearing their own jewelry in exotic places, or hanging out with celebrities at events like Paris Fashion Week and Coachella. They’ve also made clever use of their own hashtags, such as #armparty and #putabibonit.
Using a combination of aspirational lifestyle fashion and celebrity influencers, Dannijo quickly built up a strong fanbase.
STAT: Using the hashtag #putabibonit increased Dannijo’s online bib sales by 20 percent.
8. Brewdog: Expand beyond your products
Having a beer is no longer about just opening a bottle of Bud. British craft beer brewer and retailer Brewdog has created a strong brand that plays on being rebellious and anti-establishment, making their products instantly recognizable. They communicate this brand everywhere, whether it be on their website with the liberal use of the word “dog” and pictures of dogs, on the beers they brew, in their bars, or on their Instagram page.
In addition to clever branding, they’ve also built a strong community around the love of beer. They have beer and cycling groups, a crowdfunded beer-centric hotel, a TV network with beer programming, and much more.
The brand had become far more than just a beer company to its biggest fans.
STAT: From its launch in 2007 until the end of 2017, Brewdog has grown to more than 1,000 employees, and has brewed 343,253 hectoliters of beer.
Each of the above brands has built a fanbase through clever marketing strategies, but also through having consistent communications with personality, a purpose, and a strong set of values that drive customer loyalty. By providing a superior customer experience, fantastic loyalty programs, and being genuinely helpful to customers, they’re providing value even when it’s not directly related to their product. These are the factors your brand needs to nail if you want to succeed and build your own B2C fanbase.