When I think of classic lifestyle brands a few standout names come to mind. Red Bull, Harley Davidson, Nike, Patagonia and Vans are a few that bubble to the surface. Each of these brands evoke a emotional connection between themselves and their consumer. Lifestyle brands have a way of motivating, inspiring and guiding people. Lifestyle brands market their products to fit the opinions of a particular group or culture. And of course, the ultimate goal is to have their brand’s products play a part in defining the consumer’s way of life and weaving their way into the consumer’s identity.
Enter pet brand World of Angus
We wanted to search for an up-and-coming lifestyle brand and pick their brain about their growth plans and strategy around building their audience. We were lucky to be able to interview a remarkable budding lifestyle brand, World of Angus who is participating in Hubba Pet Week. From the get go, this company had huge plans. The mind behind the pet brand, Jeremy Potvin, had lofty goals for his company right out of the gate. This was mainly due to his learning from 18 years of experience in the apparel industry, coupled with 5 years building software.
The success of his previous software company came from a well-strategically thought out inbound marketing strategy. Potvin knew from day one that his eCommerce company was going to be built on top of a very strong inbound marketing strategy and he was going to partner with other brands in the pet industry.
Potvin never wanted to be seen as a single category company. He wanted to be a lifestyle brand like Ralph Lauren. He wanted to be the entire lifestyle company, striving to have World of Angus make everything in the home. Potvin chatted to us about his overall strategy to be more than just a stand alone brand. He discussed with us how he is building an empire, his desire to move into retail from the beginning and how he curates other pet brands to sell on World of Angus.
What World of Angus looks for in other pet brands and how it helps to build their own empire
For those of you who don’t know, there is an industry term for being a stand alone brand a retailer (i.e. selling other brand’s products as well as your own) and it’s known as vertical and curated products. I asked Potvin about building his own vertical products and offering up a selection of curated products from other brands. Potvin explained that there are a few key indicators that he looks for when selecting other brands to sell.
First and foremost, he looks for companies that share his brand strategy and brand ethos. These are brand traits like: North American made, premium quality and sustainability wherever possible. Potvin looks for opportunities where brands are underrepresented online and he looks for brands that are experts in a category that World of Angus wants to develop. This all encompassing strategy helps Potvin suss out different verticals that he wants to expand into in the future, ultimately growing his lifestyle brand.
Find brands that are underrepresented online to test out certain categories
I asked Potvin how he goes about finding these cool pet brands that are underrepresented online and he brought up Filson as an example. Filson has been in the industry for over 100 years, but not that many people know they make dog products. “This was a category we wanted to develop. We wanted to make collars and leashes one day but first we need to understand the category better and understand what our customers want.”
Being able to bring on Filson and sell their products on World of Angus, Potvin and his team are able to test the category and get to see which products perform the best and which products are in high demand. It’s an easy way for Potvin to test the waters in a specific category like leather leashes. Its a win-win for his customers and for his brand.
Highlight what you love about the brands you sell in order to grow your brand
You have to inform your consumer and have them understand your reasoning in partnering with other brands. World of Angus does this by having an FAQ section on their website that includes a blurb on ‘why we love this brand’ for all the brands they sell. For example, they have this post on why they love Chilly Dog Sweaters that goes into depth on how Chilly Dog shares their same philosophy and desire to craft high quality products.
Potvin said he wants his customers to understand why World of Angus is curating other brand’s products. “The communication on that needed to be super clear. We’re building this company from your dog’s perspective.” Potvin explains his product curation from a dog’s point of view and likes to sell products that your dog would want to pick out himself. “If your dog could go shopping what would he buy? He may not want a bowtie but he may want a comfy sweater and a memory foam mattress to sleep on.” Pick out products that your customer would be proud to have in his or her home.
Understand the context in which your products are being used
There’s something to be said about selling products that mesh with your customer’s lifestyle. If you are marketing to a subset of trendsetting pet lovers, how do you find brands that fit into their lifestyle and more importantly their home? I asked Potvin how he curate ‘cool’ pet products. He said, “We are building products for a very style conscious customer. They may have a cool loft or are very into the outdoors. We thought it would be necessary and helpful to visualize our products in the houses of our ideal customer. The customer that likes the quality ofa stone washed linen pillows would also appreciate a very well made high quality pine shampoo.”
Visualize your products in the home of your consumer to make sure it’s a fit.
World of Angus keeps a living ‘cool’ mood board where they collect and gather all of their inspiration. By being able to visualize your consumer’s lifestyle, keeping tabs on the other products they would buy, this helps to keep your whole team on track. So, when World of Angus is on the hunt for cool brands, they can easily pinpoint the ones that match their brand personality, look and feel. This is because they know what their own definition of ‘cool’ is.
Look for deficiencies in the market
If you spend all your time looking at your competition you will narrowly outperform your competitors.
There will always be brands that bubble to the surface in your industry. While it’s important to monitor those brands that are exploding in popularity, Potvin offers a piece of advice around trying not to mimic your competition. “Our strategy is to produce a product where we saw a deficiency. We look at that deficiency and see who’s important in that space. You can find a ton of brands just by doing simple google keyword searches. Say you are looking for an up and coming in dog jackets, you will be able to see which brand names are being paired with the term ‘dog jackets’. Then you can go onto find these brands at trade shows or simply shop the market.”
Not every brand can be a lifestyle brand
Remember, brands are tagged as ‘lifestyle’ because they are ones that people want to wear, buy and be identified with. You need to make your brand relatable, make sure your products mesh with your consumers current likes, and expand beyond your original product offering. By venturing into other categories, doing your research first, being strategic about growth, you are well on your way to building your own lifestyle brand empire.
Look to continue to maintain your relationship with your customer and go beyond brand loyalty. Find that magnetic quality that draws people in. Once you discover that quality, this is when your customers will turn into brand ambassadors, fans and champions and will help you to spread your brand’s mission.
Emma is Marketing Director at Hubba. A quintessential early adopter, Emma is constantly exploring how emerging technologies can connect people and solve problems, specifically with retail tech.