What a Sweatshirt Can Teach You About PR
Even the best kind of PR can be a problem sometimes; in this case we take a look at the American Giant Hoodie.
Back in December 2012, Farhad Manjoo wrote an article about American Giant, a San Francisco apparel startup, and the men’s hoodie they offer customers. He waxed poetic and described his feelings about his American Giant hoodie in terms more likely to show up in something approaching a soft porn article. He told about the way it feels against his skin and how it fits him without ever being slouchy. Readers could almost hear the throbbing tones of Barry White playing in the background.
In short, it might be fair to say that his American Giant hoodie is his favorite and most worn item of clothing. That’s all good, but what happens when someone with a large social media following writes that kind of a story, you guessed it – the orders began almost immediately. The volume of orders was so far out of the company’s expectations and plans it didn’t take long before they had not only sold out all their existing stock. They also sold out the three or so months’ worth of stock in the manufacturing pipeline.
Since American Giant has cut out the middlemen in their production process, they can offer a high-end men’s hoodie for approximately $89 on their website. But when you normally sell a few hundred of an item per month and all of a sudden you orders are topping several hundred a day. It is a problem.
Among all possible problems, it’s one most companies dream about. But American Giant ended up with people really wanting to own and wear their amazing hoodie and finding their order was going to take more than a month before shipping. That meant that Mr. Manjoo began to hear from his readers about their disappointment.
American Giant went through big changes in the next several months, ratcheting up their production process, but also making sure that the cost of doing so didn’t sink them in the process. Imagine spending what it takes to change to that much larger manufacturing process and then have the orders dry up – yeah, that wouldn’t be great.
Now three and a half years down the road and American Giant still makes a premium product, still has skipped the middleman, and still has kept prices reasonable. They have also managed to add more products to their line.
So what can a company learn from this – aside from figuring out how to get your product in the hands of someone with a large media presence ready to extol the product’s virtues – here are four ways American Giant Owns Clothing Marketing.
- It all starts with the product. When Mr. Manjoo blogged about his new hoodie, he talked about the high-quality fabric feeling great against his skin, how after washing it, it maintained integrity. Don’t expect anyone to write odes about your product if it is subpar. Give them a great product that remains great over time – all at a reasonable price, and your chances of becoming a successful company increase drastically.
- When opportunity knocks, be ready to open the door. Undoubtedly American Giant people had a few stressful weeks or even months while they got everything moving forward to go from producing about 1,000 hoodies every three months to thousands per month, but they had the connections in place or researched so they could transition within those couple of months. In such situations, it’s possible the current manufacturer won’t have the ability to produce the larger volume required. Even when things are smooth sailing, researching growth possibilities and what changes are needed is a smart move. Know ahead of time – so changes can be made almost immediately to larger facilities and providers.
- Customer service. Having a delay of several weeks on when orders can be delivered means some cranky customer phone calls and interactions. If that beautiful moment happens when sales go through the roof from what they were the day before, don’t spin your wheels. Bring people in immediately who can handle the volume of orders, and the volume of complaints to follow. Also, change your website language about expected delivery deadlines and wait times. Consider including a special 10% off on the next order coupon for people who wait longer than four weeks (or the time you determine). As long as customer service remains positive and strong throughout the challenging times, once people get their amazing new buy, they’ll start to forget the pain of waiting.
- Start planning the next item to develop. All of a sudden the customer base is exploding – this is the time to start thinking about other products, or other versions of the current product to be sold. If the original was only available in a few colors, expand the color selection. If it was made originally for men only, slight modifications to the pattern means you can increase your customer base again. Don’t rest on your laurels. Once you’ve got the new stuff ready to go, send a few freebies to your blogging benefactor as a thank you … and maybe there will be a second go-round.
Their company shows a 4.8-star average review (of 5 possible stars), and they have become what every internet startup company would dream of becoming – an American Giant success. It’s amazing what a bit of good storytelling PR can do to market a brand.