April 15, 2020
Marketing Through Uncertainty: Wild One Talks DTC Brand Strategy
As all of us contend personally and professionally with the effects of a global health crisis, Metric Theory sought out stories that we can share with our community of marketers of how our clients are shifting their strategy in response. Like you, each is experiencing the current environment in a different way – surging or plummeting demand, supply chain disruption, messaging challenges, and more. We hope that by sharing these stories, you’ll find motivation, solidarity, and ideas for your own teams and brands as we all adapt to this time of great uncertainty. If you like this story, read more in this series.
While most of the US was still sticking to their daily routine of heading into the office, the team at Maisonette was already in the thick of adjusting to the work-from-home life we’ve all come to know in the weeks since. The staff has a total of 40 children collectively, which, while not unexpected for a company that sells children’s clothing and home goods from a curated roster of boutique brands, posed a big challenge to operating at the same speed they were all used to.
Widely adopted stay-in-place orders in the US have had far-reaching implications on nearly everyone’s lives, but parents with young children have had to juggle school, meals, playtime, and the occasional mini-disaster on top of their day jobs. Maisonette was one of the first offices to advise full-time work-from-home for all employees, which gave them a few weeks’ head start on what their customers would soon be experiencing.
“I have spent more money on Magna-Tiles than I care to admit – anything to keep my toddler occupied while I’m juggling work at home,” says Phoebe de Croisset, Brand and Editorial Director at Maisonette. “I think the moment I knew what I’d be dealing with was when my daughter sauntered into my conference call wearing my underwear around her neck.”“We’d all been juggling full-time careers and being a stay-at-home parent, losing nannies and childcare at different points,” says AJ Nicholas, consultant to Maisonette. With a team that has kids of all ages, they really had a pulse on the behavior shift parents were about to exhibit at scale, and the whole team felt a collective responsibility to help make parents’ lives easier.
Of course, the right message was paramount. Even for a brand team that has a thoughtful editorial team, it’s especially important in this moment to consider a way to message ads that is helpful and not obtrusive. “Self-awareness was huge for us,” says Amanda Tolleson, Chief Customer Officer. Her editorial team has flipped their entire content strategy to add resources that are relevant and helpful to people at this moment. They’re doing content-only emails with tips on keeping kids entertained and productive during the day, the kind of things parents want to share with their friends who are going through the same things.
The Maisonette team then pulled in Metric Theory to overhaul the ad message approach in days, with a focus on arts and crafts, home-schooling, and predicting how parents would progress through their new lives at home, which created an opportunity for less obvious product categories, like their Maison Me clothing line. “We had already noticed a shift from week one to week three. Whereas kids had been living in PJs for the first few days of isolation, once home-schooling started, they needed to get dressed for online classes,” says de Croisset. “So the message shifted to a focus on comfy clothes that were cute enough to be seen in. Easy basics for this new normal.”
“We quickly turned around ads with messages like ‘Great for FaceTime visits with family and online classes’” added Tolleson. The process involved being in touch with their Metric Theory team much more often – more hour-by-hour than day-by-day. “We probably speak thirty times throughout the day.”
“We had everything ready to go for a big four-day Maisonette birthday sale over a weekend,” says Sarunas Kvederys, Associate Director of Paid Search with Metric Theory. “But it didn’t make sense to focus on us, so we made it a Friends and Family sale instead. The sale went well, and based on historical promotions, we expected revenue to drop in half when it ended, but it just kept going.” That’s when the Metric Theory team noticed the product mix that was selling shifted from clothes to games and crafts. “We built out a lot more campaigns for these products, and used ‘copy nods’ in messaging that were empathetic to our customers,” says Hunter Jones-Volpi, Metric Theory Sr. Account Manager. “Always noting things were ‘in stock,’ that ‘we’re delivering’ and showing we’re here to support you. Some of the ads are performing better than holiday ads.”But just because sales have remained strong for Maisonette doesn’t mean that the pandemic hasn’t created challenges for them. “We don’t have retail or physical stores, but keeping up with demand has been a challenge,” says Nicholas. “Shipping times are just longer right now, but we’re being clear about that everywhere. If you’re being self-aware, you can do both sales and brand at the same time.” All the quick pivoting by both teams has paid off – the toy category is up 834% year-over-year in March, while puzzle sales are up over 5,000%. In all, March ended up 150% in gross merchandise volume over 2019.
“We can’t plan very far out, so all these opportunities are being communicated in real-time,” says Tolleson. But despite the fact that they’re operating in an unprecedented environment, she’s not allowing everyone to do so in a vacuum. “We want to be nimble, but not over-respond. We have to be testing and learning in a way that’s applicable to the future when things return to normal.” In terms of what they have learned from this and what it means for marketers, Nicholas says, “Diversify your business. If you see softness in a category, be ready to pivot.”
You can read more stories and strategies on Marketing Through Uncertainty here.