April 24, 2020
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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.
Minali Chatani co-founded the pet goods brand Wild One in 2018 to make fun and functional items for the extended members of our families, our dogs. With the changes to our daily lives brought about by business closures, social distancing, and everything from municipal to statewide stay-at-home orders, we’re all spending a little more time with our pets. “I think we’re all getting a glimpse into what their lives are like,” says Chatani, who calls Brooklyn, New York home.
For direct-to-consumer brands like Wild One, the challenges have been wildly different depending on the business. There are reports of skyrocketing sales for alcohol delivery and home fitness brands, along with niche products like bidets that are especially relevant given grocery shortages. Others have seen supply chain struggles where production facilities have been disrupted entirely. The impact to Wild One has been somewhere in between.
“There are definite impacts on wholesale business,” Chatani says. “But the largest impact has been on the team. We’re a small company, and we’re usually all together, so it’s been an adjustment to work that way.”
For Wild One Director of Digital Marketing Corey Bruce, the first indicator that the business was changing was when he and his Metric Theory team noticed sales for one of their most popular products, the Air Travel Carrier, saw a steep decline in performance. “There was a period of time where there was concern, when conversion rates were coming down a lot,” Bruce said. “But we didn’t want to make quick decisions that were short-sighted, so we didn’t make assumptions before we dove into our data, and it showed us we were down in the travel carrier specifically. That discovery allowed us to course-correct.”
Stopping to evaluate things before making snap decisions led to the discovery of a new opportunity. “When we looked past conversion rates to things like impressions and clicks, the CPMs we were getting on social were way lower,” says Hunter Jones-Volpi, Senior Account Manager with Metric Theory. “There was a big performance dip that day the stock market dropped, but we saw the social opportunity, and responded with, ‘Okay, how quickly can we switch from the travel carrier to everyday essentials like walk kits, collars and harnesses?’”
The Wild One and Metric Theory teams remain in constant contact through a collaborative Slack channel to discuss the sometimes hourly changes to their approach. “There’s been way more communication with MT, we’re talking to them daily,” says Bruce. “We’ve been having strong weekend performance, so now we’re making changes to budgeting on the weekend, something we typically wouldn’t do because of how it affects the learning phase of the bidding algorithms on Facebook.”
Appropriate messaging has been a major area of focus for the teams as advertising has changed. “We’re looking to make subtle changes,” Chatani said. She’s seen a lot of brands that have framed everything in terms of the health crisis and others that have ignored it altogether. “We’re actively discussing everyday where Wild One fits into the current dialogue. Why is someone coming to wildone.com? What’s the important information to show? We’re staying relevant for pet parents with the current times in mind.”
That extends beyond word choice in messaging to the offers being promoted. Since updating their advertising to focus on essentials, they’re using creative that promotes Afterpay to alleviate up-front costs to customers. Sales using Afterpay have jumped 50% in the last two weeks. Wild One typically doesn’t offer blanket sale pricing, but they made an exception in order to make their products more accessible to people during this time. “We want to give them a reason to treat their pet right now, since they’re taking such good care of us,” said Bruce.
“We’re being much less precious with the creative we’re using,” said Chatani. “Where I’m usually very particular about the photography and presentation, we’re looking at more UGC-style content. I’ve even done computer selfies holding up the product.”
They’re staying the course on launching a new product, a limited edition walking kit. “It’s bright, and fun, and not COVID-related,” says Chatani. Whereas their original plan included lots of tie-ins with springtime, togetherness, and outdoor imagery, their updated approach will be understated and demonstrate their connection to their customer community of dog owners. The product was a fan request and is eagerly anticipated. “We need to be customer-centric now more than ever. This product has been something our customers have been asking for, and we don’t need to yell from the rooftops about it, but as long as our supply chain and operations are intact, it’s showing we will deliver on our promises to them,” says Bruce.Wild One is not taking their current opportunity for granted. They recently expanded their strategy work with Metric Theory beyond ad campaigns to developing contingency plans in the event that their situation changes. “What if fulfillment shuts down for us? What if we have to stop selling,” asks Bruce. “We don’t want to make panicked decisions, we want to know exactly what to do when the time comes.”
When asked what advice they have for marketers during this time, Chatani, who leads the Wild One brand, said, “Don’t try too hard. Stay true to your brand. Customers aren’t dumb, and they know when you’re not being authentic.” From a performance marketing perspective, Bruce advised, “Don’t overreact, and don’t make assumptions. A month ago, I probably had a much worse outlook than now, but it didn’t happen. Take the time to think about where your brand could play a role for people.”
You can read more stories and strategies on Marketing Through Uncertainty here.