Brands should delight. Really, that’s what it all comes down to, right? People, humans, homo sapiens, peeps – whatever you want to call us curious creatures – want to feel special and loved. That’s human nature, baby. And just like an “I’m proud of you” from your Old Man makes you stand a little straighter and smile a little wider, so too does a personal, intimate shout-out from a brand. That "strut-your-stuff" feeling translates to brand affinity and higher sales for the brand. In fact, as reported in Psychology Today, fancy fMRI neuro-imagery shows that consumers mainly use emotion (i.e. a personal shout-out) rather than information about products and features when judging brands.
I experienced this “stand a little straighter and smile a little wider” feeling just the other day when I was, uh, shopping online (something I rarely do. PROMISE…). Let me tell you about it:
I was strolling the Interweb last Thursday when I decided I must have a new swimsuit. I did a generic Google search for “vintage inspired swimsuits,” and up popped ModCloth. Ah, I had forgotten about this gem, I thought. I’ve never bought anything from the quirky, vintage-inspired shop, but I’ve perused their digital racks multiple times. I started scrolling through their swimsuits and was first shocked and delighted by the array of body types being shown. Naturally, I grabbed my smartphone and sent out this tweet:
Snaps for @ModCloth! First time I've looked for swimsuits online and not felt like I needed to eat like a rabbit and run for four hours.— Alyssa Celine Adkins (@alyssaceline33) June 14, 2013
I felt happy, and after a few more minutes of perusing, I feel in love with a red and white polka-dotted bikini. I quick scanned the comments to make sure I got the right size, where I noticed something charming. Take a look:
When responding to comments on their website, ModCloth embodies a persona - ModRaechel - that aligns and connects it with its consumer. I’m not sure if this perfect display of honest brand engagement or the perfect blend of modern and retro on the suit sold me, but either way I HAD TO HAVE IT. (Do you hear that millennial in me?) Well, I thought that was the end of my relationship with ModCloth, but ooo baby, they weren’t done being awesome. A couple of days later, my phone buzzed and that “stand a little straighter and smile a little wider” feeling bursted out as I did a little shoulder shimmy with glee. ModCloth had signaled me out on the Twitter-sphere – little ‘ole me!!
@alyssaceline33 I'm so happy to hear that! Did you find a suit that you love? :) MK— ModCloth (@ModCloth) June 17, 2013
After the teenage girl inside me calmed down, my little marketing brain started to spin like crazy. I instantly hit up Google to track down some more info on ModCloth’s rocking consumer social strategy. Turns out I’m not the only one that’s swooning over them. The marketing world has been abuzz about their social smarts for some time.
In an interview with Inc., ModCloth co-founders Eric Koger and Susan Gregg Koger explain the intimate approach the brand takes to consumer interaction.
"We don’t see ourselves as a purveyor of specific products," says Eric. "We're very relationship based." Susan explains ModCloth as “the fashion company that you're friends with." The founders go on to tell Inc. that they see their audience as individuals – hence the personalized comments and responses to consumer feedback – and refer to them as “she.”
Well, that’s pretty rad. And it sounds like the goal of almost all brands - or, at least it should be. ModCloth is finding a lot of success with this frame-of-mind: seeing the consumer not as a generic clump of the masses, but as individuals with a desire to feel special.
In the attempt to avoid being called a hypocrite, I recently wrote a post on social commerce and how brands should be honest about trying to sell their products via their social media channels. I still think that transparency needs to be there, but I think ModCloth is doing that. The brand’s social media manager, Natasha Khan describes the brand’s social media objectives in an article with Thoroughly Modern Marketing as three-fold: “the first [is] brand awareness, second brand loyalty, and the third increasing traffic to ModCloth.com.” That sounds like the three typical social media objectives of thousands of other brands. And if you take a scroll through ModCloth’s Twitter page, you’ll find several tweets of new products. I’m not too love-struck to know that the brand is trying to sell me something, but by being authentic and invested in me as a consumer, well, it's got me feeling pretty smitten.
People talk a lot about the potential social media has to be a kick ass and intimate platform for customer service, but, as we often see, brands drop the ball. In fact, some say social media is losing its way. But it’s focus and commitment like ModCloth’s that shows the potential to authentically connect with your audience.
What can other brands and marketers alike take from ModCloth’s successful strategy? Think of social media as an extension of your storefront (whether online or physical stores.) You don’t deal with the masses in your stores; you work one-on-one with valued consumers. That means listen (and that could be actively seeking out what consumers are saying about your brand) and then taking action based on what you’ve heard. You may always be trying to sell your product, but that doesn’t mean you’re always talking about your product.
Do this, and who knows - maybe I’ll want to be best friends with you, too.