Outdoor Voices is part of a new generation of Direct-To-Consumer brands that puts building a brand community at the core of its strategy. The goal is twofold : increase customer loyalty and accelerate growth through brand advocacy.
OV (as they're also called) has quickly become a global cult favorite, along with similar brands like Lively, Glossier and Gymshark.
Here's 5 things to learn from them:
- A clear mission that speaks to a niche
- Stores as local community hubs
- Brand-led digital content to nurture the community
- Co-creation with a small group of super customers
- Crowd-sourcing every new product line
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A clear mission that speaks to a niche
Athleisure is everywhere today, and accounts for nearly 20% of online apparel sales. In 2014, when Outdoor Voices launched, it was a novel concept clashing with the intense and performance-based marketing from competitors à la Nike and Adidas.
The OV approach to exercice is fun, casual and playful. It’s about “doing things” (their slogan), being active; it's never a competition.
Playing to that niche allowed the brand to build a community of likeminded “doers” and tons of press coverage.
Stores as local community hubs
If Outdoor Voices was a digital-only brand first, like many of its fellow DTC brands, they quickly reallized the power of retail stores.
Here too, OV took a contrarian approach: stores aren't places where people come to shop, they're "physical touchpoints for the OV community", gathering spots where customers can socialize, share content and "do things".
Each OV store is staffed with a field marketer who organizes daily or weekly events, including for product launches (similar to Lululemon's local community ambassadors).
Other great examples of retail stores for community building:
- Michaels and Hobbycraft organize crafting and DIY workshops
- Lululemon hosts yoga and fitness classes
- Kiabi (n°1 French fashion brand) invites top customers to store openings and to meet its staff
- Allbirds lets local partners organize creative workshops on Black Friday
Brand-led digital content to nurture the community
All of these physical activation events have their digital counterparts: virtual workouts, meetup sessions, social challenges... even a community magazine called The Recreationalist.
The Recreationalist (20k followers on Instragam) has sections dedicated to inspirational posts, playlists, interviews, city guides and more.
OV’s community strategy is very brand-led, and very resource intensive. Glossier takes a similar approach and this makes sense for brands where community is part of the founder's vision.
Not every brand can put this kind of resources into its community. At TokyWoky, the key to community ROI is making sure your community automatically gets something to do (even when your team isn't around to create content) that has a direct impact on brand goals. But more about that here.
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Co-creation with a small group of super customers
The brand has a micro group of brand ambassadors called “Doers” whose goal is "community building, social promotion and community engagement”.
To apply, customers need to share their social handles, favorite outdoor activities and a quick note on why they want to join. Candidate advocates are screened on whether they’re a good fit for the OV brand.
- Exclusive first looks at product launches
- Exclusive discounts
- Access to the Outdoor Voices team
- Rewards when they inspire other people to get moving
This is a clear best practice for any brand today. Identify who your best customers are, use continuous feedback to guide decision making at the brand-level, give them exclusive perks that turn them into the right advocates for your brand.
You can start out by creating a Facebook or private slack group and invite your best customers to join (Glossier, Outdoor Voices, Rebecca Minkoff are just a few brands doing this). Or build your branded community to maximize the impact your 1% best customers can have on the other 99%.
Crowd-sourcing every new product line
Since 2018, OV crowdsources products by solliciting customer input on social media. It's a strategy much like the one Glossier has perfected: inviting fans into the creative process to cultivate loyalty and sell them exactly what they want.
Each call for input generaly gets around 1,000 responses, including links to fans’ favorite products on the market, favorite materials and designs...
OV’s collection for runners was the first to use this kind of input and still is one of the brand's best sellers. Customer asks included medium and high support for its crop tops, which were previously only designed for flat-chested women.
What Outdoor Voices is doing with their brand community is awesome.
Most of it, however, depends on their team spending the time and resources to create that content.
If we were them, we'd now focus on generating "Customer to Customer" interactions (get people to share their workout tips, their favorite places in the city, share photos of them wearing their OV gear...):
- This would limit their dependency on brand-led content (we do this with many brands who want to build a community but don't have the resources to create content like the OV team)
- It would carry that crazy offline engagement they're seeing with their local events online.
Do you agree? Anything we missed? Let me know!
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