Oberon Socks, an up-and-coming stylish, men’s sock line, is taking the retail community by storm with its effective and unique brand message and marketing strategies. We’d like to thank owner Chris Clark and partner Maggie Winterfeldt for their willingness to share their struggles with finding the right audience.
The post below is by Maggie Winterfeldt.
In March 2008, Chris came to me with an idea he had for a company. He was going to start a line of men’s dress socks. His reasoning was logical: dress socks had a simple business model, a relatively low price point, and a steady demand. Mostly, however, Chris saw a lack of hip men’s dress socks on the market and believed he could create a superior product to fill that void.
By September 2008, Chris had successfully formed an LLC, settled on a manufacturer, and designed and produced his first batch of Oberon socks. He had also decided that the socks would initially be sold entirely through an ecommerce website, which would eliminate overhead while serving as both a delivery channel and a branding mechanism.
With 2,400 pairs of socks in route to Charleston, SC, and less than a month until the October 1 website launch, we sat down to discuss how we were going to brand Oberon Socks. In questioning Chris about who he felt the Oberon Sock customer was, we discovered that our target market was an educated, young professional, roughly 22-27 years old. He was making money and, while not overly fashionable, was willing to invest in certain status clothing pieces such as designer jeans to impress on the weekends, but during the week he was still learning how to adapt his wardrobe to conservative corporate culture.
Our customer was essentially Chris and his friends. It made perfect sense at the time. We had recently graduated college, and our successful friends had jetted off to NYC and Charlotte after signing inflated offers with finance firms and banks where they made more money than they knew what to do with.
Thus, the initial branding was focused on our customer as a young, successful professional looking to validate his newfound career status with unique, luxury goods that distinguished him in a world of monochromatic suits. We referred to him as a “discriminating client” and described our socks as “upscale.” We aligned our product’s functionality with his lifestyle, boasting that Oberon Socks could take him “from the boardroom to the VIP room with ease” and billed Oberon Socks as “the antidote to the dull corporate wardrobe epidemic.”
We had the Oberon Sock Guy pegged.
Then, two things happened.
First, the economic bubble burst. Our Oberon Sock Guy no longer existed, or at least no longer existed as he once had. Currently unpopular or unemployed, he might still be buying designer jeans, but it now took more than an obvious logo to convince him to purchase them. The jeans had to be perfectly fitted, exceptionally comfortable, and functional enough to wear all week in order for him to spend precious severance dollars on them.
Second, the Oberon Sock Guy we had painted was not the person buying the socks.
The analytics from a small Facebook advertising exercise revealed that the most responsive demographics were 18-22 year olds. Read: college students. Additionally, the socks were being purchased as frequently by women as by men—Oberon Socks were the perfect gift for the difficult-to-shop-for husband, boyfriend, or father. Oberon Socks, we realized, were perceived as a novelty item.
The Oberon Sock Guy was actually an outgoing young man who enjoyed the uniqueness of the product and the attention it garnered in social settings. He wasn’t thinking about work or office appropriate at all. In playing up all of the socks’ upscale qualities, we had missed their most important attribute—they are fun, and that is what customers were responding to.
Since clarifying who our ideal customer is, we have refocused our marketing efforts to better speak to him (and the women who shop for him).
Advertising was the easiest thing to shift. A big change we made here was targeting women, a demographic that was not even on our radar when we began but that became very significant; for example, an advertising campaign aimed at daughters and wives yielded big sales for Father’s Day. Also, we are aiming more marketing efforts at college students whom we discovered to be some of our best customers.
Another huge step we are taking is to rewrite all of our web and promotional copy with a laidback and comedic voice that is better aligned with our customer than the grandiose language we originally used. Looking ahead, our future sock designs will be more about novelty than work wear, since we know now that that is what our customers value.
In the end, what we learned is simple: redirect your efforts toward the people who like the product instead of wasting time and money trying to attract the original group. Defining your product’s target demographic is important, but being able to adapt will ultimately lead to success.
To check out some of Oberon Socks’ great styles visit their website at Oberonsocks.com or contact the team today via email at or by phone at 617.571.7327.
Feel free to share the love and send your friends and family the link to Oberon Socks. Who knows, maybe someone will buy you a pair.
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