Influencer marketing and the power of being underestimated by Article's Duncan Blair
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Over the past twenty years, I’ve worked in a variety of marketing roles at both brands and agencies.
The common thread? It’s all been in tech.
I was fortunate to start my career as the first marketing hire of a tiny startup telecommunications brand in New Zealand. We grew to become the number three brand in the market, and I spent six wonderful years there. I learned from great leaders and enjoyed incredible opportunities to test myself.
And it all culminated in working with Iggy Pop on a campaign that went on to win a Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions.
These experiences imbued me with discipline, focus, and conviction. Without developing these qualities, I would never have been able to build a strong brand in a crowded vector. And I’m grateful for that every day.
But...I needed a new challenge.
I relocated to Vancouver, BC, as I wanted to prove myself in a bigger market. I was fascinated by the challenge of creating an ecommerce experience for a category where there were major barriers to broad adoption (ahem, furniture.)
These days, I’m the Senior Vice President of Marketing at DTC furniture company Article, where I oversee everything from advertising and brand to communications and creative teams.
There, I’ve had the chance to help create and maintain a company culture that encourages our team to:
- show up with passion and enthusiasm
- respectfully disagree and debate
- collectively own our successes and our failures
Being ourselves is the thing I am most proud of. I believe that has been a tremendous part of our success to date and will continue to be a key factor for our growth in the future.
“One of our co-founders once described us as a group of ‘high-performance misfits’. I think many of us were (and in many ways continue to be) underestimated...both personally and collectively.”
Product line diversification
In my early days at Article, we took a Darwinistic approach to product development: We’d launch products we had a good gut feeling about and double down on the ones that were well-received.
As we’ve grown and bought in some incredible product design, development, and management expertise, this has developed into more of a science.
“This is going to sound cliche, but it is true: Everything starts with our customers. Products are developed with a specific customer need in mind.”
We think about the world in terms of space. In each space, there are hero products, and there are supporting actors. We try to go deep on the hero product—offering a variety of options to suit customer style preferences. Like the Sven sofa. It has a timeless mid-century modern silhouette and comes in a great variety of fabrics and colors.
We started with a focus on the living room. This meant we needed to build an incredible sofa collection, and that is really what drove our early success. From there, we branched out into dining, bedroom, outdoor, entryway, and office.
It’s all driven by a constant feedback loop. Our product team actively listens to customer feedback. This helps inform both our new product roadmap and any enhancements to our existing product line. An example of this is our Chanel dining chair, which we made slightly wider after hearing customer feedback about it being too narrow.
Influencers bring our products to life in their spaces—acknowledging the real way that people often buy furniture which can be piece by piece. There are two main roles that influencers and creators play in our marketing strategy:
- Reaching new customers. We’ve found that influencers are a great way for us to reach a highly engaged segment of our market.
- Validation during the purchasing process. Influencers are an extension of our internal content creation team and help us demonstrate how our products work in a broader variety of styles and rooms than we would ever be able to capture ourselves. This reduces customer anxiety during the buyer’s journey.
From a marketing standpoint, we’re focused on growing our customer base. This means finding compelling ways to reach new potential customers. Our customers are comfortable with shopping online, but they are often purchasing furniture online for the first time. As a result, most of our effort goes into reducing their anxieties or objections.
Our product team does an amazing job designing our collections. We also invest heavily in our in-house creative production capabilities. The incredible imagery they produce is used across our channels—paid, owned, and earned. This is supplemented by content produced by our influencer partners, and shared by our customers using the #ourArticle hashtag.
Furniture is a big purchase. That’s why we think of how we can best support customers over the different stages of that journey. From introducing the brand and helping with the interior design process, to building confidence in the purchase decision, and then delighting them to the extent they share their story with friends and family.
Challenges along the way
At Article, we saw a big gap in the furniture shopping experience.
Many of our competitors had beautiful products. Some of them had great showroom experiences, but they all neglected the post-purchase experience. It was as though they thought the memory of their beautiful showrooms would help you overlook the unreliable, slow delivery and absence of post-purchase customer service.
“There have been many challenges we have had to overcome to build Article to the brand it is today. But overcoming challenges and proving folks wrong brings us a huge amount of satisfaction.”
We knew to set Article apart we had to address the delivery experience, but we were struggling to create the kind of experience we had in mind working with third-party delivery partners. We obsessed over customer feedback, and when things did go wrong, it was overwhelmingly related to delivery.
As a result, we decided to invest in building our own delivery service. More than half of our deliveries are now delivered by Article employees driving Article trucks to deliver the kind of service we think our customers deserve.
What does the future hold for Article?
The only way is up. When I joined back in 2016, we had 23 employees. Now It’s over 1,100 strong. We’ve even been named one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies for three years running now.
Our goal is to be the easiest way for customers to design and create beautiful and modern spaces. We’ve had success in our living room and outdoor collections, and now we’re looking to do the same with other parts of the home.
Keep your eyes peeled for expanded product lines, new categories, and more varieties of home decor.