Taking lessons learned from a decade of working as branding agency Gin Lane, the team at Pattern Brands has now launched two direct to consumer brands of their very own: Cookware-focused Equal Parts, and home organization-focused Open Spaces.
Their approach: Build a portfolio of brands aimed at helping people enjoy daily life at home. "In some ways, we went brand-first, and now we're building audiences up," said Emmett Shine, Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director at Pattern Brands.
Lately, it seems like this approach couldn’t have come at a better time: As people stay home and shelter in place, they’re turning a closer eye on their home environments and looking for ways to optimize them. Pattern’s first two brand launches have proven especially relevant - and they’re experiencing rapid growth as a result.
So who are Pattern’s ideal customers, anyway?
Geographically, they were largely those living in urban areas in the early days of these brands. However, with the current pandemic underway and people all across the country under lockdown, that audience has expanded well beyond the bounds of city-dwellers in recent months.
Both brands launched under the Pattern umbrella have similar audiences: They’re largely consumers in their late 20s to late 30s (both male and female, slightly leaning more in the female category) that care deeply about design within their homes. From a behavioural perspective, audience members are at a point in their lives where they want to invest in things that improve the time they spend at home to create an ideal home lifestyle.
At the highest level, Pattern’s marketing approach for their family of new brands was simple: Don’t just create products; provide guidance on how to use them as well so customers get the fullest possible benefit of their purchase.
In short, they wanted to go beyond the idea of making marketing efforts more “personal” and instead strive for in-depth, one-to-one personalization. This is a wise move, considering data shows that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand who provides personalized experiences, while brand loyalty among millennials increases by 28% on average if they receive personalized marketing communications.
In the case of Equal Parts, the first launch under the Pattern umbrella, we see this manifested in the form of text-based cooking coaching. The service, which connects people with culinary experts and guest chefs (yes, REAL people), aims to take the intimidation factor out of home cooking. Users of the service (customers or not, it’s free to all) can ask questions, get recipe ideas based on ingredients they have on hand, and/or learn how to try new cooking techniques.
“We liked that texting allowed us to reach customers in a way that felt more intimate than other mediums like email or social media,” said Shine. “It’s not broadcasted or one-way communication, and because of that, it makes for a really natural back and forth platform on which we can have actual conversations with our audience members.”
This two-way communication is a form of marketing that’s still relatively new, but we can expect to see consumer demand for it increase, as three out of four consumers say they feel frustrated when they can’t reply to a company’s text messages (according to the 2019 State of Texting report.)
In the case of Open Spaces, radical personalization has manifested in a slightly different way. The team initially figured shoppers looking for home organization products would want coaching services (think of what StitchFix offers) that catered to each person’s unique home needs and matched them with a consultant. But, through testing, they discovered that there was actually greater demand for ongoing guidance on how to make home organization a long-term habit.
With this insight, Open Spaces shifted gears and built out a 10-part content series called “The Open Spaces Way”, which guides readers on how to build an organization habit that sticks. This content has also been integrated throughout the site, thus blending the guidance aspect with the website experience as a whole.
Social media is a major piece of the Equal Parts marketing strategy as well. Not only has it proven a powerful tool for reaching new audiences, but it’s also been a great source of customer insights, too. “We use social media to try new things, take a few more risks, and learn from our audience,” said Marshall. “Lately we’ve been using polls on Instagram Stories as a free source of feedback on what our audience wants and likes seeing from us there.”
Instagram Stories presents a few unique ways for the brand to collect critical audience insights: Using tools like polls, emoji sliders, and stickers that allow for open-ended responses, this is a free, easy way for them to gather candid responses from followers.
In addition, social media has been a way for Equal Parts to expand brand awareness through collaborations, giveaways, and more. Organically leveraging the personal network of the Pattern Brands family, they’ve used their Instagram account to put a spotlight on non-professional individuals getting hands-on with home cooking, like brand management agency founder Sue Chan, to inspire food enthusiasts to share, learn, and experiment.
In large part, their organic social media efforts are aimed at customer retention, while their paid efforts are aimed at sales and customer acquisition.
Aside from the guidance offering like the text-a-chef service providing additional value to existing customers, it’s also been a powerful way for the brand to build relationships with potential or future buyers, too.
In the past two months during the COVID-19 situation, signups for the Equal Parts text-based cooking coaching surged a whopping 400% as people complied with shelter-in-place laws and spent more time cooking at home (some for the first time.)
With this increase in demand, Equal Parts had to staff up - and they found a creative way to do so: They’ve brought in out-of-work culinary experts and chefs from NYC-based restaurants that are currently closed. As part of this, they’ve also organized efforts where Equal Parts donates proceeds from each activation to their restaurant partners.
Additionally, Equal Parts has adjusted its content to better support its audience during this unprecedented time. For example, they’ve shifted to sharing recipe ideas that leverage more non-perishable/shelf-stable items people already have on hand.
Brands launched under the Pattern umbrella share several similarities when it comes to product and design, which is a strategic move aimed to create a cohesive feeling between their differentiated brands.
At the core of the decisions made in these realms is an ongoing customer feedback loop that allows the team to constantly learn and iterate. Taking constructive insights from social listening, surveys, virtual focus groups, and one-to-one conversations with customers, Pattern is able to leverage its team with a diverse qualitative and quantitative skill set (all under one roof) to analyze and pair data with design to bring customer feedback to life. Again, this is strategic, as Gartner data shows that today 89% of businesses compete mainly on the customer experience front.
On the product side, both brands had a similar approach to merchandising, which was aimed at offering the most possible customization and flexibility for customers. As such, shoppers can buy items a la carte or sets that bundle the full suite (or a collection) of products.
The Pattern team found from its ongoing research that customers get the most value from full kit purchases, as these offer a complete solution that drives the formation of long-term habits (which is the brand’s ultimate end goal.)
This finding is part of what they call the “mission/impact score”, which is the metric the team uses to evaluate the question: “Are we doing our job, and is the product actually helping our customers find more enjoyment in daily life?”
A spin on a customer satisfaction metric like Net Promoter Score, the mission/impact score helps the Pattern team get insight into whether or not customers feel like they’re getting value out of their purchases from the brand.
So far, the results have been encouraging: A recent survey showed that 75% of Equal Parts customers said they're enjoying cooking more at home with their Equal Parts products.
When it comes to product design, pairing functionality and design elements from Scandinavian and Japanese influences with a best value price point was top-of-mind for Pattern. They wanted to move far away from the traditional tropes of DTC marketing to Millennials and instead lean into natural, non-synthetic elements (from colour palettes to using hand-drawn fonts.)
“We didn’t want any artificial elements, and instead worked to focus on the act and the art of home activities; which can be messy and imperfect,” said Emmett Shine, Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director at Pattern Brands.
He explained that for Open Spaces, this can be seen in the clean, calm design elements, the use of warm, soft colours that are reminiscent of buttery morning light, and the integration of natural wood - all of which are aimed at creating a feeling of safety and minimal simplicity.
Looking from the outside in, their market research showed that there was a gap in the market for this type of offering, as current offerings were either cheap, low-quality imports or high-end/niche products made with premium materials (that came with a hefty price tag.) Pattern wanted to help shoppers find some middle ground.
“Pricing is an art and a science,” said Katy Marshall, VP and General Manager of Pattern Brands. “We looked at the market and the cost of similar items for what we’d be offering, then paired that with our production costs and worked to figure out how to price our items at a point that was still accessible for consumers.”
Pricing for items from Equal Parts ranges from $19-$449, while items from Open Spaces range from $36-$479.
Both brands also took a sustainable approach to design, although it was manifested in different ways. This was done to accommodate evolving buyer preferences toward more responsible products: CGS data shows that over one-third of shoppers now want eco-friendly products (and will pay up to 25% more for them.)
For Equal Parts, this meant using aluminum for cookware, as it’s easily recyclable when it comes time for it to be cycled out of the cookware rotation. For Open Spaces, this meant using less plastic and instead focusing on different materials for home organization products, like felt. Packaging for both brands was also developed with sustainability in mind, and as such, it’s completely recyclable.
Looking forward, Equal Parts is looking for ways to leverage additional innovative platforms and formats for its educational content (with a focus on video in the coming months.) They also plan to eventually expand the Equal Parts coaching offering beyond texting and into new environments as well.
“Being fluid and iterative is part of our core DNA, so we’ll continue working to understand our customers better than everyone else and using this deep consumer knowledge to create products that best serve them and inspire them to make long-lasting lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life,” Marshall said.
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