Founding Story: How Community Played a Key Role in the Growth of Frank And Oak
In February 2012, a high school friend and I set out to help men dress better with no prior experience in the fashion industry. Here's what happened.
In February 2012, a high school friend and I set out to help men dress better with no prior experience in the fashion industry. It was the early days of D2C eCommerce, and we saw the potential of online commerce to disrupt how men shop. Many of our peers struggled to determine what to wear, and we thought that technology and a dose of clever curation could help.
The initial concept was simple—create a monthly program that made it easy for men to look great. Within a few days of launch, thousands of orders poured in worldwide. We went from a team of 5 to over 40 in less than six months, expanding our product assortment and introducing a similar service for women in 2016. We did over $4M in sales in our first year in business and a lot more since then. Beyond the growth, we built an amazingly loyal customer base and community that fuels the brand to this day.
Subscribe to The Pop Up Report.
As I reflect on our rapid organic growth, I wanted to share learnings on what contributed to our success. We didn’t realize it then, but a common thread through our approach was customer centricity—putting that customer at the heart of our product and marketing initiatives.
Clarify your purpose
We were clear about the purpose of Frank And Oak, what it stood for, and the problem it aimed to solve. The world didn’t need another menswear brand. Cutting through the clutter required communicating our mission and connecting with customers. Over time, we ended up launching a magazine and creating authentic content that took our community inside our creative process.
Start with community
Even before our launch, we leveraged a gated landing page to build an engaged community while gathering feedback from potential customers. We had never created a brand before and thought crowdsourcing products and marketing decisions would help us get it right. This generated organic word of mouth and engaged our community in building the brand with us. We ended up launching with more than 10,000 emails and the rest is history.
Member, not customer
From day one, customers were onboarded into a membership program where they became members of Frank And Oak. This membership provided exciting benefits like free at-home try-on, premium customer service, and access to an online community. Beyond the tangible benefits, it humanized the customer relationship and created a sense of belonging. One expression of that was our 2015 campaign - In My City where we invited our community to vote for the locations of our upcoming pop-up shops.
Activate in IRL
We grew our brand through community experiences such as conferences, happy hours, and collaborations with other brands. This form of community-led marketing helped us to grow the size of our community, with every new customer still feeling connected to the founding story and becoming a brand advocate. It also allowed us to reward customer loyalty through unique access to the brand rather than resorting to transactional discounts and cash back.
In a world of increased competition, many categories are becoming commoditized. Customer relationships and emotional connections now play a pivotal role in setting brands apart. That’s precisely why I’m starting this new chapter with RareCircles, to make it easy and accessible for brands to build, engage, and retain their customers.
As someone who has gone through the challenging journey of building a brand from scratch, I know firsthand how daunting the path may seem. But I am extremely optimistic about the future and excited to embark on this new journey with all of you. Join me on this new adventure through the Pop up Report or on Twitter at @mrethansong.
Subscribe to The Pop Up Report. A publication of RareCircles - the community and engagement platform for brands.