Shit That I Knit started out as blog where Chief Knitting Officer (CKO), Christina, posted photos of and anecdotes about what she was knitting in college to share with her mom and sisters. One summer after college, she and her mom decided to spend all of their free time knitting hundreds of products to sell at SoWa (South End Markets) in the fall. The mother-daughter dynamic duo was blown away by their success at the markets and less than a year later, Christina quit her sales job to pursue Shit That I Knit full time.
The production team started out as about 50 millennial knitters throughout New England. In the interest of quality and timeliness, CKO moved the production to a team of Peruvian women who use their ancestral skill of knitting to provide a viable income for their families while being able to stay at home. As I mentioned in class, from the very beginning, Christina has been committed to making a positive social impact with Shit That I Knit. She donates hundreds of knit kits to young adult cancer patients in programs across the US. She has also been committed from the beginning to spending as little on marketing as possible—still having spent $0 to this day.
Shit That I Knit’s Instagram presence is certainly popular; it gets a lot of impressions, and has a loyal following of customers and brand ambassadors. Currently, about 25% of online customers are returning customers. Given the price and the long expected lifetime of the products, I think this is an impressive statistic. Instagram has been vital for boosting sales and engaging customers with the brand, but email marketing has been directly correlated to spikes in visits to the website and, further, in actual sales. Each arrow indicates when an email was sent to all customers who are on the email list, fondly called, the “Sh*t List.” Only two of them were promotional and had discounts, the others were informational or highlighting certain products, but they all have similar effects.
Even though social media is a way to reach people during their regular online or mobile activity, there is still a very important consumer demographic for Shit That I Knit that is not fully participating on social media. Shit That I Knit’s target market ranges from avid skiers across the company to mothers in cold climates buying for themselves and their daughters. Email marketing is a way of reaching almost all types of customers in a place that they will visit every day, usually multiple times per day.
Emails get a bad rap. We all receive hundreds of promotional emails a month from brands or companies we often don’t even remember signing up to receive emails from. But one study says 91% of US adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with. The real question is, which ones do we pay attention to? Which ones stand out?
One way to grab a customer’s attention in their inbox is by sending emails that are consistent with the brand personality portrayed everywhere else. It is important that email content matches the voice and brand personality of all other marketing content. Shit That I Knit keeps a casual, whimsical, fun voice full of sh*t puns, regular puns, and a sprinkling of bad jokes. Another millennial brand that does a really good job with engaging with customers and expanding their brand personality through emails is Chubbies. As you can see below, Chubbies sends emails consistently, about every other day, and each email has a subject that grabs your attention.
Among the plethora of promotional emails that I was talking about before, it is important for brands that want to stand out and that have such a distinct personality as Shit That I Knit and Chubbies, leverage that personality to get the attention of customers. Chubbies emails have few words and are often anecdotal. They keep themselves top of mind by their frequency, but they don’t feel annoying or sales-y because they are mostly just for the customer’s entertainment.
That brings me to my next point. Customers are more likely to open and click through emails with content that they actually want to read—content that is useful or informative and that is credible. Chubbies emails are often full of memes, pictures, videos, random pieces of information, and tons of calls to action or opportunities to click and get sent to their website. The Chubbies executives do not believe in blogging so this is their way of sharing their thoughts and expanding their brand personality beyond social media.
A final way companies, especially startup-y companies, can leverage email marketing is the analytical tools that are often attached to email marketing software. These tools make it easy for tiny startups like Shit That I Knit to be intentional with emails by analyzing which emails were more effective in generating opens, clicks, and ultimately revenue.
Email marketing is the sneaky essential to digital marketing campaigns. It is a vehicle for reaching all types of customers in a place they visit regularly. It gives another opportunity for companies to portray their brand personality and allow customers to engage with it. At least for Shit That I Knit, it is a very effortless and cheap way to generate immediate spikes in sales.