Join us in this episode of Building Brand Advocacy as Paul and Richard discuss what has and hasn’t changed in the world of D2C, how brands can skill themselves up in a constantly evolving world, and why you should always amplify the benefits of your product in order to quell the consumer’s fears. Richard also offers some valuable insights into the challenges of managing content across the vast variety of marketing channels.

Building Brand Advocacy 033: Richard Chapple, Chief Growth Officer & Co-Founder of The Growth Foundation

Richard:  Really importantly, and a lot of brands don't spend enough time doing this, is the anxieties and the reasons you don't buy. Often that becomes much more overt as a consumer when you get close to the point of purchase. So you know, our dating marriage analogy. Dating is okay for a bit, but when you actually say, will you get married, often usually it's the anxieties of the reasons why you wouldn't start to overtake the benefits of the product.

Paul: Welcome back to Building Brand Advocacy. My name's Paul Archer, and I'm stoked to be joined by Rich Chapple. Now, Rich is an absolute guru of growth. He has been a part of growing three unicorns. So he's the former head of marketing at PLAY.COM. He was founder and CEO at THG Ingenuity. So that's the Hut Group, if anyone knows them. And he was CMO of a little brand called Gymshark. Now kind of consulting and working with tons of DTC brands. What he doesn't know about DTC doesn't exist. It's been 20 years now. You've been in the industry, you're right. You've got your finger on the pulse of everything that's happened from when you started your career to what's going right now. How has it evolved? What's changed in that time?

Richard: That's a great question, Paul. And welcome and hello everyone. And what's changed? And I think I'm gonna pivot the question, if that's all right, if I've got permission to do that. We'll start with what hasn't changed. One of the things I think that really exceptional brands do is go slightly deeper into the subconscious and think about sort of the fast thinking brains of consumers around perhaps status and other things, which I'm sure we'll bump into a little bit around our further conversation. So that hasn't changed. Also, I think the requirement for brands, again, if you're a retail brand that's selling, let's say others like a department store, or you're a direct to consumer brand, and you're getting products made in manufacturing somewhere and you're selling them direct over the internet via Shopify or Amazon or wherever. The thing that you need to do is obviously create the awareness in the first place. And when I'm talking to friends and family about marketing and trying to deconstruct, I often talk about the concept is a bit like dating to getting married. So that first date, you've got to be out there, you've got to create the brilliant first impression, you've got to create an emotional connection to consumers. And then I suppose, depending on what you sell, it might be a sort of a very impulsive type of product that allows you to, with a low, let's say a low, low average order value typically, and something like a little luxury, you might be able to get the second and third day or even straight to marriage very quickly. If you're selling things and we do work with brands in the, let's say sofa and flooring space, home improvement, that sell cycle or marriage, dating to marriage plan can take maybe eight,  weeks from people sort of, you know, coming into the market, considering. buying down to conversion. So that's around planning and I suppose trying to deconstruct that journey through those first day, second day, fifth day to purchase. And I think one of the things that is constant that requirement and understanding is needed 20 years ago, 10 years ago, now, and I guess. all the way into the future and perhaps even with a more AI supportive future, that that concept of that journey is absolutely key. I think the things that have changed over the time, I suppose, as I started at PLAY.COM in 24, paid search was in its infancy, online display advertising was going where you put banners over websites and paid on a tenancy basis. There was a bit of affiliate marketing obviously created particularly from the Amazon program and things like that, what those guys did. But other than that, there really wasn't very much other digital marketing you could do in terms of, I suppose, creating that first date, that first encounter. And back then we would deploy and use more traditional offline media to support those paid elements we were doing. So lots of press, lots of out of home, lots of TV. And again, we would do that on a quite scrappy, we used to call it snatch basis. Can you believe actually back at PLAY.COM, sort of 15 years back or so, we had a five pound cost per or CAC cost per acquisition, new acquisition budget, which was achieved. And we were doing TV and press and radio and all this other good stuff along that in a very, I suppose, quite smart, brave way. So yeah, that is true. And I think what happened over, perhaps, you know, with platforms like Meta or Facebook when it started, and even more recently, as you know, through into Instagram and TikTok, those guys are very, very skilled at the moment in time at creating the attention of, you know, also actually gaining the attention of consumers and effectively the target audience. And obviously, pre iOS 14, attention was relatively cheap when you looked at how much it cost to appear and also targeting and the accuracy of that. So using our dating analogy, you know, I could think, I know which type of target audiences I'm usually successful with, I can target my message and my first date message or my fifth date message to that individual pretty accurately.

Paul: So it's the Tinder of buying. So Meta and highly targeted ads is the equivalent of Tinder, where you're getting exactly into your niche. You kind of lose maybe some of the art of marketing and brand building because it’s -

Richard: Completely. Yeah. And I think what's happened sort of post iOS 14, and I'm sure your listeners have probably started to bump into this type of content from thought leaders in the spaces is actually content. And what you say starts to become the differentiator now when you are less able to, I suppose, measure directly and have that more scientific analytical approach. And again, it reminds me, you think about back even to sort of the 80’s and 90’s when perhaps I was growing up as you know, the TV ads that I'm sure we all could watch again, because we were watching linear TV, the ones that stood out were the ones that were really entertaining or useful, you know, and that's kind of where we can come back to, you know, entertaining or useful ads that stand out or the ones irrespective perhaps of your accuracy in targeting the ones that can capture that recall and get into the. I suppose into the consciousness and the subconsciousness of the consumers. They do enter the market. They're like, OK, I remember that brand because XYZ. So I think that feels like there's lots that has evolved, but there's a circularity to it.

Paul: I find really interesting about it is, again, maybe to stretch the analogy a little bit, but like the quality of the customers you're getting in as well is probably proportionate to the work that you do up front. And so probably if you meet someone at three o'clock in the morning and get married the next day in Vegas, the probably longevity of that relationship may not be quite the same as one who'd had a very comprehensive dating process, moved in, met the parents and went on from there.

Richard: Yeah, and I suppose what you do get, I suppose one of the benefits still of... a direct to consumer, I suppose, proposition within your sales channel mix. Because again, more now than ever, brands can look at marketplace, Amazon or other marketplaces that exist. You've got, when I say marketplace, that can extend to TikTok shop or Pinterest. There's all places, again, that can create that. The D2C element obviously gives you that customer ownership and the ability to measure that quality. So there's something I think still quite defensible or strategically valuable in having D2C as part of your sales mix, right? Because of the nature of that first party data ownership. It's still super valuable. And that will always be yours as the brand. You know, if you formed a contract with that individual to to sell and supply a service. that will allow you to really measure that quality post purchase. So yeah, again, we do a lot of work. in our consulting world where we actually, when we first meet a brand, if they engage us, we conduct a quite thorough recency frequency, monetary value analysis of that business. Some of them are really good and have got relatively, I say comprehensive sort of last click data. And again, the last click is only like, well, I know the last date before you got married. I don't know that first one, but again, you can start to measure quality. And even now post iOS 14, we find that our, I suppose scoring of customers can allow us to feed lookalike features or lookalike tools in existing platforms. And actually we can usually, their algorithms are little in terms of their own lookalike processes that where they've got a pixel or a tag on a site, we can usually squeak that a bit more and get a bit more out of it using this process. So yeah, that's very good. So yeah, I think that's it. Obviously, as we know, I suppose the thing that probably also jumps out as one of the greatest changes is the number of channels, marketing channels available to a brand or a marketing team to use. There are effectively hundreds. And again, best practice tells you that you should make content exclusively for each channel. So I think that's one of the other challenges that a lot of brands have is like, they've got limited budgets, limited time and resources. How do you create 80 output files for a campaign versus perhaps again, wind the clock back 20 years, you'd have four or five output files, right, for a campaign. So that's probably one of the biggest challenge. How do you scale content and things like that?

Paul: That's actually something which we've seen across the board with Jewel is that one of the biggest pain points that customers are seeing is content and UGC is a hot topic and back in 20, it was a big thing and then it sort of died out a little bit because it was pretty hard to manage. Now it's UGC, UGC, UGC. And I think so much a part of that is because if someone else is creating it in TikTok native format, which in its essence is a user generated platform as with all the other social media, it means that you don't have to do it. And it's almost tailored to the way it needs to be there. So it's creating efficiencies, but also creating much more optimized content.

Richard: Yeah, very much so. Yeah. And obviously, and what will be interesting, I suppose, as we go forward into 2024 and beyond is looking at how the incredible advancement of AI, particularly in creative is going to help do some of that work, I suppose, because I don't know about you, but fall down the TikTok algorithm rabbit hole watching the beta on Photoshop around that generative mapping. And you can imagine, can't you probably again, here's my core proposition, but I need a different format, I need a different size. Can you do some extra work? I think it's going to be a real, I suppose, a shift in terms of productivity. If you still got humans creating and making brilliant prompts and inputs and the concepts, and then having those type of tools help you then generate more variants and sort of tweaks on those variants that are suitable for each platform. So you can see there's probably an element where that even could be self-fulfilling and learning. There was a platform that I saw a year or so back called Pencil, which was effectively does this creatively. So you set your brand assets into it. it will create the ad, it will actually connect into the advertising platform, see which ad versions work better and actually learn. It's, you know, a reinforced learning model and actually then removing the human from this granular need to tweak output and things like that. So yeah, there's lots of good stuff coming there.

Paul: Wow, yeah, sounds fascinating. So you talked about it's almost like the job of building a brand. Well, it hasn't changed. It's been exactly the same as it was as it always is. It's almost like people got slightly lost along the way. The idea of going direct to consumer, therefore we can track everyone who comes in, therefore we must be able to track everything, therefore we just spend all our money on traceable activities like Meta ads.

Richard: And where it was effectively, perhaps you could argue that the platforms were lost leading themselves to make that aware, you know, the access to those consumers relatively cheap for brands as well compared to other channels because they wanted to get the market share. They wanted the advertising dollars away from traditional channels, right? Not only was it relatively accurate, it was actually effectively felt subsidized.

Paul: I've asked this question actually before on the pod, but do you feel that younger brand builders who are coming have come up since 2015, 20, that era, really really about optimized direct to consumer and pay for customer acquisition? Do you think that they are lacking in a skill set? And if they are, how can they go about to skill themselves up?

Richard: Yeah, I think there is probably an element of lacking because the pattern recognition that they've had as individuals, if you started a brand in the last five years means that you won't have had a conversation, as you say, to... what do we put on our home poster? If we were going to have a 30-second TV spot with a bit of production value, what would we put in it? So there is that. And I think one of the elements that we find, and again, at Growth Foundation, we've got a few different propositions here. One of them is the consulting side, which I lead and do a lot of work on. But we've got a talent business here, do a lot of recruitment for our brands. Because obviously, once you say, hey, this is what you need to do, we need some people. So we help them find the right type of talent. And actually, we have a lot of creative briefs where when we look at a business, you can see actually that kind of, let's say, more traditional advertising agency-led sort of creative direction and ideation. It can be sort of under indexed in a direct-to-consumer brand. But actually, I suppose the ones that seem to sort of, again, get through some of the inflection points of growth is where you have a creative founder usually. It's a creative visionary or one of those individuals that perhaps in a different life may have been a creative director at a traditional ad agency. Someone who can come up with a... That moment of creating an idea around, they've got deep understanding of who the target audience is. Again, coming back to that point of perhaps because they were the target audience themselves, they are the consumer, they created the products in the first place because they couldn't find it, it didn't exist. Often, so that's moments think, well, actually, I'm going to go ahead and do it. Because of that deep understanding, I can now ideate and create concepts that connect to those consumers. And I think when you look at a lot of, I suppose, brand and marketing teams, If you have founders that aren't inputting that way or that don't come from that point of view, they do tend to under index on that sort of more creative emotional skillset around how do I create a feeling with the customer and not just a rational benefits message. I think if you look again, there's some brilliant case studies out there like in the 80s of Apple versus IBM, whereas Apple went down the overtly emotional connection element. And you can see the IBM route was rational and features of, here's the processing power. And actually, for the mass market, I don't care about the power. I just want it to do what I want it to do. And I want to feel something. There's that status symbol of having an Apple product. So that does tend to under index a bit, Paul. Yeah.

Paul:  It's quite an interesting sort of shift that's going on with regards to like The great thing about all these GDC brands of which there are far more than there's ever been ever before, and however many million of them are just on Shopify alone, like it's so easy to start a brand now, so easy to drop ship. A lot of these brands are coming from nowhere. Um, we'll certainly get to Gymshark, a perfect example of a brand started by someone with a really deep niche and a passion for what they were doing. Do you find that when you talk about that, there's that lack of that agency creativity that, you know, a lot of the big agencies still spend most, get most of their time working with the Unilevers' of the world, particularly the P&G's when you're selling a product to the mass market, when there's no niche, you can't just be like, well, I buy mayonnaise, so I must know how to sell mayonnaise to it. But like when you've got a Gymshark, or if you're looking at a particular niche area, do you find that it would matter as much that they don't have that creative? Cause they just intuitively just know the buyer in a way that's just instinctive, they just know what they should write.

Richard: Yeah, I think knowing the buyer is, and again, obsessing about your target audience and consumer is needed irrespective of perhaps your product or service. And then obviously there's a different, I suppose, element to bring into that to make it a matrix or put it on an axis is like that element. Are you a very unique product in a very like either in a niche or a first mover? So do you have to add some perhaps? educate consumers that you exist and the reason that you exist. Or if you look at the Gymshark examples and many others, actually there were products that you could argue. were maybe just good enough to wear when you were resistance or weight training in the gym. But obviously for Ben, who was a deep subject matter expert in that place or had a need for a better product there, it wasn't being serviced by the likes of the Nike's or Adidas or Under Armour or others. And there was like, hang on, there's an opportunity here to build a product that I'm looking for. And actually I don't have to educate people what fitness clothing is, right? But I'm gonna now talk to you and spend our time about why our product and a community of people around it, first of all, I suppose, are choosing to use weights and weight training to get fitter and improve their lives. But also why our products do a job of actually satisfying the need, both rationally, which you'd argue is covering yourself when you're training to some degree. But also it's again, Apparel is a brilliant example of this of what it says about you when you are training. It's worn as a badge of honor. I suppose the way that we deconstruct this when we talk to a brand is looking at? What are the benefits that the features of the product bring rationally and emotionally, and also consciously and subconsciously if we can. And often we'll bring a consumer psychologist along to our clients as well to really get under the skin of what's really going on? Both those subconscious behaviors, even that some customers wouldn't admit. And we've got an example of maybe bringing that to life with Gymshark. But also really importantly, and a lot of brands don't spend enough time doing this, is the anxieties and the reasons you don't buy. And often that becomes much more overt as a consumer when you get close to the point of purchase. So you know, our dating-marriage analogy. Dating is okay for a bit, but when you actually say, will you get married? Often, usually it's the anxieties of the reasons why you wouldn't start to overtake the benefits of the product. And great brands again do good work in the low funnel on site in their checkout basket area to really suppress that. I bring an example to life, hopefully. So we did a work a year or two back with a Beijing brand called Ruroc. who are a ski helmet and motorcycle helmet brand. Really awesome. And one of the things that we were interested to testing in the checkout was, thinking about this is like a $5 purchase for a new brand. Obviously safety is a really key thing. You're gonna wear a crash helmet when you're motorcycling. It's really important. But also the purpose of the brand was around, it wasn't like helmets for kind of functional commuting. This brand was all about the freedom that riding and skiing gives you that moment of actually protecting you while you do pretty crazy stuff. So if you're gonna jump off mountains or go biking or you're gonna ride across the highway in the US, you wanna look bad ass, you wanna do crazy stuff, but know you're safe. So that was kind of the brand. So we tested in the checkout a couple of things, which was actually amplifying all the safety criteria that returns were easy if it wasn't gonna fit you, that there's a secure checkout or there's other things. And we did that kind of visually at the top of the checkout, which is usually an area most people don't spend a lot or enough time on. In my view, we're obsessed about spending more time at the checkout and what you can do there visually. We also tried just a picture of like a bad ass dude riding a Harley across the desert, just looking awesome at that checkout moment. And that was the one that won the A/B test. So we had just a visual. So again, there's the customers coming down. We saw anxiety suppression is important. We put some messages at the bottom, but it was still that dreaming of that's me at the weekend, getting on the bike, disappearing, leaving work and all my troubles behind me. And that had a material uplift in our sort of cart to check out to order completion rate. So that very last, let's get married moment.

Paul: How are you getting that knowledge that you thought, you know what, let's drop a picture of a dude in the Harley here and, or let's say two things. Were you doing customer interviews? You did a hundred different tests and this one came out outright. Where did it?

Richard: Yeah, I mean, it comes from again, I suppose, yeah. Defining... who the customer is, you know, the day in the life of what do they use the product from? And there was an element of a bit of coal, but it wasn't like a big, I suppose, fancy or expensive panel group. I think I was reusing, I think a SurveyMonkey or some Google Forms like, what do you ride? When do you ride? What do you ride it for? Pretty quickly, I suppose, the hypothesis of perhaps the founders of the brand would be, yeah, we're here for kind of we're not around commuting. We're not around that. I was interested to say, well, that's actually true. And then we thought, well, actually, if we did just an A/B test and it was really around. Coming down to the A test would have been anxiety suppression. So what are the things we believe make our customers anxious? And we asked them, right? It was like returns, safety, size and fit were a massive one. And then the B would have been, right, what are the features and benefits, right? Well, you know, I wear this product because I think it makes me look wicked when I'm riding and I feel safe while I'm doing some crazy stuff on my bike or on my skis. We could show some pictures of that and amplify that need. And then on the anxiety thing, we do this again with a few other clients, particularly where sizing is an anxiety point. You know, like you get like a Chat Widget on your site. When you turn up at the site, you get, hey, how can I help you today? Might pop-up on the bottom left-hand corner. That's the standard boilerplate message that comes from, let's say from Zendesk or whoever who's preparing your little Chat Widget. Well, we would test things like adding some copy, which might say, 97% of our customers think our size is brilliant. We'll stop. How can I help you today? And those kind of things can really pop all over the place on the site where you just... amplifying features and benefits, suppressing anxiety. So that's a key point to that. And that's again, I think great markets and great brands really pay close attention to that across the funnel. And obviously I think again, if you're to sort of summarize typically mid and upper funnel, it's about the benefits. It's all about bringing that up as much as possible. And then as you get closer and move towards conversion probably is bringing the anxiety messaging up. larger than that as you go down.

Paul: I love that. And a lot of it is social proof. We are just monkeys. Looking at other monkeys and seeing what they're doing before we make a decision whether to jump off a thing or not. And you can just see that if you simplify it down to actually let's not think about these people. A lot of people get quite caught up in their brand thinking, well, they must be thinking this and they're doing this and they're this and this and this. And actually at the end of the day, you probably aren't that kind of brand that has like a lot of belonging in a sense that they have in it. So you take like a Gymshark for example, there are those people that they build for, but you can't build a multi-billion dollar brand just building for your niche. At one point you start moving across from there. 

Richard: Yeah. And there's an interesting tension in that. One of the questions I asked Ben was like, are we a youth brand forever or are we going to get older as you get older, Ben, as our number one customer? And that was very much a proactive decision to stay youthful forever. But actually what's interesting, I suppose, and lucky for a youthful clothing brand is that when you go, if you imagine that's the center of your target, bullseye target, if you put that on a slide, the next layer out is probably the 25 to  year olds who, and likewise the next layer out,  to 45, who actually are in the gym and actually probably still wish they were 25 and had a body in a physique and a metabolism of a 25 year old, as I do. And you gravitate towards what the brand stands for in terms of that youthful energy and motivation. And I suppose actually for a brand, it might mean that you, in terms of the influencers or the UGC that you, I suppose, help users create, you're going to probably positively discriminate younger consumers. But actually then for the marketing team, you've got permission to, let's say, again, through digital platforms or through the channels that you target and use, you can broaden that out to, well, I'm happy to do just adults or  to 44, right? And put those youthful individuals in the content that we show older people. And that can be very effective. So we have a very different kind of that Venn or that target was something we looked at quite a bit at Gymshark in terms of, and actually in other brands is like the core target, you know, that golden customer that the brand creates stories for and actually creates first dates for. What's the best first or second date we create? But then, you know, there's a group of individuals on the outside that go, actually, I quite like that first date. I'm interested in this. You've connected with me. I'm interested. Yeah. So that is definitely a good way to think of it like that. You don't have to be exclusively just that center circle.

Paul:  I like that. And I think that sort of slightly stretch that analogy again, really from a B2B perspective as well. A lot of people just expect people to buy right away. And you've got to know that most purchases don't happen because I'm scrolling Instagram, I see an ad, boom, I buy it. A few of those during the last month.

Richard: Yeah. And again, and there is definitely a price elasticity or sensitivity to that. Under £1, but even under £50, right? Those things that little luxuries, 10, 20, 30, £40, that as a short. And again, you can see it in the analytics, what's the time lag from first visit to purchase? And we look at some of those lower AOV brands that we work with and 90% of their transactions happen on day zero. So it is first or second visit on the same day. Again, look at Sofa brand or flooring, the time lag can be weeks and weeks. And even actually what's really interesting, so we've got a tool called Order Rescue. So I will plug that, which is a checkout conversion optimization tool. We monitor time in checkout, as well. And we've got some brands, if we look at a beauty brand, for example, which may have the fastest checkout is something like two seconds, which is insane. Not quite sure even what platform you're on to be able to do that. But the average is about three minutes and then it's like this skew curve. And there's some people, again, we look at it, you know, what's the change in date range, but there are one or two customers right on this long tail who have taken all week to check out. So they've loaded a checkout and actually maybe they're using it as a wishlist, they put it in there, they get distracted. There can be other things, not only in your dating to marriage, actually at the very point you walk in, you're in the church now with that kind of thing. It's like that can take a week or two or five as well. And that's a really interesting, I suppose, insight to think about, well, when do you fire, I suppose, basket reminder or abandon emails and things like that, you know, because that will probably be set for everyone. And actually, there could be a decent 50% of your customers that don't actually check out within the first hour or day. They actually take a bit longer. When I say checkout, literally just in that very last page of the site can be a very long decay as well.

Paul: Do you publish the benchmarks that you can see if you're sub 50 bucks or if you're beauty?

Richard: Yeah, we're starting to. So the total we've been live with 30 merchants from everything from around sort of the low lower end of the size of BSL 2, 3 million turnover up to a couple in our distribution curve of up in the hundreds of million. That's something we're planning on doing. We're in beta at the moment when we get it into full production in coming weeks, we'll be able to do that much. We've got UCL University College London, their Data Analytics Lab is looking at all the now we've got nearly 1 million data points from these checkouts and bringing those product category benchmarks or insights to bear. Because even when you look at beauty and we've got a handful of maybe 10 beauty clients similar, there's different behaviors even based on brands. So we're trying to add that. insight into that to see actually, is there some, I suppose, action and tactics that come from this insight based on the category you're in. So yeah, we definitely will be doing more on publishing that. So keep an eye out on my LinkedIn for that.

Paul: Yeah, I look forward to that. Let's kind of get to, you sort of talked about the very narrow focus that you have of Gymshark. There have been many athletic wear brands before, there have been many since, but there have not been many like Gymshark. What was it, what is it that makes them such a phenomenal business?

Richard: That's a good question. I think, so like, again, probably a lot of businesses that tend to break through, timing is often key. They hit the wave of Instagram rising very quickly and YouTube, that's one component. really hard work and determination by the founding team and bravery to get going and do it. And I'm sure if you've listened to any of Ben's content or others that, you know, I think it was his seventh or fifth business or whatever, right? So again, that element of resilience and standing up again when things don't succeed, try again. And actually pivoting it from, it was a drop ship, sports nutrition brand initially pivoting it into the merchandise and they started to spot, hang on a second, we seem to be selling more t-shirts than we are on the nutrition we're selling. There's something interested in that and a little signal. But again, coming back to what happened, there was an element of, again, Ben and the founding team, I suppose, having that just native and organic understanding of what the consumer wanted. And that brand in particular, I think was built for in the early days, very much around individuals that wanted to train very comfortably, but also wear a brand in that area of the gym that was the badge of honor. It showed off all of the hard work, the sweat, the grit, the tears, the determination and resilience of training. So the brands, it was quite fitted. It would show off your shoulders and accentuate certain parts of your body. I'd also go to say, and have a point of view, personally, it was very attractive to the more extrovert gym goers. So ones that like training in front of the mirror, they like attention. They're the peacocks in the gym. Whereas I think when I meet people, either when I was there or subsequently, that say, it's not a brand for me, it's usually because perhaps they're all introvert. They're a personal, get in, put your headphones on and train in a personal isolation. And there's no right or wrong on either. But I suppose the nature of us being able to use content and particularly think about Instagram in the early days, it wasn't very much about, you hear the term Instagram, it was about showing, I suppose, the world the best version of yourself. So there's a sort of few sort of stars aligning here where people were gravitating. So I want to look better. I want to be able to genuinely put beautiful pictures of myself and things in a place where my friends and family can see them and my more extended network. So the brand kind of hit that in the right time and acted on it. And then I suppose having and deconstructing that offer architecture, the features and benefits of this product like. Rationally, again, it covers me while I'm training, but also it does the emotional thing of it makes me more confident because I'm really proud of how I look when I look at myself or when other people look at me in the gym. That is the thing that really resonated with the consumer, I think. And again, building a community of, I suppose, influencers that were creating content and social proof that were able to use their audiences and followers, but also then amplify that through boosting that content to others, was kind of, you know, you'd see it and go, I want to be that person. You know, I strive, I have this ambition of having that life and having that body and having that attention. And I think also the other point was, and we mentioned it in our kind of briefing notes, was that strategic clarity, so meeting the brand, like a lot of founders, I suppose the benefit of being, let's say, a director, a shareholder, or a founder of business is that you have choice. You have choice to be able to create new products and services, actually target new consumers, open new countries and open new sales channels. And there's quite often when we meet, and more often than not, sort of a sweet shop effect of paralyzed by choice or trying to do them all at once. So for example, you know, you looked at that business when I joined it, a very small percentage of its sales went to the US compared to the UK initially. And we were like, this is a big market, here's an opportunity. So perhaps should we just put all of our proactive energy on growing that, and then we can get to another market later on in a year or two, or we could go and open another product. another thing later on. And that also means that seeing the same product or offer or message out to consumers over and over again for a period of time can be frustrating. And you actually have to say, look, you've only spoken to 4,0 customers so far, and maybe we've reached a million consumers, but there are, let's say, 8 million consumers in our target audience. And actually, our core hero product that's got us going is not wrong. It's not broken. It's not broke. Don't fix it. So almost like slowing down to go faster is the strategy.

Paul: Yeah, definitely see that a lot with brands that haven't quite nailed the one product that is their hero product, are already releasing a second product and a third product. It's like, if you need to get that word of mouthpiece that is just firing up, if it's not working, then obviously you look at other things, find that product market fit. If you've got it, it's often uncomfortably long. You have to stick with that before you start diversifying.

Richard: Yeah, I think there's also, you know, you can get much more granular in that initial product or offer. In terms of, imagine that deconstruction of the dating to marriage and post-marriage in terms of onset. You can really deconstruct that to optimize that first hero products much more before going too wide and launching others. Yeah, so that's a real key one, I think.

Paul: So do you think we're kind of looking at that niche, they're nailed into that niche, the sort of extroverts, like kind of really tapping into almost a vanity vein, which was very much sort of frowned upon. But I think now with Instagram, do you think of that community found themselves as I like looking myself in the mirror whilst I work out, you like looking at yourself in the mirror while I work out, we can be friends. Is that what's happened and they just weren't served by anyone else?

Richard: 30 Possibly, I think actually there's an element in, I suppose I believe this personally, that there's nothing wrong with wanting to look good. And there's nothing wrong to want to look at yourself or look at other people either. And I think where the community element sort of perhaps resonated or connected, and again, this comes from me speaking with a bit of distance now and... both in time and I'm away from the business tactically quite significantly. So in reflection, it feels as though there will be a bunch of humans that have a DNA or a psychological makeup that's similar. And we would see this when we would see a queue for one of the pop-up stores and you'd see, here's someone that's come from Oxford and someone's flown in from Paris and they're next to each other. And they've got you open the contents of their handbag. We would do this, actually, we're going, what's in your bag? Try to talk on a weird way. We'd be like, who are you? And you'd find they've got the same brands of makeup. They've got the same shoes on. They listen to the same music on their iPod. What's on the playlist? What are you listening to? So it's like this sort of carbon copy almost or kind of very similar individual that was positioned all over the world. And I think that's what the community did was that perhaps the, let's say, the influence for the creators with the greatest followers and engagement sort of stood as spokespeople for the people who wanted to live their lives like that. And I think, yeah, you could definitely argue that is there, does that put pressure on people to sort of conform potentially? I don't think it does in any other way in any other kind of, I suppose, behavioural elements either. I think it's fine.

Paul: I mean, it's not about necessarily what's bringing them together, whether it is the kind of a passion of lifting weights or it's the passion of golf or whatever it is. But if there is that community and it's not being served and they all like the same things and then suddenly you're bringing them together under one banner, which is one brand. Is that the piece here that they tapped into?

Richard: Yeah, I think it is as a summary. Yes. I don't know, again, if you, Paul, or your listeners are spending any time on TikTok yourselves and thinking about how that algorithm does so well at picking up what you're into because you spend an extra millisecond hovering on a piece of content, it very quickly learns what you find entertaining. And it's interesting, isn't there a number of creators in that space, content creators that are in very unusual niches, and I'm sure like around things that you're really into. And I suppose what's interesting there, some of those interests that you have, there's a product or a service that can come to service more and satisfy the need of a consumer to consume something in that space. And that's where the opportunity, I think, Gymshark closed down. There was an element of that. But also, I think what's interesting for a thing that we were conscious of and I'm really proud of actually is that up until when Gymshark came around, the weight training area of gyms was actually relatively small compared to the cardio areas. And also the female usage of that space in the gym was very low, it was an overtly male space. And I think, I don't know if you go into a... a gym now, you'll find it's a much more balanced environment, men and women. I think also in terms of age range, that's different. And also when you look at the percentage of space that's given to functional training, their own weight training versus cardio, that's grown significantly. And that's, I think, Gymshark definitely had a causal effect of those changes, giving consumers that perhaps didn't have that confidence to enter that space. Because it can be a bit intimidating when you see very large and in shape guys doing their squats and lifts and stuff like that. And I remember being delighted as sort of like, you know, hiding in plain sight as a Gymshark advisor employee and watching young men and women enter that space at the beginning of their journey. you know, wearing Gymshark, you know, it was absolutely delightful.

Paul:  I think it echoes another brand which we talk about a lot on this is Lululemon, the most successful athlete, athlete, athlete. brand before Gymshark came out and the trend is similar is that their trend was yoga and they were able to kind of capitalize on this community that was forming that actually they could become the spokespeople for and they can be the mechanics that are now. 

Richard: And it sort of trickles down from the early adopters doesn't it because a friend jumps first and then you see that they're perhaps they are looking in better shape they're having their actually mental health is better that perhaps from the outside, again, you look at them, you think, actually, there was something in this. And then suddenly, again, you can bring by osmosis, a bit of virality and other people, they're saying, Oh, what's going on? You know, actually, you know, a lot of misconception for women in particular was weight training would make you overtly muscly and masculine looking, which it doesn't. And actually, again, that was us both would look at and renew that. And obviously, bringing that message and really educating target audience around that. So actually, you know, removing that fear of training in that way. Yeah.

Paul: And so are you saying that that trend was happening anyway and you were to capitalize in or actually Gymshark were integral to that?

Richard: No, I don't think it was. I think it may have been, but we, the Gymshark brand absolutely turbo charged it and accelerated it for sure. Yeah.

Paul: Oh, that's incredible. You said something there, which is also really stood out there is that you were in the lines asking people what were in their handbags, it's that obsessiveness around deeply understanding your target niche, which like, that's the thing for me that you said all of these things that set that set Gymshark. There are so few brands to do that. They never speak to the customers. They never pick up the phone. They know-

Richard: Yeah. It's a really interesting question actually. And maybe for your listeners, if you've got sort of merchants listening and actually even if you're a B2B supplier, actually no, I'll retract that. It's mainly in the direct consumer space, particularly on e-commerce. You go into a meeting for a foul, first time you say, what's the name of your biggest spending customer? I've only had out of asking that question a hundred times, two ish, three merchants tell me the name. And I suppose, interestingly, if you were B2B, which we know a much more long and personal sales cycles, you would have a good understanding of that. Also, if you're in a physical retail store, so if brand was in a shop, you would know, hang on, this individual comes back very frequently, it's always here. They spend the most money and you probably could recall what they look like, actually what they wear when they're not wearing your product or using it. You'd know what car they turned up in. You'd be looking at window. That is the thing that sort of directly e-commerce retail is rubbish at, that kind of human connection of understanding your customer. So proactively spending time on doing it. So again, as a takeaway for listeners would be first of all, find out who your top 10, 20 customers are, and as a senior leadership team, contact them somehow, pick up the phone, meet them, go for a coffee, buy them a pizza and learn everything about them, what they like, what they don't like. And that will really help you.

Paul:  I love that. And I'd take that a little bit further because it's very similar. We've run workshops with hundreds of people now and asking the same question was the last time you picked up the phone and spoke to a customer and you get maybe one person put their hand up six months ago. We're like, Oh, we've got a data research team. They do various different things on that. And actually I think it's something they should do every week. Every week you should set outside an hour for everyone in the company, not just the leadership team to then call one person, talk to them about what it was that made them get into that call. What was it that made them made that order? What do they like?

Richard: Yeah. I mean, we, um,

Paul:  Do they follow.

Richard: Part of that RFM analysis mentioned at the top of the meeting with you, you know, when you can bucket people in to the very best, the highest spending groups and actually, you know, again, with tools like Klaviyo or others, you can then set up a flow so that information is passed to whoever in the business to say, here's the people you need to talk to this week. It can be automated, right? And also these people at risk of lapsing out of that group, pick up the phone or actually, here's people who have just joined it. And you'd also argue to some degree, we used to do quite a bit of work on this as well, like been checking in personally with like nursery customers. So that's that one purchase. So one of the things I would bring to bear is that a lot of brands assume that your customer trusts you implicitly after that first purchase. I mean, how many times have you had like a... refer a friend or score us on Trustpilot, like the minute you've ordered the product, you know, like, hey, refer a friend and get to it. And you're like, hasn't even arrived. It hasn't arrived. I've not even used it. So like that timing is so important. And that nursery period with a customer to again, understand who are they, what's going on, what are you doing right and wrong? That first interaction is absolutely key, isn't it? 

Paul:  Yeah, as vital and just asking the right questions. Rich, this has been amazing. Obviously you've had incredible CV, incredible career through that. You're now the Chief Growth Officer at The Growth Foundation. New products coming out. Where can people find you to learn more?

Richard:  Yeah, so LinkedIn, obviously, I would say trying to get better at being more visible and creating more content there, but you'll find me relatively easily. Richard Chapple, The Growth Foundation is our URL and you'll be able to see everything we do in consulting, talent, and there's also links to our, I say burgeoning applications and software products that we, again, taking all the knowledge we've had over the last 20, 30 years for myself, but I've got a team of 20 growth avengers hauling that all together and finding the things that mean that merchants and brands can grow while they're sleeping. And Order Rescue is the first in that. So yeah, that's a phenomenal tool. Go and check it out. It's driving 2% to 4% order volume increase every day when it's switched on, just from that checkout work that it's doing. So yeah, that's where to find us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Paul:  Richard Chapple, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for coming on Building Brand Advocacy.Richard:  No problem. Thanks, Paul.

We can't wait to meet you.