The direct-to-consumer (DTC) shopping experience can still benefit from traditional marketing strategies like catalogue advertising and customer-centric authenticity.

The degree to which a given product or service meets customers' demands is directly related to the quality of their overall experience with that product or service. Customers delighted who are with your brand at every stage of their interaction will likely become its most ardent advocates. Greater brand loyalty and higher client retention are some of the long-term benefits your business will get from this strategy.

In this episode of Building Brand Advocacy, Paul is joined by Jim Davis, Chief Customer Officer at Buck Mason.

They cover:

  • Jim’s career trajectory
  • Aligning mathematics and marketing skills
  • Where does catalogue marketing fit
  • Buck Mason's strategy for building customer relationship
  • Framework for getting and retaining band authenticity
  • Making the online experience as immersive as the store experience
  • The future of customer experience in the fashion industry
  • The importance of brand credibility
  • The best time to expand the customer base
  • The role of leadership in brand evolution

If you’re interested in the role of traditional marketing ideas and brand authenticity in improving the customer experience for DTC models, tune in to this episode of Building Brand Advocacy.

Building Brand Advocacy 017: Jim Davis, CCO at Buck Mason

Paul Archer: All right and welcome to the Building Brand Advocacy Podcast. My name is Paul Archer and I'm very excited to be joined by Jim Davis, the chief customer officer at Buck Mason. Jim, how are you doing?

Jim Davis: I'm doing really well today. Thank you.

Paul: Now, Jim, before we dig into a bit of the things around Buck Mason and what you've been up to there, I want to know your story. How did this all start? You didn't start your career in marketing, is that right?

Jim: That is correct. I like to call myself a failed mathematician. I originally went to school with the idea that I'd be a college professor, a mathematics professor, and after three years of working towards a PhD, I dropped out of grad school and tried on a few different hats, I would say. I taught for a while in a public high school in Florida. I worked in the financial industry for a little bit as a quantitative analyst, and then eventually landed my first marketing job at a cruise line down in Fort Lauderdale.

Paul: Brilliant. Maths and marketing, they never used to be the same. Now they're very much aligned. How do you find your mathematics skills play into being a marketer?

Jim: I think that I probably came along maybe five years too early, but the world eventually caught up to where my mind was, at least. The reason I was ever able to do marketing to begin with is I could build response models basically. I started my career off in areas of segmentation and targeted marketing around expensive direct mail and catalog programs and things like that.

I think what happened as the world became more digital in the marketing space and even things like linear TV became more mathematical in the way that people would approach their buyers and stuff like that, that the old model of the big ad agency with the giant idea, not that the creative wasn't important, but how you would deploy that and where in the most effectively against which audiences started to grow with importance throughout the 2000s essentially.

The mass experience and the background that I brought more from the direct marketing perspective, I think to this growing world of digital marketing and e-commerce really started to emerge in mail pretty well. I think when you look at people that grow up in the industry today, if they're in e-com, if they're in digital marketing, if they're CMOs, they spend a lot of their time thinking about things like marketing mix models and stuff that was really the landscape or the pitch of the analysts in the past.

Now the marketing leadership is having to apply all of those analytics to everyday decision-making into what their strategic goals are for the way that they reach an audience, the way that they propel their brand for with certain audiences, and how you do that and which median mixes work the best to achieve that.

I feel like it all just came together at the right time about five years into my career. I was pretty lucky to be involved with some really big e-commerce players like Office Depot back in the day. In the early 2000s, nobody knew who Amazon was and Office Depot was doing $1.5 billion online in the United States. We were right at that nexus of the switchover where people would stop calling call centers and start placing orders online and the beginnings of things like paid search marketing and email marketing but catalogs were still driving a lot of the traffic to the website and things like that.

That merger of these worlds and being able to be a part of that and then carrying that forward to places like Dell later, I think really helped shape the way that I approach all of this and let me continue to be analytic and think analytically, but develop a much deeper appreciation for messaging and creative in the emotional side of marketing over the years as well.

Paul: Do you find that, and maybe controversial, but there's an entire generation of grown up being able to pretty much track everything, generation of marketing science who've never known anything else. You're coming from a mathematics background rather than a creative background into this, which sets you in good stead. Do you think that there is something that modern, younger marketers are missing in terms of that they have to earn their stripes to be able to infer types of things and it affects the way that they're marketing, or actually, is this just an incredible platform for them to then do and bolt the creativity on the ability to measure everything?

Jim: It's interesting because I think part of what happened as the rise of digital gave us this feeling that we were able to track everything. When you really dug into it deeply, you started to realize that maybe you weren't tracking as much as you thought you were, that there was a lot of overstatement of the influence of certain actions because they were more trackable than other things. I never let go of all these looking at both sides of the equation.

You use broader types of analytics like time series analysis and things like that to look at media that isn't super trackable like TV or radio and things like that print coupled with bottoms-up, deeper attribution analysis around the things that you can track and the answer's always living in the middle. I think a lot of people that I've come across that are 15, 20 years younger than me really only learn the trackable side of that.

It never really developed an appreciation for how other types of media might be able to move people's mindsets, how it was influencing their decision-making around things and how earlier or when in the process that might be occurring, especially with new product launches or new brand launches and things that really required that you're going to have to hit people multiple times in multiple different ways to get them to really pay attention, to build any awareness and recall and things like that.

That piece of it I think was missing from a lot of people. I think that one of the things that started to change that though is that as certain things like streaming media, whether it's video content or audio content, and the deeper trackability and targeting that was available around that became available. I think that a lot of folks that were really tied into paid social and paid search and Google shopping and a lot of these more seemingly highly trackable channels started to learn a little bit more about the nuances of some of these other kinds of media that were trackable, but maybe not quite as trackable as some of the things that they were used to spending money in.

Then that eventually grew into a resurgence of things like catalog marketing and stuff like that. It's crazy to me. I'm the guy who convinced the CEO at Urban Outfitters to stop mailing catalogs because we were spending so much money on that in a brand in 2013 that was selling to 19-year-olds, that we weren't spending any money hardly on digital marketing and targeting the social space and building out our social media presences.

We started diverting the budget that was being allocated to catalog which was a fairly expensive channel even back then, to building out a digital presence for the Urban Outfitters brand. It worked and it was a great way to build relationships with college students at a time when they were all shifting their attention to places like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and stuff like that.

Along the way, I think the crush of all of this digital exposure and digital experience started to create a new world where even 20-year-olds were interested in analog media again. Roll the clock forward 10 years, and here I am. I've got a growing catalog program at a brand that is targeting millennials essentially, not really Gen Z at this point and it's probably one of the most profitable marketing channels that we have. It's a great way to reach people that we were not reaching through other digital media. I've got lots of analytics that are demonstrating that that's the case.

I think the return to your question, I don't know that they're necessarily missing it or if there's any stripes that they need to earn along the way. I think just being open to the reality that just because someone clicked on something and you noticed that somewhere near a purchase happening, whether that was digitally or physically in a store, doesn't mean that that was the only thing on their journey.

It also doesn't mean that if you've got some attribution engine deployed that other offline media or other untracked, unclickable media wasn't somehow influencing that journey if you had it in the marketplace. Frankly, in today's world, probably one of the most powerful things is both customer advocacy and to some degree through influencer marketing, that paid advocacy that you can buy through the influencers and things like that.

Paul: We'll certainly come back to that, an area I'm obviously fond of but catalog marketing is something which I'm new to. I'd love to just dig into that a little bit deeper. If someone is throwing a brand right now, how do they know whether catalog marketing is something worth tapping into? Marketing's about being where other people are, and if everybody is on Instagram and trying to be on TikTok and all their time and efforts are trying to do there, and actually, you're able to tap into the mailbox, how does that work?

How should they go about doing it? Also, how do you track it?

Jim: Yes, I think that the, if you have no experience with it, you need to work with a partner of some kind, whether that's an agency and there are still some in the world that focus specifically on catalog, both the development of the creative itself which is an art and a science unto itself. How you go after both marketing to your existing customer file, but also how you find prospects in this world. Back in the day you used to be able to rent other businesses' lists.

People would actually sell their customer files to other people to let you mail them essentially and you would all send them to this third party and there'd be this anonymous merge purge. You would never get any of the names back unless those people bought from your mailings and different things like that. What that started to turn into these things called cooperative databases where you can rent names out of that but there's lots of businesses putting them in there.

In the US and the states, there's a handful of those kinds of co-ops left and that tends to be your primary opportunity for prospecting with catalogs or finding new customers and catalogs that are shopping with you already. I think that you've got to have a good partner, whether it's an independent consultant or an agency if you have no one internally that has any experience with this because it's very different than other types of marketing.

I think a lot of people approach it from a segmentation perspective like they would email and they'll end up wasting a bunch of money if they do that because it is a very expensive channel. Then I think from a tracking perspective what you're really doing is this really old method of you had a mail file that had a bunch of addresses on it and you have a direct-to-consumer business presumably. You've got addresses on people you deliver goods to.

Now you take the addresses of people that bought during the timeframe that the catalog was out there and you have this vendor match them up with all the people that you mail who you see who bought and see who didn't. When you want to understand whether or not that vehicle there's catalogs are impacting your existing customers because they're probably being exposed to a lot of other marketing from your email, SMS, other things that are happening in your ecosystem, you want to hold out control groups and measure the lift between the people that are getting mailed and not and do that over continuous periods of time.

You can't just do it one mailing at a time. You may want to hold controls out for a whole season to see what the impact on your existing customer was with different recency and things like that over longer periods of time. On the prospect side, it's harder to do those controls versus things like your other paid digital tactics. Generally just look at what your cost will acquire is and is it getting you in the realm of what your profitability thresholds are based off that match-back analysis of what you spent mailing those people and renting those names essentially.

Paul: Love that. I know. Have you done any research in terms of the types of customers that you have, I don't mean in terms of the demographic but in terms of the passion that they've got for you. Presumably reading a catalog is, you've got a lot of time there. You can tell your brand story. First of all, it's like how much of that catalog is product, how much of its brand narrative or non-product related content. Then second of all, do you find that those customers are just so much more, they're learning more about your brand and then in turn I guess they could also be bigger advocates on your behalf?

Jim: I'll address these I think slightly out of order. I wish that our catalog actually had more brand more storytelling content than it does. It's probably roughly 5% to 10% of the content is storytelling. A lot of the way that we go to market and present product that Buck Mason is oriented around with the historical references or influences of the items might have been to begin with because it's all iconic sports where both on the men's and run side of our business that we've reimagined for the modern wearer.

There are other things that are happening in our business and some of the factories that we work with and some of the ways that we develop the yarns or the fabrics that we use in our clothing that could deserve more air time. I think for the people that are truly passionate about the brand, they seek that content out. I think in print is a great way to give them the opportunity to read it and come back to it in a really easy way over a period of weeks rather than they saw something on Instagram about it and maybe clicking through to a blog post or something like that but then that evaporated from their vision for a while because of the way the feed works or whatever.

They don't necessarily come back to it or remember it's not top of mind anymore, but if that catalog's sitting on their coffee table, they'll keep picking it up. There is an interesting dynamic between the people that are acquired with a catalog versus other channels and they do tend to have a higher lifetime value but there's some other things that are influencing that outcome. They tend to be a little bit older than the average customer is.

If you think about the frequency in the pandemic has probably changed this to some degree, but if you think about the frequency that people in their 20s and early 30s would move versus people that are in their later 30s and 40s would move around, it's hard to know what somebody's actual address is because if they've moved every year because they were changing jobs or they needed a bigger apartment because they're in LA or New York or something like that, they're tired of below efficiency they were living in or whatever, they don't necessarily do all the things with the postal service like file a change of address that lets you follow them around.

Response and things like that tends to be a little bit sketchier with younger audiences than it is with older audiences. Then therefore, the cooperative databases know where slightly older people are more effectively or more accurately than where younger people are probably right because of this transient nature of younger consumers and things like that.

Paul: That makes total sense and actually one of the brands that I've worked with who do this quite effectively is they work in children's wear. Therefore, targeting parents is a little bit more secure than you would have. Obviously, people do move, but the second part of it which I really found fascinating there about what you were saying, is that long-termist approach, you've got it. You're not looking for the attribution to be modeled out that day, that week, even that season you're looking at it over an annual basis and making a strong investment. The second thing is actually this is your narrative.

I'm guessing, you were saying about trying to get more content in there, I'm guessing people are seeing products and going, "Oh yes, I've got to go check that out online." What they buy online, they have nothing to do with what they decided to go there for. You've got this storytelling platform that really builds into who they are, which I think is fascinating. Definitely want to keep an eye on actually, so yes, I appreciate that one. The brand that you were obviously talking about there is a brand you work right now. Do you want to test a little bit about Buck Mason if anyone doesn't know about them?

Jim: Yes so Buck Mason is a LA brand started by Eric Ford and Sasha Koehn, who really imagined a jeans and t-shirt business about 10 years ago that would really create high-quality men's basics essentially. That was the foundation of where they started. They didn't feel anybody was doing it very well at the time. They saw an opening in the marketplace for a high level of service and a high quality of make. They were making all of their products in the US at the time.

I think that when it started off as just a menswear brand with a shop on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach in California and a website and now I think we just opened our 21st store about a week ago and the website does enormous revenue and volume now. We added women's just over a year ago to the brand. I think what's happened over the years is that it grew beyond just that vision of predominantly jeans and t-shirt business into one that is got this referential integrity to the icons of American sportswear.

Those are slightly different decades of reference from men versus women, but it all hangs together very well when you look at the collections on the site or go and see them in person in one of our shops, and today we're selling outerwear and things you could wear to office, button-down sweaters still have jeans and t-shirts is still by far the biggest category in the business both for men's and women's.

A majority of that product is still made in factories here in the US with a lot of it still made right there in LA where they started making t-shirts to begin with. It's a California-oriented brand. When you walk into one of the stores, I think you get the best feel for what Buck Mason is because you immediately get this mid-century modern vibe with a very tight, curated music playlist that is giving you that sense of Americana that everything that we do is tied to and referential against and a high level of service.

The quality of the product that we make for the prices that we sell it at, I think is unmatched in the marketplace. There really isn't anyone else doing what we do for the price points that we sell it at.

Paul: First of all, do you have that playlist on Spotify? I think we are asking [laughs]?

Jim: It's funny, we've never published any of our playlists. When I worked at Urban Outfitters, the guy that programmed the music for the stores was a DJ. When we launched the first Urban Outfitters app, we had Urban Outfitters Radio and we were playing his playlist on On the Urban Outfitters radio in on SoundCloud and stuff like that back then. That's a good idea. We should do that.

Paul: Sounds great. A bit of an aside there, obviously, we've discussed the catalog. The demographic you're targeting there, how social are they and where do you find is the best way of just building a relationship with that customer base?

Jim: I think that the heart of our business is 25-45, 25-50. I think the people that probably spend the most money with us are in the middle and upper end of that range. We tend to be probably a little bit more aspirational for people that are in their mid-20s but they love the style. I think the thing that resonates with everyone, men and women, that shop at Buck Mason the most is the timelessness of the garments and the goods that we bring to market. We're not chasing fast fashion.

It's part of the reason why we have such a high quality of make. We're not chasing trends. If you buy this polo that I have on today, you're going to have it for years. It's not going to fall apart like some other brands' polos will after four or five washings, and the colors that things come in and the cuts the styles, and the shapes and the silhouettes that they're offered in aren't going to go out of style in two or three years because they've been this way for decades and they're not going to really change.

Some people may say that means you're unfashionable and you're basic and things like that but I think it's a different level of taste where you're not trying to chase whatever the Kardashians are wearing next week and things like that. I've worked in those businesses. They just operate differently on the design development and marketing cadence. I think the really cool thing about Buck Mason is you don't have to worry about that.

All the things that you have in your closet, that you purchased from us this year are going to go great with things that we're going to bring to market next year and we're going to have more colors of some of your favorites next year and things like that. The engagement with the consumer is interesting because since inception, paid social and other paid digital channels have largely been the biggest mechanism for acquisition and over the last four years, we've introduced quite a bit of catalog acquisition into that mix as well.

Really, when you look at where half the new customers come from they just discover us at one of our stores. They're stumbling across one of our shops. They've never heard of the brand before. They were out shopping some of the other stores in our neighborhood that our store was in. They're immediately drawn into the shop because of this mid-century modern look and feel that I was talking about.

It really looks like someone's living room more than a Gap or anything like that and it's very inviting. Then the engagement that the stylists and the managers in our shops have with consumers, that really enhance that inviting feel that you get and the way that they help them feel good about building a wardrobe with us, I think is the most special piece of the brand is the guy who runs e-commerce as part of his role.

I would love to say that we're delivering that level of experience online but we're not. The reality is that the best experience that you can have with Buck Mason is in one of our shops. I think we try to build as much of that as we can into our website experience and then do some of those things that you can do digitally to enhance this experience by making sure that if you do want to go to a shop what all the items are that are available in that store before you go make your shopping trip that day.

You can do all the omnichannel delivery things that every other business is doing these days, buy online, pickup in-store but really I think the website experience is a little bit more about giving you that time to delve into some of the details about the make, the fabrics, the origins in some cases of the products. The store experience is going to be about how to style and really how to create a look that you are going to feel good about the way that you walk out of the door  walk out of the door every morning after you get dressed, you know? 

Paul: I love that. How have you managed to get that authenticity online though in terms of-- there's a few different things you've got your social channels, I'm always fascinated in the way that brands use, their own customers and their style and how much a part of the storytelling does user generated content, advocacy, social commerce, things like that play into that.

How have you managed to replicate that magic when you walk into the store? I've actually not been into one of the stores but I was on Instagram and I saw the store just opened in Austin and there's a car in the middle of it, which I'm guessing was mid-century modern style was just absolutely on point. That's really cool. How do I experience that when I land on a product display page? Do you have videos, content sneak peaks? How I'm always fascinated to get into this?

Jim: It's from a creative perspective we're highly curated. You're not going to find a lot of user-generated content in our environment. We want to be very careful about the way that we position what we do both visually the tone of voice that we use when we describe things and the way that we curate the images and the video content that you have access to. We do a little bit of product video just so that you can understand how things drape, flow and fit more than trying to create a brand experience, to be honest with you.

I think that the idea on the website is really about letting you see the breadth and depth of the offering and let you get into some of those details. We add things on our PDPs that are essentially lay flat photography with hand-drawn callouts about what all the features are that you should know about a product and the care that we might have put into stitching the shoulder seems or the fact that when you watch what designers do when they're picking out buttons for any shirt, you would think that they were picking out who's going to end up being their best friend for the rest of their life and they only got to make the choice once.

Just an amazing level of thought that goes into everything. We want to make sure we're carrying that forward and our descriptions. It probably could be a little technical for some people, to be honest with you, but it is the nature of the way that we operate and it's the nature of the way that our design process works. I think that's what we're trying to communicate to people.

I think from a social media perspective and organic social media perspective, we really do just want people to get the vibe of what was inspiring to us around Buck Mason. Some of it are some of the concepts that inspired the season so some of the photography is oriented around that and some of the video content's oriented around that. Some of it is for people that don't live in a market where we have stores, we want to make sure that we're sharing what the stores look like and what that vibe is.

On Instagram Stories when we have events at the stores, we make sure we're posting from those and things like that so that people can understand what that part of the brand is about even if they don't get to experience it personally. I think we're trying to figure out how to bring more of that to the website experience and make it a little bit more immersive and engaging from that perspective without being campy.

We don't want to do one of those weird AR, you're shopping through the store in some kind of model, 3D reality thing, that is so outside of the authenticity with which we present ourselves that that's definitely not the route. I think we're continuing to try to figure out what those elements are that they can make that online experience as immersive as the store experience.

Paul: Where do you think the future lies you've managed to retain is fantastic and timeless. How do you think about the future? How do you think about the way that things are evolving at the moment and particular trends that you want to get ahead of, also particular trends you want to avoid because of the nature of the brand?

Jim: I think that the marketplace in the world, in general, seems to be coming back to some elements of the point of view that Buck Mason has had from the beginning, which is high quality for great value, work with great partners from a factory and fabric development perspective and think about the wearer and how long they're going to be able to enjoy this garment as a part of the design process.

A lot of the fast fashion houses are struggling. They probably will continue to. I think that the future for us is not to move away from that point of view obviously. I think we will keep evolving the product lines that we can bring to market that still carry that point of view forward. We're thinking about things that aren't just apparel related too, that really are oriented around that same design thinking and bringing forward the timeless nature of potentially decorative items and other things.

I think coupled with that, there's an opportunity to really create a bigger melding of our physical and digital environments and probably offering the digital shopper that doesn't have the opportunity or as just as a matter of convenience, the opportunity to engage with that stylist experience that we have in our stores and do it in a less campy way than I think a lot of the offerings that exist today, some of which arose during the pandemic when retailers are trying to figure out how to survive and they weren't allowed to have people in those shops and things like that. I think trying to understand how to allow the online shopper to have as close as possible something to that in-store experience.

It's going to require a one-on-one conversational engagement with somebody that has the same level of training and skill that the people that work in our shops do. We also believe that the demise of the retail stores is cyclically predicted is not going to happen. Our stores are very successful, we continue to add more and we think that growing that footprint for the next decade is definitely a huge part of what Buck Mason is going to continue to focus on.

That we are delivering the pinnacle experience to everyone in as many markets as makes sense for us to be in really. I think that what we won't do is get to over distributed. We are looking at non-DTC channels of distribution, various wholesale opportunities, and different things like that. It will help build more awareness of the brand. We're not looking to be everywhere in some kind of a mass play.

We know who our audience is and we know who the right partners are to help us reach some of that audience that maybe we're not able to through our DTC expansion, but we will stay true to the brand. I always think about these things as target or consensus circles where we're going to keep focusing on designing product and designing content and messaging and marketing for the people that are in the bullseye because they're going to continue to influence the people that are in those outer rings.

At some point, we may be able to get outside the bullseye a little bit with our design intent and our creative and go to that next ring right around the bullseye. It will probably never get much bigger than that because if we lose our point of view, then we're just like another clothing company at that point. There's nothing special about what we're doing. We're not trying to be mass, but there's a much larger audience out there that Buck Mason will appeal to that is both unaware of us saying hasn't shopped with us yet. We're confident about.

Paul: I love that, that authenticity sticking to your core is something which it's really delicate balance, particularly when you move outside of that core target, the center of that target talking about. The one I always think of is the outdoor brands who the imagery is you're on the top of the mountain climbing like Everest in this top, but the vast majority of those jackets are actually sold to people to put over their suit when they get on the tube or the subway and then they go to the office.

If they started to shift and start to make the ge lace are particularly suitable for going over a suit, they'd lose that authenticity entirely. Having that right balance, being able to speak to the fact that your actual customer may not be the one that you've built it for originally, but yet still building for a very clear vision is something which I think some brands do very well and some brands don't. Actually, that vision that you've got to like keeping it in there as a bullseye, I think is a really good framework for anyone to take on board.

Jim: I think that some of the brands that I've been involved with in the past that, you know, they like, I think is a great example of this, where they lost their way after they became very popular, got over distributed and essentially became uncool to the group of people that made them cool to begin with. It took a while to reinvigorate cool and get people that were both 19 and 30 to care about that brand again in a slightly more modern way.

I think that same company, Deckers zones a running shoe company called Hoka. Hoka was amazing because it was created for people that were ultra runners and really originally outdoor runners, trail runners, but then extended into road running and triathlons and marathoners and things like that. They made sure from a product development perspective to stay really tightly connected to the running community throughout the growth of that business.

It was critical that even though 54-year-old fat golfer dudes like me wear them and I wear my Hokas every day still because there's some of the most comfortable and best-lasting sneaker-type shoes that I've ever owned in my life. It's exactly the thing that that you were just talking about, Paul, where we knew we were selling shoes to old people that had knee problems and to other people that weren't really using them for what the design intent was. That was fine.

Keep buying them, do whatever you want but the marketing and the way that we would go to market was going to continue to be focused around that core audience of ultra runners and making sure that we never lost credibility with that audience because that's what the brand stood for, that was that bullseye for Hoka and we never let go of it. Even as they've gone through brand expansion in the year since I left that business, they've still stayed very true to that.

Now it's become a little bit more egalitarian in the sense that the non-competitive distance runner is really able to participate in the brand now.

Paul: I think that authenticity of sticking with what and really sticking to a core customer base, a core passion base, really that is what builds foundations of great brands. You think about Nike for example, they were running brand long, long, long before Michael Jordan started a pair on to play basketball being sold out of Phil Knight's car. That was where they were, that was where the authenticity was.

What I'm fascinated about is where the inflection point is, when you can start to move to the second concentric circle that you mentioned there. How do brands know? One thing that I do know, I believe that brands should only have one product to about 7 million in revenue and 1,000 core fans. I don't know why that's the case, but it seems to be before anyone should really break apart from there. When should you change your customer base? When can you start to branch out a little bit?

Jim: Yes, I think there are some interesting examples in the marketplace of businesses that didn't necessarily follow the model that I'm about to mention or outline. When I think about it, especially in this world where a lot of businesses start out as DTC businesses and maybe slowly start to add some wholesale over time and greater distribution over time, it's really when you feel that core audience that you started to resonate with as a startup starts to get penetrated to the point where the growth becomes unprofitable against only that audience because you're only going to get so many dollars in retention.

You're faced with this business decision now, do I increase my product assortment, the lines of business that I am so I can sell more to this group of people and just increase lifetime value? Yes, you should probably do that where it makes sense but you also are now faced with who were these people influencing because you probably already had some peripheral purchase that you weren't necessarily targeting. What's the best move to get some of that business without disenfranchising that core customer?

In my mind, this comes back to my analytics and research background, is that requires a deep understanding of your marketplace, a deep understanding of consumer behavior and the audiences, and a deep understanding of consumer sentiment towards your brand or towards the category that you're operating in and what's going on. You also have to start paying attention to who your new competitors are going to be when you do that too, because you can't be the only entrant at a high price point probably or something like that against this new group of people.

It may be different than the way that you were competing with that audience that you resonated with as a startup essentially. I think the brand that I find fascinating right now in the marketplace that started as DTC and I think has a little bit of wholesale distribution but added a category in my mind out of nowhere, but when you think about it in retrospect, makes complete senses, is this southern California business called Jenni Kayne, which started off as a women's wear business with a very subtle California design aesthetic that is very appealing to a lot of people. Now they've gone into home goods and furniture.

They've made this seamless transition from selling sweaters, dresses, and women's clothing basically into selling sofas, bedding, and armchairs. They do amazing things. They bought a house in the hills, I think near Santa Barbara and Montecito, and built out the Jenni Kayne Ranch and all of their photography and all their social media around their home goods are done in that location.

Just brilliant brand marketing in my opinion and an amazing way to build an extension into a place where you're obviously going to create completely creative sales because those people were buying all of those goods from some other business at some point, but because they resonated with your design aesthetic and you were able to extend that into another part of their life. You've got open territory now to gather all of those dollars from their shared wallet too.

Paul: That one sounds like it's the same customer, it's a different product. It's not a, they just know their customer so well and then they're like, "Yes, you know what? What else do they need in their life?" They've got to sit on something.

Jim: Exactly.

Paul: Let's have a chat.

Jim: Completely different than your Nike example where when they expanded distribution and you think about that in the traditional pyramid, it's like you can buy Nike products on the Target and you can buy Nike products at TIFF and things like that. One of them is probably $1,500 for the pair and the other 60. There's a differentiation in the quality, which I think is a very different kind of business but what they're really doing is selling the brand and trying, I go back to some of the older Nike brand positioning around trying to bring out the athlete in all of us, essentially that inner athlete that lives within us all.

I think that's the mode that propelled that business forward, enabled them to create tiers of product essentially. Not all businesses, I think-- that sort of approach would never work for Buck Mason because the tier of product is completely outside of our entire brand ethos and the way that we think about design and stuff like that.

Paul: Makes total sense. A couple of quick-fire questions. Don't need to have quick answers, but what marketing-related advice would you have given your 21-year-old staff now, I know you were teaching at the time, but maybe when you first started your career, got into it?

Jim: I think that because I was so analytically focused, I would've made more friends with creative directors and creative-oriented people so I could've learned about those aspects of marketing and consumer behavior earlier in my career.

Paul: Nice. That makes a lot of sense and vice versa.

Jim: Yes. I think for the creatives, I hope some of them wish they had met Jim earlier in their life. I don't know.

Paul: They're wishing that they had. What counterintuitives have you seen along the way? What did you think intuitively would go one way but actually turned out to be completely different?

Jim: I've got a great example. We had all this market research has showed us that people's view of UGG is that it brought comfort to their lives, that it was something that was almost like a good home-cooked meal and it reminded them of their youth in some cases in a comforting way, not in a disturbing or distracting way. I think that that led a lot of us at the time to believe that the right way to reposition UGG was not necessarily as a fashion item but as something that would bring comfort to your life and really was going to be that one thing in your closet that you could always depend on.

The reality of it was when we started going in that direction, the growth trajectory that we took the brand to versus what happened when we had some infusion of new leadership and other people came into the business with a vision around trying to modernize its fashion positioning and really appeal to some people that we did have some research showed were interested in the brand, but it was very niche and a pocket interest that existed just in a few places around the world.

That other trajectory, that very fashion-oriented trajectory that was not where the consensus opinion of people aware of UGG'sheads were around the brand actually ended up being the thing to catapult it to that next stairstep function growth that it experienced over the last four or five years. The other direction, which made complete sense if you just listened to people that were buying it probably would've left the brand with maybe a third of the growth that it's experienced over the last five years at best if I had to guess.

I think that those kinds of observations or the willingness of leaders to take gambles and big bets on opportunities that they see in the marketplace are often the things that you can't derive from any kind of model or mathematical equation. It's the idea that we all carry around smartphones now. If an engineer had been responsible for the product development at Apple versus people like Steve Jobs and other people, we might have the most amazing rotary dial phone you've ever seen in your life instead of an iPhone.

I think that that kind of leadership exists in every business and that sort of vision about what a brand can be versus what everyone thinks it is is a really important unlock but there has to be some connectivity to what it is now typically for that to work too.

Paul: That's fantastic. Then finally, so who in the world of brand building would you like to take to lunch?

Jim: I don't know how many people know her, but Julia Golden at Lego. She's the CMO and Chief Commercial Officer at Lego. I think what she's done there for the last 8, 10 years, I can't remember exactly how long she's been there now, take a 90-year-old business that we probably all grew up with to some degree or another and love to some degree or another and maybe as parents when you step on him in the middle of the night hate.

I think that the repositioning of Lego as a very purpose-driven brand, but never losing side of that core company culture aspect of they're going to deliver fun. It's all about fun when you work there. I think just, you've got 45-year-olds putting Lego death stars together and five-year-olds putting just whatever they can imagine together with Legos and what other business and brand has that kind of appeal multi-generationally for 90 years, it's just an amazing thing.

To continue that in the modern age and the digital age and in this sort of crazy omnichannel world that we live in and find your way through that and not have the brand lose its meaning to all of the people that have a very warm place in their heart from their childhood about it and really reconnect with it as an adult, as a result of what she's done, I think is just incredible.

Paul: Yes, I completely agree. Although I feel like some of the more modern ones with Harry Potter or Star Wars, they are so well designed, you can't just go crazy and build that Loch Ness Monster submarine plain station in the same way. There are too many instructions

Jim: Yes, I won't disagree that there were times, as my daughter's 27 years old now, but when she was a kid, that I lamented about the fact that I used to mix my Legos, my Lincoln logs and actually some blocks that my carpenter grandfather made for me with my little plastic army soldiers and built all kinds of weird castles and things like that.

Paul: It's the way to go. It's the way to go. Look, Jim Davis, that was absolutely fantastic. Where can people find out more about you, about Buck Mason?

Jim: Definitely check out our Instagram at Buck Mason on Instagram. Check us out, check our website If you're in a city where we have a store, check out the store's page. We're opening up new shops all the time. We just opened up in Houston and Dallas over the last several weeks and we've got stores in many other cities across the country in more to come. Then, for me, best place to always find me is on LinkedIn. I think I'm just /Jim Davis on it. I don't know how I got lucky enough to get that so early on LinkedIn, but I think I'm pretty recognizable.

Paul: Brilliant. Well, that sounds great and next time I'm in the States in a month or so, I'm definitely going to be checking out one of those stores. Thanks a lot and hope to see you soon.

We can't wait to meet you.