Original content is increasingly king for fashion and beauty companies looking to court loyal customers and differentiate their brands amidst a sea of endless competition. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute has found that 70 percent of marketers across categories will invest more time and resources in original content this year than ever before.
Of a Kind — the maker marketplace which spotlights up-and-coming designers with exclusive, limited-edition collections — has taken a particularly savvy approach to the concept, with its “10 Things” newsletter and its sister podcast, “A Few Things with Claire and Erica,” hosted by company founders Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo.
The newsletter boasts 110,000 subscribers and an average click rate of 25.43 percent, said the team — a number much higher than the e-commerce industry average of 16.75 percent.
And, although the brand declined to provide listener numbers for the podcast citing a rule from Bed Bath and Beyond, which bought the company in 2015, it has courted impressive advertisers, including Warby Parker, Squarespace and Lola. It’s also frequented by high-profile guests, like Sloane Crosley, Tamar Adler and Jon Caramanica.
Both products have attracted a cultish audience in the industry, including Business of Fashion’s New York editor Lauren Sherman, The New York Times writer Marisa Meltzer and Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo.
It all began with the newsletter, which came to fruition “by accident” in December 2012. “We had sent out a couple of emails about a sale, but we got to a point where we knew that — as consumers — we wouldn’t want another email about it. So we started thinking of other ways we could talk to our audience at that weird time of year,” said Cerulo.
Of a Kind founders Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo
They decided to look to real life for inspiration. “We were in separate places at the time and hadn’t seen each other for 10 days, so we thought, ‘What if we sent a newsletter that was just a roundup of things we were doing over the holidays?’” explained Cerulo. The subject line of that first email — which included musings on everything from the nail polish Cerulo was wearing for New Year’s Eve to a Solange song Mazur had on repeat — was “10 things we’re doing besides shopping our post-holiday sale.”
The response from both customers and friends was so positive, they decided to start writing it every week, alongside more traditional marketing emails that announced new product releases and events. Its subscriber demographic information is slim, but Of a Kind tracks what readers are buying through affiliate links and purchases on its own site. Doing so has inspired new product categories on OfAKind.com.
In May of 2015, Cerulo and Mazur launched the spinoff podcast — with new episodes debuting on iTunes every Monday — to similar effect. Episodes delve into a wide range of topics, including a monthly book discussion, complete with author interviews, and pulling back the curtain on the fashion industry: One episode explored the high prices behind certain items on their site.
“By doing both very consistently, we’ve made them an integral part of our brand,” said Cerulo. We spoke to Cerulo and Mazur about how these endeavors have informed their business decisions and why content is so crucial for brands today.
What have been the biggest benefits of launching your “10 Things” newsletter?
Mazur: We built Of a Kind around the idea of the thrill of discovery and the excitement of being the first to know about a new designer before they make it big. The idea of introducing them to 10 new things across all categories — be it a pantry staple or an iPhone app — results in the same sort of emotional response. So, in addition to satisfying the audience we already had, it attracted a new audience that was also going to respond to the product we were selling on the site.
Cerulo: I think it also, inadvertently, allows us to have a testing ground to gauge what our audience is interested in and what engages them. For example, we would often link to beauty and personal care items, and found that our audience was responding really well to them, so now we sell some beauty and personal care items on our site. I don’t know if we would have made that leap otherwise.
How much of the newsletter is your own product versus not?
Cerulo: In the beginning, we never linked to our own product because we had this sense of church and state around it. But as the product mix on our site has grown along with our comfort level, we’ve started linking to things from our site when it makes sense.
Mazur: We link to them in a way that matches the ethos of “10 Things,” which is that we’re giving our personal endorsements of products we like, as well as how we’re using them. So we’re not just throwing our product links in there each week. It might be a dress I wore to a wedding recently, or something like that. Now this email generates, on average, as much revenue for us as any standard marketing email.
Why did you decide to transition “10 Things” into a podcast, as well?
Cerulo: We had been a guest on [Design Sponge editor-in-chief] Grace Bonney’s podcast, and had so much fun. There was something about the radio format that we were really comfortable with. It was right around the time that podcasts were starting to take off, and it just felt like a natural extension of “10 Things.” There were so many times where we felt we had so much more to say about something but didn’t have the platform to do it.
We had also been circling around the idea that Of a Kind was about so much more than design. It was about professional enthusiasm surrounding all of our latest and greatest discoveries, and giving our readers access to cool people, which we could do with the podcast.
You also post editorial content on your site. Do you have a dedicated team for that?
Cerulo: We do have a dedicated editor who’s amazing and works with a bunch of talented freelancers and interns. Editorial has always been core to what we’ve done. I come from the magazine world — I worked at Details and Lucky for a few years before we started the business — so I oversee that side of things.
It’s a popular opinion that original content is crucial to brands’ survival. Why do you think that is?
Cerulo: I agree, and I think it’s important for brands to consider how they’re thinking about content, what value they’re placing on it and what they’re expecting from it. Content creates a connection to the brand for the shopper who wants to feel connected to the things they’re buying, rather than buying from some anonymous company or retail site. It provides an opportunity for brands to tell their story and convey their values. But if you’re creating content solely in the hopes that each piece of content will convert, then you’re missing the point.