Episode 3: Brie Read

Brie Read from Snag Tights on building a business and a community

Brie Read is the founder of Snag Tights and a size acceptance campaigner. Snag’s sales are rocketing as they provide tights for women who can’t find a good fit elsewhere while at the same time challenging perceptions with beautiful photography.

She shares her success recruiting customers through social and Snag’s rapid international expansion.

It’s a really inspiring story and another example of a business doing well and doing good.

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Andrew Veitch: Welcome to the Joy of Marketing. This week, I’m joined by Brie Read from Snag Tights. Brie had several years of marketing before starting her own businesses. She’s the founder of Snag, which provides properly fitting tights for women who can’t find the right fit elsewhere. And looking at the Snag website, I see she’s also branched out into modeling, with a beautiful photo of herself and Snags on the site. Welcome to the show.

Brie Read: Thank you very much.

AV: So beautiful photography, beautiful women on your site. I’m guessing that that photography has been a big part of your success.

BR: So almost all of our photos are UGC. So we do some photos, sheets with our customers, but all of the models are actually customers. And most of the photographs, the ones they’ve taken themselves. And we found that it’s a really good way to have people appear really natural and happy and content and, you know, feel in control of the experience that they’re having. And I think that makes for just, you know, much nicer photographs really.

AV: Sure. So it just took me a moment to work out. UGC is user generated content.

BR: Yeah.

AV: And I guess that probably also then explains why you’ve done so well on Instagram isn’t if you’ve got all of these beautiful photos.

BR: Yes, I think having the the visual images is a way not just being able to catch how happy you are with the product, but also to kind of share that joy. And I think something that people did very word of mouth like before, where they would talk about a product, you know, face to face with someone, often now they do the same thing by taking a picture of themselves in it and sharing it, if it’s on, you know, Instagram, or they make a TikTok of it, or it’s on Facebook, you know, wherever they’re doing it, it’s a very, it’s very kind of fun thing to share. And I think that helps a lot.

AV: I have to admit that at 48 I think I’m just too old to install TikTok. But I think what I’m hearing is, it sounds really, like you’re, you’re building a community, rather than just a business.

BR: So we do get called a cult a lot. And I think it’s, you know, it’s a fun way of people connecting with each other, and everybody has, you know, parts, which are different of them, and parts, and normally a very shared experience of the world. And I think having, you know, tights that don’t fit and finding tights that fit kind of, in a way you find your tribe with that, because these are people who have lots of the same experiences, you know, not being able to buy the clothes that they want, on the high street, you know, having issues with, you know, being represented in magazines, and the media, and, you know, just being represented in general. And, you know, when people find that they’re not alone, and actually, they’re in the majority, you know, 60% of women are now over a size 14, you know, this isn’t, isn’t a kind of, you know, little backwater of people, this is the majority. And I think that does change how you feel about yourself and your experience with the world and makes you demand better.

AV: Yeah. And, you know, I just think you’re out, you know, the previous show had Mark from Bella and Duke, and although it’s a business, it’s much more than that for him. It’s a real passion. And this kind of seems to be something very similar about Snag I get the feeling that this isn’t purely a business that you’re running, you know, purely for, from a commercial point of view, but you know, it’s something a bit bigger.

BR: Absolutely, I think it’s, you know, the happiness you get it is changing people’s lives. And, you know, I never would have believed something so small could make such a big difference in people’s lives. But it really does. Because if you don’t have tights that fit, you can’t wear skirts, you can’t wear dresses, you don’t feel comfortable outside, you can’t express your individuality in the way that you want to. And being able to express who you are in the inside on the outside is a massive thing for people. And that’s what we give them we give them the you know, the first step towards doing that. And we did a video recently with this incredible lady, and she’s in her gold house wearing a gold crown her hair’s pink lipstick, you know, her makeup is amazing, she’s wearing this gorgeous outfit. And the first thing she says is, you know, before I found Snags, I didn’t know how to express myself. And you’re looking at her and your going, how do you not know how to express yourself? You’re so fabulous, but it this initial step she was always that way on the inside, but she can put together the outside and we can help him that in a very small way.

AV: Yeah, it sounds absolutely amazing. And I think so many great businesses are made looking at a market that’s been forgotten about, by everybody else.

BR: I think that’s really true. I think it’s, you know, markets that have forgotten about and people that have forgotten about and I think as a person you you know, you sit in so many different markets, you’re in market for so many goods all the time, but you know, it’s some people get left out of that a lot more than others. And I think it’s really, it’s important to show that those markets are not just large, but those people have spending power outside of that single product. I had an email recently from a mum and she was thanking us for the variety of women we use in our in our adverts because she doesn’t want her daughter to grow up in a world where, you know, all she sees is supermodels and feels that she has to live up to that ideal and the fact that there were people like her mum in adverts, you know, really changed that girl’s perspective on you know, what you want to be when you grew up how you feel about your own body, how you feel about yourself. So I think there’s something much, much wider that we can do that is really important.

AV: Yeah that sounds really important, actually. So I guess, just moving on, on on a little bit from your mission to, I guess, some of the practicalities, which I’m sure will be interesting for a lot of our listeners who have their own e-commerce stores. I mean, is was it sort of social was that the engine of customer recruitment in your business?

BR: Yep. So social is absolutely the engine of all of our recruitment, so also all of our communication. So we we recruit on social through, you know, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok as well. But that’s also where we talk to our customers. So we don’t do emails, we don’t do weekly emails, monthly emails, anything like that. Instead, we talked to our customers on the platform where we first discovered them. And for us, that’s been a really valuable way of connecting with them and maintaining those interactions. We’ve always said that, as our customers ask us for things, that’s when we’ll add them into our into our mix. And we’ve had a lot of requests recently for things like emails when we have, you know, new products in stock, or when we’re launching something different. So we have started to build out those things into notifications that people want. But again, it’s very much what the customer wants, and what they feel is, you know, important for them to have a good experience with the brand.

AV: Yeah, absolutely. And, of course, I mean, my my day job at Machine Labs, most of the businesses is email marketing. And I mean, I will say that our customers who email very frequently, are actually seeing good short term results. But I do sometimes question if that very heavy emailing strategy is really the right thing for the longer term. And, you know, I mean, I mean, certainly what you’re doing sounds much more sustainable.

BR: I think it is more sustainable. And, you know, I’ve always seen good return in the short term with email as well. But I think it’s, you know, how you want your customer to feel? And do you want them to feel, you know, like you’re brand that selling to them? Or do you want them to feel included in the overall experience and part of the company, we like to see ourselves very much as co-owned with our customers. So you know, customers are as much part of this as we are. And to do that, you have to then do things that they like. So you know, we, we also don’t do things like, you know, heavy display retargeting, because, again, people just get annoyed by it. So you know, if you’re inviting the customer into your brand, to like, live there and dwell there, then you can’t also piss them off at the same time. So you have to choose your your marketing channels carefully to curate that experience.

AV: Again, I can see that so I mean, I mean, just looked at your website, you know, there wasn’t a pop up, there weren’t offers all over the website. I actually, although obviously, I’m not the target market. I mean, I find it quite emotional. Actually, I just saw these incredibly positive images. And I actually, frankly, the way the weather is today in Scotland, I’m quite tempted to buy a pair of tights myself, just a bit of extra adulation. But you’ve definitely not gone down a standard direct route whatsoever on what you’re doing.

BR: Yeah, and I think that’s, the customer has alwaus been at the center of those decisions, actually, 10% of our customers are men. And particularly, we have a high number of brickies that our customers so when they’re outside work in the winter, under their jeans, they’ve got a pair of super warm Snags to keep them you know, super toasty. So we’ve actually started including images of men through the site as well, which has been a little bit of a change, but I think we want to reflect who our customers are. And when 10% of your customers or men, you can’t ignore them, you know, on your website as well. So we try and be as inclusive as we possibly can. And we change that by region as well. So we’ve got five different websites, all for different regions. And the look and feel of the images is different in each one. So that when you go to the website, it feels like it represents you as a person you know, and it doesn’t feel alien to you and you feel immediately welcome and it’s been a lot of work kind of maintaining that but I think it is definitely worth it.

AV: And what that actually does bring me on to international. Because I think you do have quite a large chunk of revenue from outside the UK. And I did notice, you’ve suddenly got your site in other languages as well, how’s that gone?

BR: It’s gone really well. So about 50% of our business is now in the UK. And the rest is, is overseas. The US, Germany, are kind of two biggest markets, followed by kind of France and Holland. And we’ve got increasing sales from the Far East. So at the moment, we’re launching an Asia website, which is our first one. In Asia, we have a Russian website, because it gets very cold in Russia. And we’d love to have a Canadian one, again, the same rules on an American one. And then we have a kind of a little plethora of European ones. So is just really important Australia, as well as a massive market for us. And, again, you’re completely counter cyclical. So you know, right now, the Australian website is “My Chub Rob shorts, it’s summer”, you know, this is a great way of going out and all the other websites are like, it’s absolutely freezing here are some super warm tights. So it gives us the ability to kind of customize it in those ways as well.

AV: I absolutely love the name, Chub Rub, is just a brilliant brand. And is it just the same social channel, that’s worked in just the same way as you’ve rolled out internationally.

BR: Yes, it’s the same social channel, we, we asked our customers lots of things, we asked them about whether or not they wanted social channels in their own language. And they said, No, they prefer to have it in English. And if it was a really important announcement, they’d like a translation at the bottom. So we do that in German, particularly, and, and that’s kind of how everyone wants to engage with it, because you want to feel part of the the wider community, you know, rather than just a kind of small part. So, you know, people seem to like it, like it better that way.

AV: Great. And, obviously, you know, even the best tights don’t last forever. I mean, did you do anything around sort of retention or reactivation? Or is that just just all organic,

BR: So about 70% of our customers come back to buy again, so it’s a high number. And again, you know, we find that that’s very natural. And because we’re talking to them all the time on social as well, sometimes that’ll be because, you know, they need a new pair of something they’ve already bought, or they want to buy into, you know, one of our limited editions, or they want to try a completely new thing that we’ve launched. So we find that there’s a lot of repeat purchase. And that’s something we are concentrating on a little bit more now during COVID. Because it’s easier to sell to people who already know, you know, the quality and will go, or I better buy this for when I can go outside again, rather than you know, leave it and I know they won’t have it back, you know, later on in the year. So it’s definitely been part of our COVID strategy to sell more to existing customers.

AV: I have to say, I mean, 70% of customers reordering is, is astounding. I mean that is way over really the sort of benchmark that you would expect. And obviously, that also indicates that customers obviously absolutely love the product. Or there’s no way you could have such a huge reorder rate. I guess the other thing was such passionate customers is that there’s bound to be a lot of referral. I mean, do you do anything to encourage that? Or do you just let it happen naturally?

BR: We thought about it, but we let it happen naturally, I think because it’s just a much more authentic interaction, you know, Hey, I got these amazing tights, they’re called Snag Tights, they completely changed my life so much better than, oh, you know, you could get a 10% discount if you use my code when you buy the product. So it’s like we try and keep all of our interactions as authentic as possible. So we haven’t gone down the the kind of recommendation route. And you know, it still works where we’re there for people particularly, we have this scheme where if you buy a pair of tights, and you bought the wrong size, we’ll send the right size out to you again, and we’ll ask you to pass that pair of tights on to somebody else who could use them. And I think that’s a really kind of genuine way of doing it. So you know, we know that happens quite a bit, which is a nice way of you know, spreading the word and kind of trial without being too. Yeah, too rigid in the way we implement that.

AV: Yeah, I absolutely love that. And it I mean, to us, even as a consumer myself, I kind of feel a little bit uncomfortable about almost monetizing my friends isn’t, you know, I’ve got something good. I want to recommend to them. I don’t think I don’t think you know, I need a fiver or something. So yeah, I agree with you. And certainly when I’ve actually tried retention schemes. I’m really not sure I got any more sorry, recommendation schemes, I don’t think I’ve got any more recommendations that I had before I launched the thing in the first place. So I guess I suppose my other question then just on marketing, I know you’ve done a lot of offline marketing in the past, when have you thought about moving some sort of spend offline as well?

BR: Well, actually, we’re trialing type TV now for the first time in Germany. So we’re doing a three month test in Germany. And it’s a it’s an interesting kind of process. For us, we’re very used to being able to control ad spend on a day by day basis, you know, pushing it, where we need to push it and being very proactive with it. And we’re kind of sitting there now, it’s been live for 20 days, and we’re just like, we can’t do anything contrary. And you know, we can’t, we can’t make it work harder for us. And it, which is quite a frustrating feeling. But I think it’s also important to, you know, do stuff like that to particularly new regions to get that kind of brand awareness up. And where you have a little bit more reticence about buying online, it does give you a kind of legitimacy. So you know, wouldn’t say at this point, we do it again. But it’s definitely something we’re prepared to test.

AV: That’s interesting. Just on the subject of testing, I know that you’ve, you’re a very data driven person. But a lot of what I’m seeing on Snag is actually quite a lot of steps, way beyond data. So I’m quite interested in how you have that balance when you think about marketing between looking at the numbers, but also just, you know, thinking from the heart sometimes as well.

BR: Definitely, that the other part of it is asking your customers and I think that’s the bit that gives me, you know, real surety about those hard decisions. Because what you’ll do is you’ll, you know, you look at the data, if you want to do something else you go, I feel this is the right way to do it. And then I have discussion with our customers on Instagram or on Facebook and go look, this is what we’re thinking, you know, do you think it work? And if they’re all going, Yeah, no, I think that’d be great. You know, you’ve got it, right. And if they’re like, Yeah, no, it doesn’t really sit well with me, you’re kind of like, yeah, that’s that’s not a great decision. So we’ve kind of got, you know, inbuilt focus groups, which, which help us make better decisions. And I think that’s probably been the strongest thing we’ve done.

AV: And that, of course, is one of the fantastic things about social as a marketing channel isn’t is you get that feedback so quickly, good or bad. And I will say I’ve had over the years, but you’re certainly never in a position where you’re left wondering what people think.

BR: Exactly. And you know, we regularly have what we call all the time and have really bad even posts where people are like, Oh, you shouldn’t have said that you can’t use that word, you can’t say things like that. And, you know, immediately we’ll change it. And we’ll listen to them, we’ve actually gotten to the point now, where we have a whatsapp group of our largest detractors, so people who have been most negative about previous posts, and we’ve asked them very much to help us, you know, going forward. So now if we do anything that’s even vaguely controversial, we’ll, we’ll talk to them in the whatsapp group about the right, you know, not about whether or not we should say the controversial thing, but that we use the right words to say it so people can concentrate on the actual thing that we’re saying and not go, you know, you said that in the wrong way. And that’s, that’s working really well. And that was after having, you know, quite a few incidents where we, you know, got it slightly wrong. So that’s what we do at the moment.

AV: But, I mean, it’s incredibly hard to do anything powerful in marketing and not be a little bit controversial for at least some people.

BR: Yeah, and I, you know, I like us being controversial. And, you know, we are controversial a lot. What I don’t want to do is, you know, offend anyone based on, you know, you know, the way they perceive themselves. And I think a lot of the issues we have around things like, you know, the term plus size real women, real people and that stuff, you know, you have to kind of negotiate quite, you know, quite carefully. So, you know, calling a fat woman, a real woman is not an okay thing, because all women are real women, you know, and all people who identify as women are real women. So you have to be really, really careful about that terminology. So, you know, that group helps us helps us pick our words to make sure that the controversial thing we say, you know, can be controversial, but nobody’s taking us off for you know, not approaching it in the correct framework.

AV: Thank you very much. Brie Read from Snag, and I think that was just a really inspiring story. If you want to know more about Machine Labs and our marketing app for Shopify, just search “Machine Labs”. See you next week on the Joy of Marketing.

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