What it Means to be a ‘Brandvocate’

How we joined the club to brand the club

Last fall we received the opportunity to work with entrepreneur, Katie Fritts and her company, Underclub — an online subscription service that delivers a custom selection of designer underwear to members each month. We were asked to build a brand identity for the San Francisco-based startup — a complex yet rewarding task we felt excited about taking on.

Those of us in the advertising industry know that brand extends further than a company’s visual identity and tagline — although those pieces are critical; a brand’s identity must be cohesive across all touch points — from its logo to its language to its packaging — and it must consistently reflect the company’s core values. With this holistic understanding, our creative team rolled up their sleeves and prepared to completely immerse themselves in Underclub’s story and service.

So, without further ado, here are the five ways both I and Berlin Cameron joined the club to brand the club.

1. We invested in the creative ‘briefing’ process

‘Briefs’ provide a fundamental starting point — both for creative development, and for your underwear collection. We had our strategy team perform a cultural and competitive audit on the niche underwear subscription space. Tailoring this information to Katie Fritts’ unique vision for her brand, we built a comprehensive brief to communicate to our creatives the type of tone and identity that would speak to Underclub’s target audience of smart and savvy women. By putting careful thought into crafting an illustrative deck, we were able to inspire appropriate creative output.

2. We only tapped team members that truly ‘fit’ the task

“It’s not just about an inspired aesthetic,” says our creative director, Michael Milligan. “It’s about understanding the strategic objectives, knowing where the unique creative opportunities for the brand lie, and having the experience to bring them to life.”

Under his guidance and leadership, art director, Rafael Cordoba and junior copywriter, Jennifer Kong, produced work that not only aligned with Underclub’s playful tone, but also appealed to their own personalities and interests. A pun aficionado and apologist, Jennifer was more than excited to unleash her ‘cheeky’ side writing Underclub taglines. Raf, a fashionable Parson’s graduate with an eye for design found the visual branding process particularly interesting. Tapping an apt and knowledgable team of creatives allowed for more in-depth development, faster revisions, and more energetic, focused workflow.

3. We subscribed to a confident state of behind

You know how they say “only write about what you know”? I only brand what I know. As soon as we decided to work with Katie Fritts, I treated myself — and all the full-time women at the agency — to an Underclub subscription, so we could experience first-hand what the service was all about. Subscribing to Underclub changed my mindset in unexpected ways. As the mom of two boys under four, I don’t exactly pamper myself with new designer underwear every time the seasons change. I’ll admit, I was holding on to pairs older than Cleopatra’s mummified body. Receiving high quality underwear in the mail that fit my preferences was truly a delight — one that I wouldn’t have completely understood without experiencing Underclub’s service for myself. Personally, I can’t advocate for a company without believing in their value proposition. And a service like personalized underwear delivery is something you have to see (or wear) to believe.

4. I brought a personal service to my personal life

In addition to subscribing the women at the agency to Underclub, I also used the holidays as a timely opportunity to test the service out on my friends and family. When you become so entrenched in the branding process, you can lose your objective perspective, which is why I reached out to my mommy friends and relatives for their fresh feedback on the Underclub experience. Not only did I use my outside social circles as a focus group to vet Underclub’s design, I also made a non-trivial dent in the startup’s subscriber count. Do not quote me on this, but I may actually hold the title of Underclub’s top customer based on number of subscriptions given. I did not expect to become a marketing maven for Underclub, but as I shared their discount codes in my group chats and NYC Moms Facebook page, I realized I had somehow become a ‘brandvocate’ in every sense of the term.

5. I made it about more than just underwear

For a brand to take off, it has to do more than look good; it also has to do good. With this marketing maxim in mind, I put Underclub on the road to developing a compelling cause strategy that would speak to their target audience and the public at large. I linked them up with nonprofits like GirlUp, which I thought fit their identity as a company that empowers women. I also connected them with a PR consultant, who I know first-hand has just the experience and specialty to help Underclub get the right kind of exposure. Being a boutique agency, we don’t always follow a rigid protocol; especially when working with a startup — and if we happen to have the right resources — we will go beyond the scope of the original project to help our clients achieve long-term success.

To bum it up: it’s all about cohesiveness

No matter how sexy, sleek or sophisticated, you can’t just slap on a lovely logo and call it a brand. In order to build a strong identity for Underclub, we did more than just skim the surface. Both professionally and personally, we kept the bigger picture in mind as we worked on creating the best possible visual identity and language to communicate Underclub’s unique offering to the world. During this holistic branding process, I — and my creative team (including the awesome guys) became loud and proud #Underwomen. When it comes to branding a startup, sometimes you really do have to go under to come out on top.