Adison is an e-commerce marketing specialist and brand consultant. In 2013 (officially), he founded the global online clothing brand, P&Co, with his best friend Lee.
A different Lee and Ad, the co-founders of Electric House, interviewed Adison for an episode of the 0121 podcast. The series tells the stories of the most exciting and influential Midlands-based entrepreneurs and asks difficult questions about what we can be doing to support the city and its young creators.
In the summer of 2017, P&Co was struck by tragedy. The brand announced on their Instagram page:
“We’re not the kind of brand to sit around and hope everything will go away, so when hit with an obstacle such as a massive fire that destroys our entire inventory, we get straight back on the saddle!”
In the podcast episode, Adison credited the loyal community that he had built on Instagram with the successful relaunch of P&Co less than two weeks after the incident. Read this article to find out how P&Co created and grew a loyal community on Instagram.
P&Co started with two friends in a coffee shop, bouncing ideas around.
“We wanted to stand on our own two feet and make something that was engaged with and would be remembered. We knew a lot of people in bands that needed a brand identity and merch, so we started with Birmingham bands doing bits and bobs.”
After building a portfolio of graphic designing for local bands, Adison and Lee began making their own clothing. The duo loved fashion design, but couldn’t find any brands that were taking their inspiration from American West Coast Vintage Fashion and owning it. They compared themselves to the global success story of Superdry, who began with humble roots. P&Co started similarly, in a small unit with one man in Nuneaton; they were determined to grow in the same way.
Research from the Harvard Business School suggests that a brand biography that emphasises their underdog roots, like P&Co, enhances the relationship between consumer and brand, boosting community loyalty. This could be because the community identifies with the disadvantaged position of the underdog brand, sharing their passion and determination for them to succeed.
To build a loyal community for your brand, look no further than social media. Instagram was becoming more popular, and Adison noticed that no other brands were taking their stand on the platform and using it to connect with their audience.
“So, we started on Instagram from day one, and took all of our followers along with us on the journey. We would involve them in behind-the-scenes, where we were with factories, and the design process.”
Right from the get-go, P&Co was established not only as a clothing e-commerce company but as a substantial community brand. Not only that, but the exclusive extra content provided by P&Co to the loyal community improved the consumer-brand relationship; the community is now invested and involved in the plight of P&Co.
In August 2017, a warehouse containing all of P&Co’s stock caught fire.
“I got a phone call from Jordan, asking if I’d seen the news. He told me to sit down because he had something important to say. He said, ‘it’s all gone; there’s nothing left. We have nothing’.”
That summer, P&Co had released multiple collections that had skyrocketed them. They were running Facebook ads for the first time, and the brand was in the biggest stage of growth they’d ever had. Adison describes it as “the worst time for it to happen”. Despite this, he caught a sudden rush of adrenaline, and couldn’t find the time to get upset. Their thoughts turned to their next steps.
“Jordan looked after the operations and got stock back in as soon as possible. Lee was already looking at changing the branding, so we turned this into an opportunity. We wanted to market it perfectly and make sure people knew we were coming back.
We were open with our customers and made sure they knew what was going on. Everyone waited for us and as soon as we had the stock ready to go, it was like Black Friday! It brought a tear to my eye with how supportive our community was.”
It took P&Co less than two weeks to bounce back.
There is no one right answer as to which social media platform is the best for building an online community for your brand. P&Co chose to build their community on Instagram not only because Adison noticed a gap in the market, but because it was relevant to their brand identity.
“Instagram was really the core driver for us because our imagery sat so well on the platform. We now have a very strong loyal following of almost 350k, ship to 56 different countries, and serve 150k customers.”
Addressing the misconceptions about the brand, Adison explains that customers often think that P&Co is a multi-million-pound business, but that isn’t the case. The loyal community grows the business through word of mouth and by returning their custom. Not only does Adison credit them for keeping P&Co in business, but insists that this loyal community should be the driving force behind your business activity.
“We’ve got a really good returning customer rate and we want to do everything to engage that core loyal customer, because they’re really going to resonate with what you’re doing.”
The brand values of P&Co follow the ‘CBD rule’:
“We used to look at the brand every six to twelve months and question everything. Is this right? What are we trying to be? I’m very obsessed with looking through the brand identity guidelines of big companies and find out if they’re living by them.”
Even if your loyal community doesn’t know what your brand values are exactly, you should be reflecting your vision in everything you do as a business.
“We wanted to make sure that our values are in place with every collection we put out. To make sure the team is sharing the brand’s guidelines is very interesting.”
Building and growing a loyal community on social media can mean big things for your brand. In the case of P&Co, their loyal community that they had created on Instagram was able to support them after they lost their products in a warehouse fire.
Taking your consumers into your business journey, from humble beginnings to difficult times, will improve your relationship and boost community loyalty. Adison sums up:
“It’s the classic underdog story. We were two lads from Birmingham who had set out to create a global brand. People who had seen that first post on Instagram of us packing the orders, and had been on this incredible journey with us, were invested and wanted us to continue.”
All quotes from Adison Clark have been paraphrased and edited from the 4th episode of the 0121 Podcast.