August 6, 2019
Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast is Kate Huyett, CMO at Bombas. Kate discusses how Shark Tank put Bombas on the national map, the one-for-one business model and the importance of a brand mission for consumers today. Diving deep into the Bombas marketing mix, Kate discusses podcast advertising, the power of video and the diversification away from Facebook.
Jeff Ragovin: How did you go from investment banking and wealth management into marketing?
Kate Huyett: I initially got into finance partly because I was so interested in technology. I was fascinated by the IPO process and financial markets. I ended up at Goldman Sachs working in debt capital markets and I covered consumer retail and healthcare companies. Even though I loved working in the markets and enjoyed my time in finance, I found what I liked most about my job was talking to clients about how they were growing their businesses. I decided after 5 years in finance to go in-house to help build a company and make something that lasted. That kicked off my journey into startups. I didn’t know I would go into marketing, but I was the most technical of the non-engineers so I was in charge of marketing and learned from the ground up at my first startup.
Jeff Ragovin: How has your background in economics and finance helped you in creative ways for marketing and eventually being a CMO?
Kate Huyett: The first marketing job I had was performance marketing oriented so my finance background was incredibly helpful because the role was quite analytical. My finance background taught me how to make numbers easy for a wide audience to understand and tell a good story which is one of the most important skills for marketers. The rest of what finance taught me was how to build a team into a mature company. I saw the nuts and bolts of how a mature company ran and I brought those skills into my role now at Bombas.
Jeff Ragovin: Can you give us some insight to what’s happening in Bombas right now?
Kate Huyett: Bombas was started when the two co-founders saw a quote on Facebook that said “Socks are the number one most requested clothing item in homeless shelters”. They saw this quote and thought of Toms shoes one-for-one model and wanted to apply it to socks. They started to do some research and found that you can’t donate used socks to homeless shelters so there is always a shortage. They spent 2 years of research and development of the sock they sold and the sock that was meant for donation. Shark Tank was the first time we got a lot of attention.
Jeff Ragovin: How did the Shark Tank episode really change the company?
Kate Huyett: It was huge. Shark Tank has a massive audience all across the US. The initial audience we had buying Bombas was family, friends and word of mouth. Shark Tank put us on the map at a national level. It’s a huge franchise that continues to run the episodes. We are one of their more successful companies so they invite us back to give updates on the show. The segments are fairly long so it gives you room to tell a good story on a national platform.
Jeff Ragovin: Give us more insight to your social good campaigns and how well they have performed. What have you noticed from running the campaigns and do you think the mission resonates more with your customers when you do these campaigns?
Kate Huyett: Very much so. From the very beginning we have said we have 2 major brand pillars. One is comfort and the other is mission. Without either one, we don’t feel like we would be Bombas. You can have the best mission in the world, but if the product isn’t great, you should be a non-profit rather than a corporation. People buy the socks and continue to buy because they are genuinely amazing socks, but the mission is an absolutely massive draw. It is one of the reasons customers tell us they love the brand. In our Pride Campaign, we were able to do what a lot of other brands couldn’t by showing how Pride is important to us as a brand because 4 out of every 10 homeless youth identify as LBGTQIA+. That’s a really unique way to talk about Pride and make it relevant because it is something that impacts the community we serve.
What really helps people connect to our mission is that we have more than 2,000 giving partners across all 50 states. We have always been focused on solving local problems so no matter where in the country you are, Bombas is most likely working with a shelter not too far away.
Jeff Ragovin: What has been most effective in your marketing strategy and what has Bombas focused more energy on?
Kate Huyett: It has really evolved overtime. When we first got started in 2014, the first question we had to answer was could we market profitably. We had a small dollar amount of margin given what our AOV was. We started with search, Facebook, podcasts and Sirus XM. We were one of the earliest advertisers in the podcasting space, but as the years went on and Facebook became bigger and bigger, podcasting advertising gradually began to become more expensive and less effective. This was partly because we did not have the right data and analytics team to help us measure the channel’s success, and partly because as podcast advertising became more expensive, audience reach began diminishing.
Jeff Ragovin: Did you guys choose which podcasts you wanted to advertise on specifically or was it more distributed?
Kate Huyett: We chose specific podcasts. Something that was really important to us was having the host like the product and want to talk about it. We wanted people who really connected with the product and the mission so we were focused on finding people that resonated with that.
Jeff Ragovin: As far as other channels, I notice Bombas is successful on Youtube with millions of views. Did you make video a part of your marketing strategy?
Kate Huyett: Video has been great for us because we have a compelling story behind the brand. We tend to perform well in places where we have the room to tell that story. Youtube, TV, and radio performs well for us because of the space we have in those mediums as opposed to a display ad for instance.
Jeff Ragovin: Have you found similar or different companies adopting the one-to-one business model?
Kate Huyett: There are a lot of companies that already had this model and did not publicize it as much. What I am seeing increasingly is companies being much more vocal around social and political issues. More brands than ever before have been adopting this especially this past year, for example, Nike with the Colin Kaepernick commercial. Sustainability has also been an important issue. Many companies also ran Pride campaigns are now are using it to donate money to charities that impact LGBTQIA+ community and raise awareness of those issues which is not just selling product, but going a level deeper.
Jeff Ragovin: You mentioned sustainability which is something so many brands are starting to move towards and putting into the fabric of their mission. Do you think there’s even more competition to stand out as more companies start to bring sustainability into their DNA?
Kate Huyett: Yes and no. I think the real test is less ‘what is the mission’ and more ‘how are people’s actions actually lining up behind it’. As I mentioned before, Bombas donates a piece of clothing, t-shirt or pair of socks, for every one purchased. But we also have regular volunteering events in the company. We bring in a giving partners to every one of our quarterly town halls to keep us informed on what’s happening. We really engrain the mission deeply in our company and I feel like that’s why it resonates so much with people because they feel it. The main difference is saying versus doing.
Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.
Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes