How Bombas adapted creative for COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter

To date, 2020 has been “the year of Q4.” That’s according to Luz Ramirez, director of retention at Bombas,  a direct-to-consumer apparel brand. In other words, this year has been rife with high-stakes opportunities for pivoting marketing strategies and rethinking approaches to consumer engagement, similar to how the brand typically functions in Q4.

“Each quarter, there’s been a shift in the plan,” said Kate Huyett, chief marketing officer of Bombas, in a recent Real Time Banter. “We’ve had to completely revamp our email strategy twice already, two quarters in.”

Certain brands, like Bombas, have been particularly skilled and sensitive in navigating these unexpected changes. We caught up with Huyett in a recent Real Time Banter to get an in-depth look at how the brand adapted its creative messaging to reflect what’s currently happening in the world from COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter and Pride.

Emphasize comfort at home

Bombas has historically marketed its core product, No Show socks, from March to September. This year, however, the brand saw decreased in engagement on its first round of No Show emails. Why? Because people were staying at home and self-isolating, so they didn’t need low-cut socks to wear out with sneakers and loafers.

So Bombas had to adapt to meet these new consumer behaviors and speak to people where they were—lounging at home.

“We really had to shift our messaging, like every other apparel brand in the space,” Huyett said. “We started to really lean more into comfort-at-home, and No Shows kind of took a back seat.”

Reference multiple data points

There could be a number of reasons why a campaign drives low engagement—creative messaging, audience targeting, delivery times. These are all valid factors that contribute to performance. That’s why it’s important to track multiple data points in order to identify areas of improvement.

“You really need that whole suite of data to show what you’re seeing throughout the customer journey—from Google search volume, from Facebook, from LiveIntent, from TV,” Huyett said. “[You need to be able to say] here’s what we’re seeing in terms of conversion rate on the product detail page for this product vs. other products.”

Otherwise, you could be wasting your budget and resources on ineffective campaigns. And you’ll miss valuable opportunities for optimization.

Bombas, for instance, found that creative with the most colorful socks perform best. That’s what gets people in the door and over to the brand’s website. Yet once people are there, they actually end up purchasing socks in more muted colors like black, white, and gray.

Take cues from customers

For Bombas, business slowed in March because customers were more concerned about getting food in their pantry and staying safe. So the brand slowed down their promotional email outreach and shifted their messaging in response. Internally, the brand also shifted its focus to doing what they were founded to do – help those in need. The Bombas Giving Team  focused their efforts on providing support to those experiencing homelessness throughout the country in new ways,  recognizing that the homeless community is among the most vulnerable during this pandemic, while the Corporate Sales team shifted from selling products to donating socks to frontline healthcare workers across the country. Once Bombas started to see revenue increase again, they slowly bumped up their email frequency and promotional messaging,while remaining committed to helping the community and sharing more about their giving efforts more regularly. The company also launched a  Pride campaign, starting in late May, highlighting both their Pride product line, as well as their Giving efforts supporting the LGBTQ+ community. When the national conversation shifted around the Black Lives Matter movement, Bombas shifted its approach again.

“We really pulled back and moderated our tone, and changed over our creative to be more relevant and show  our support for the Black Community,” Huyett said. “While, we’re still in the period of watching customer behavior, it’s always important to us that we remain true to who we are as a brand  and are vocal about our support and actions.

Highlight charity efforts

Once the pandemic started, Bombas prioritized sending its “giving” emails, which highlight the company’s charity efforts with more than 3,500 partners across the country. Bombas typically sends one giving email each month. After its first giving email during the pandemic drove four times the normal engagement, they ramped up to sending one each week.

“Once again,” Huyett said, “we let the data guide us.”

Combine creative messaging

Since Pride month and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement overlapped, Bombas reworked their creative messaging to ensure they continued to talk about both areas of focus.

For example, along with an email announcing the restock of Bombas’ Pride socks, which sold out in a week, the brand highlighted the story of Marsha P. Johnson, a black gay liberation activist and one of the most notable figures in the Stonewall riots.

“We work with several of these organizations year-round. We wanted to ensure that we were speaking both to our support of Pride and the LGBTQ+ community, but in a way that also recognized and supported the Black Lives Matter movement. We were able to do so  through highlighting organizations we’ve worked with for years, who focus on supporting Black queer lives and transpeople and speaking to the intersection between race, sexuality and homelessness – which has always been a main driver behind our mission” Huyett said.