Brooklinen’s tagline as “the Internet’s favorite sheets” rings more true than you might think.
In just five years, the Brooklyn-based bed sheet company secured nearly $200 million in revenue. Today, the brand has almost 200k Instagram followers and nearly 300k likes on its Facebook page. It’s also been mentioned among the highest-quality bed sheet brands in the business by the likes of GQ and Good Housekeeping.
Source: Good Housekeeping
Here’s the catch. When husband-wife duo Rich and Vicki Fulop started the company in 2014, they had almost no digital marketing experience. But instead of giving up when things got tough, they learned what they could about marketing and applied those lessons to the business.
And it worked. Brooklinen has built a massive base of loyal customers by leveraging social proof in its direct to consumer marketing.
Made a Name for Itself with Word-of-Mouth Marketing
In the early days, getting the Brooklinen name out was a top priority for Rich and Vicki Fulop. They knew they had a great product on their hands, but they needed people to see it.
As an online consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand, it wasn’t an easy sell. Brooklinen’s site and social accounts said the sheets were “hotel quality.” But from their computer screens, online shoppers had no way of verifying that.
Vicki had previous experience working in PR, so she knew who they needed to build trust — bloggers and the media. If these sources spread good word-of-mouth about their product, Brooklinen could start building a customer base. Around the same time, they also started a Kickstarter campaign to get additional funding with an end goal of $50,000.
Rich and Vicki packed up a Zipcar and drove around New York City to share their product. In total, they dropped off 60 sheet sets to different bloggers and media members. They even included handwritten notes.
“Most of them ended up really loving it,” said Vicki. Soon, word around the city started to pick up about this new Brooklyn startup selling hotel-quality bed sheets at an affordable price.
The pair hit their Kickstarter campaign goal of $50,000 within a week. Thirty days into the campaign, Brooklinen raised almost $237,000. Rich added that their Kickstarter backers were very happy with their results and got a lot of referrals for them.
Brooklinen was off to the races. Rich and Vicki used some of the money from the campaign to build a Shopify website and do a product photoshoot.
With a growing local presence in New York City, they also invested in subway ads.
Source: Working Not Working
The ads were clever and witty, but Rich and Vicki didn’t know if they were really working. They saw occasional spikes in sales while their subway ads were up but had no way of knowing whether they were tied to the campaign.
To fix that, they offered promo codes on their ads for customers to get free shipping or a discount. This helped the couple track how people were getting to the Brooklinen website and buying products.
But Rich and Vicki were already thinking bigger. Their local efforts were paying off, but they wanted the rest of the world to know the Brooklinen brand.
Boosted Brand Awareness with Influencer Platforms
With some local buzz and a little more money in their pockets, Vicki and Rich wanted to invest in influencer outreach.
They decided to use the influencer marketing agency Mediakix. The company commissioned 10 home design and lifestyle influencers to show how they used Brooklinen’s products in their trendy homes.
As a result, the total number of people who saw the social media content that the influencers posted reached 1.6 million, and its total blog viewership from the influencers hit 2.1 million. The influencers also brought in an additional 140,000 video views and another 115,000 in Instagram Story views.
With these results, Brooklinen used an influencer platform again to promote its new bed sheets launch. The influencer marketplace ACTIVATE connected the brand with 12 lifestyle influencers. They generated 24+ pieces of custom content for Brooklinen’s social accounts.
These influencers encouraged their followers to buy Brooklinen’s new sheets by sharing personalized discount codes. The top three influencers brought in $7,300 in sales for the new line. The company’s revenue from this outreach ended up being higher than the influencer fees.
Brooklinen also had some fun with its influencer marketing efforts by bringing pets into the mix.
The company connected with 10 pet influencers (well, most likely their owners) for a subway station takeover. They took photos of the different pets on Brooklinen products and added cute and snappy messaging. The ads were placed throughout the 8th Ave./14th St. station in New York City for over four weeks.
This campaign gave Brooklinen a chance to forge an emotional connection with its customers. The company’s goal was to simply put a smile on peoples’ faces and introduce them to the Brooklinen brand and products.
Strengthened Loyal Customer Base by Rewarding Shoppers
Through consistent word-of-mouth marketing, Brooklinen has built quite a strong following. How has Brooklinen been able to maintain this loyal base of customers? By rewarding them.
Consider its Comfort Crew rewards program. Customers receive 1,000 points (which can be used toward purchases) for every friend they refer to Brooklinen, and the friend receives $25 off their first purchase of $100 or more.
This successful refer-a-friend program accounted for roughly 12% of all website traffic in August 2020. Parachute, one of Brooklinen’s top competitors in the direct to consumer bedding space, only received about 7% of its traffic from referrals in the same month.
Brooklinen doesn’t just give shoppers monetary rewards. They also recognize customers by developing products based on their input. According to Rich, the company came up with the idea of developing loungewear based on customer surveys.
This feedback also helps Brooklinen refine current products. Through surveys, the company has learned that customers care about softness and fair-trade certification, but not embroidery and organic cotton.
This feedback-based product development benefits shoppers and the business. Customers get the products they want, and Brooklinen gets the customer information they need to develop profitable products.
Offered CPG Brands a Blueprint for Direct to Consumer Marketing
If you’re an online CPG brand, you can’t expect consumers to take your word for it when it comes to product quality. People usually want to touch and feel the product themselves to come to their own conclusions.
But as Brooklinen shows, there is a workaround for CPG brands.
Start by leveraging word-of-mouth marketing to build trust with your audience. Once you’ve built that following, nurture your audience by rewarding them and listening to what they have to say. These tried-and-true tactics will help you get the direct to consumer marketing results your brand needs to help build its own empire.