You know a brand is using social media well when it tells a story without throwing a product in your face, and yet you’re enticed to shop with that brand based on one Instagram photo.
Millions of people around the globe use social media platforms to connect with friends, family, celebrities, artists, groups, organizations and the like. But one of the most important connections an individual can make on social media is with a coveted brand. Enter, Herschel Supply Co.
Herschel is a Canadian born-and-bred accessory brand whose roots stem all the way from, you guessed it, Herschel (Saskatchewan). The brand produces several different products all categorized by “lines,” basically what we fashion noobs would call “collections.” From backpacks and wallets, to messenger bags and laptop sleeves, Herschel Supply Co. has branded itself as a global accessory company with acute attention to detail. But they are also social media genius’ and it’s because they’re doing everything right.
Consider they way in which they market their brand through social media. Herschel doesn’t simply throw up pictures of their own product on Instagram with a few promo codes here & there and hope that someone buys a duffel bag. Instead, they have cleverly sought to reach a specific group or “niche” of people (both here in Canada and internationally); specifically, people who travel, are into adventure, the outdoors or any state of being which requires a VSCOcam filter. A quintessential “hipster” brand used by hipsters & non-hipsters alike, Herschel reaches millions of people through clever social media marketing, and it’s working. Really well. How are they doing it?
For one, Herschel actually gives the people what they want. Every product the brand designs is unique in its style, fabric, print, makeup and its advertisment. Several other brands have copied their style and essentially use Herschel as their muse. They make functional items for literally every occasion – whether you’re boarding a plane to Europe, camping in the middle of nowhere, canoeing in Alberta or shopping in Toronto, there’s a product perfect for you. They don’t have just one collection, but several, offering customers a wide range of products from which to choose, and not just one color of one product, but a vast array of options. They’ve made accessory shopping unique, personal and personalized, which is far more than many travel accessory brands can say. Herschel allows its customers to choose from so many options that you never feel limited and the product you buy can reflect your personality. Into floral? Great, Herschel has bags, totes and beyond, all in that pattern. Looking for a sleek, black duffel? Well, you’re in luck, Herschel makes those too. I happen to own several accessories from their collection of black/white/red products. Walking around the York University campus, where I attend whilst completing my Classics degree, I see so many people sporting Herschel that I might as well be in their supply factory.
Herschel has also utilized social media to their advantage by engaging with their customers in a way that isn’t all about them. Let’s take a look at their Instagram as a prime example. You won’t catch Herschel crowding its Insta feed with a bunch of photos taken from their website and blurbs about how great & functional their products are. Instead, Herschel posts pictures from its customers who have tagged their own Instagram photos with one or more of Herschel’s cleverly-crafted hashtags. Their #WellTravelled campaign encourages Instagram users to take photos of their adventures with the hashtag and post them to social media – irregardless of whether the user is a Herschel customer. Additionally, they are smart in having more than one campaign going at a time with photography contests like #CityLimitless, a campaign that continues to grow despite the contest being long over. They have a multifaceted blog which features users’ photography, Journals about various adventures, product features and more from their campaigns; their Twitter acts more like a guide to everyday life than it does a promotional method to market their brand despite their constant use of their personal hashtags peppered into each tweet. They’ve connected social media accounts by linking their Twitter & Facebook together, so all users and customers can keep up with all things Herschel. So the company, whilst being very present on social media, is actually marketing their brands through customers, as opposed to marketing their brand at customers. That’s hella clever.
You know a brand is using social media well when their social media can tell a story without throwing a product in your face, and yet you’re enticed to shop with that brand based on one Instagram photo alone. Herschel sells the idea of a lifestyle which you can have with its products, rather than selling you the product. Clever, no?
But the brand also moves, and this is perhaps the most important and impressive aspect of why Herschel is so successful at social media. All of their platforms are social media user friendly; that’s key, considering we live in a world where everyone is looking at their phones more than at one another. They move with their customers and followers depending on what each follower/customer is looking for. A person looking strictly to buy a Herschel product can easily find their website on any of the brand’s social media accounts. Aspiring photographers will be more likely to follow or be attracted to Herschel’s Instagram, whereas brand-fans will use Twitter to keep up with new product releases similar to how fans follow the releases of albums or music from their favorite artists. It’s easy to get support from the brand, considering they have a separate Twitter account specifically set up to help customers and followers with every question imaginable. As people move, the brand can move with them due to its clever and rather smart use of social media. But really, it’s the other way around: people will move with the brand because Herschel makes it easy and so effortless that you’d probably never realize you were moving with them, and not vice versa.
It doesn’t hurt, either, that the brand is constantly creating in order to stay relevant and ahead of competition like Poler Stuff, another brand creating accessories like Herschel which are functional for almost any situation. Herschel does this through collaborations which see the brand working with other brands on products, collabs which solidify Herschel’s presence in the industry as collabs don’t let you forget who made what and with whom. Many brands would have newsletters go the way of the Dodo, but Herschel still sends them out and thus encourages customers to remain connected, even if you’re already obsessed with them on Instagram or drool over their products on their website. I should probably mention that Herschel makes it easy to purchase their products via their website, because it offers the customer various payment options. You can pay with your credit card, debit card or heck, why not purchase that new duffel using your PayPal account? If you live in Canada, shipping is relatively quick from the company’s Vancouver location, which definitely helps with customer satisfaction. I can attest to the quick shipping times; I once ordered a backpack and received in three days later with the nicest packaging.
With its use of social media so evidently advanced, it’s no wonder many consider Herschel a digital media darling. The brand quite literally uses every social media tool available to it. If we consider how involved they are across social media without actually talking about themselves, yet they sell thousands of bags per year without batting an eye, we’d have to admit that this brand is pretty darn clever. Herschel didn’t set out to be a social media socialite but with the founders of the brand having represented large brands prior to starting their own, it’s obvious as to why the brand would succeed. Literally anyone can own a Herschel product, despite many assuming it’s a hipster brand; I know several people who have never even heard of Herschel and yet, someone they know (like me) owns several of the brand’s products. Whether you’re a college frat boy, a preppy drama-club member, a skateboarder or lawyer, it doesn’t really matter with Herschel because their products speak to everyone, and they’ve made backpacks cool again. Without social media, the brand really wouldn’t be as popular as it is; after all, not everyone can physically visit a store or location selling Herschel merchandise in order to make a purchase. As the writers at Twist Image say, brands need to be digitally-led first, and Herschel does just that. It digitally leads us to nicer, more expensive backpacks through it’s really smart use of social media. How can you argue that when just one gander of their Instagram feed makes a wanderlust-ridden zombie of us all?
But what does all of this mean for those of us looking to use social media, or even to have a career-oriented role in the world of social media? If there’s one thing we can take away from Herschel’s social media success, it’s the fact that we have to be willing to understand social media first. You want to make your own brand? You’ll need to understand social media. Have a company you want to market better digitally? Ask yourself if you know how to use social media to increase your reach, grow your following and reach your target consumers. Personally, as a freelance writer I require social media to promote my writing just a novelist in the 21st century needs it to promote their book(s). I have a desire to learn about it because it can advance my career and my sphere of influence; could it not do the same for you? Your business? Your brand? I’m curious to see how my experience with learning about social media helps me utilize it in the real world, and whether I can become as savvy & successful with social media as Herschel has.