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Finding Fashion Consumers Beyond Instagram

Once considered fringe, platforms like Reddit, Discord and Twitch are attracting the attention of digital marketers aiming to diversify their channel mix away from Instagram.
Discord hasn't rolled out paid advertising tools yet for brands, but there's still an opportunity to reach customers there. Getty Images.
Discord hasn't rolled out paid advertising tools yet for brands, but there's still an opportunity to reach customers there. Getty Images.

When running apparel brand Tracksmith was planning its fall marketing campaign, which marked the return of the six global major marathons after a pandemic hiatus, it chose Reddit, rather than Facebook, Instagram or YouTube as the home of its big content push.

In September, Tracksmith ran paid display ads on Reddit and also hosted an “AMA” — ask me anything — question and answer session on the running “Subreddit,” a discussion forum dedicated to a given topic, which has 1.5 million subscribers.

The brand saw activating on Reddit as a way to “give to the [running] community rather than just saying, ‘here’s a digital ad of our new fall collection,’” said Lee Glandorf, director of marketing and communications at Tracksmith. The campaign’s performance is still being analysed, but Tracksmith said it is seeing “strong” new customer growth and direct sales from codes shared during the AMA session. Moving forward, it will continue to include Reddit as part of its marketing mix.

The forum platform has long been a place for engaged digital communities to gather, a phenomenon that made headlines earlier this year with the birth of meme stocks. But fashion and beauty brands are increasingly tapping its power, too.

As frustrations grow over the rising costs and diminishing returns from advertising on the go-to networks such as Facebook and Instagram, marketers are casting a wider net. Platforms including Reddit, Discord and Twitch, all of which once had a reputation as digital homes primarily for young men and gamers, are getting a closer look from fashion and beauty brands.

“You can really target people because this is the subset that wants your stuff and it’s even clearer on platforms like Reddit,” said Kevin Urrutia, co-founder of Voy Media, a digital marketing firm that specialises in Facebook advertising and has worked with fashion brands like Lacoste.

Beyond the ‘Guy in His Basement’

The common misconception about smaller social media platforms is that their audiences aren’t interested in fashion or beauty.

But that stereotype no longer holds – if it ever did. Reddit says its top fashion and style communities have 20 million monthly visitors. Reddit users interested in fashion are 41 percent more likely to visit a retailer site weekly than the average internet user, according to internal Reddit data. Meanwhile, Reddit users make nine times faster purchase decisions and spend 15 percent more, according to a study Reddit commissioned with Vero Analytics.

There’s just a more rich, emotional connection between us and some of the communities we engage with on some of these platforms.

Users on Twitch — the Amazon-owned livestreaming gaming and entertainment platform that counts 30 million daily users — are three times more likely than the average consumer to wear something they saw their favourite influencer, streamers or celebrities wearing, according to the platform’s Research Power Group, a panel of 60,000 Twitch users who take surveys to help offer insights into preferences and marketing effectiveness.

“One of the largest misconceptions I see with brands is the idea that gamers are the stereotype of a ‘guy in his basement,’” said Sarah Iooss, Twitch’s head of sales for the Americas. “Gamers are not a monolith. They are highly engaged viewers with varied interests and life experiences, just like any audience.”

These platforms are working to position themselves as destinations for marketers. Since closing its $700 million Series F funding round in August, Reddit has been beefing up its ad offerings — testing video and audio to round out the platform’s mostly text-based content — to encourage brands to reconsider the platform. In April, Reddit also stopped using programmatic ads, meaning that all its ads are manually programmed, offering brands greater control over exactly where they appear.

“We can reach hand-raisers in a way that is natural and doesn’t require targeting people with extreme data,” said Mary Ann Belliveau, Reddit’s head of large customer sales. “They’re already expressing an interest by joining a community.”

Brands are taking the bait. On Twitch, American Eagle works with both the platform’s paid ad tools and its influencer community to reach the brand’s Gen Z customers, said Craig Brommers, American Eagle chief marketing officer. The brand runs weekly custom ads, sponsors a weekly segment with creators called “The Weekly” and launched a merch collaboration with Twitch creators “2HYPE” (though that partnership materialised outside of Twitch.)

Resale platform StockX advertises on Reddit and is a Twitch partner, running standard display and banner ads on Twitch streams, its own streams that target audiences across the globe, as well as pursuing influencer partnerships and affiliate marketing within Twitch.

“There’s just a more rich, emotional connection between us and some of the communities we engage with on some of these platforms,” said StockX vice president of customer acquisition Mitzi Emrich said.

Acing the Learning Curve

It’s not just about finding new audiences, however, but also appealing to them, which is different from reaching people on platforms like Instagram.

The ads that StockX runs on Twitch perform similarly to popular digital advertising tools like programmatic and connected TV ads, Emrich said. The difference, however, is that running advertisements on Twitch requires more attention — namely in swapping out visual assets — than those more traditional pathways.

“The difference is the ability to set it and forget it,” Emrich said.

The learning curve is particularly steep on Discord, the platform that is perhaps the least familiar to fashion and beauty brands.

Discord could be considered as the “first toe in the metaverse” for brands, said Amber Atherton, Discord head of strategic communities. There are no brand profiles or homepages, but instead “servers,” customisable digital spaces that offer a combination of voice, video, images and text. The goal of any Discord server is to bring together a community, and for brands, that means offering them discovery, education, customer service or experiences such as panels.

While brands like AllSaints, 1stDibs and Nars are active on Discord, there are no paid ad tools on the platform yet, though Discord offers integrations with other platforms, like Patreon, Twitch and YouTube (For example, YouTube videos — many with ads — appear in a Discord server where users can watch together.) Discord is also testing influencer monetisation. Meanwhile, fashion brands can create digital goods that users can “purchase” using points they’ve redeemed on the platform (though they are not NFTs or tied to the blockchain.)

“We don’t charge brands to be here,” Atherton said. “Brands make a time investment instead to commit to creating a really clear strategy that’s going to entice users to come and join that community.”

While Instagram use has been linked to increases in depression and instances of harmful social comparison, Reddit, Twitch and Discord have also come under fire for toxic content on their platforms, enough to give any brand pause about whether their ads should appear on the platforms. In the UK, the government’s Office of Communications named Twitch among a handful of video-sharing platforms that must take “appropriate measures” to combat the spread of harmful content (related to terrorism, sexual abuse or racism, for example) or face financial penalty

As Discord matures, it must also address the issue of bots on its platform, including some that spread malware. Reddit also said that it has several mechanisms in place to check for brand safety, including moderators who strictly adhere to the platform’s content rules, internal safety teams and an artificial intelligence tool that helps monitor for harmful content.

Brands that seek to establish a presence on newer social media platforms must be prepared to invest both time and resources to build up communities without the promise of more sophisticated ad tools, said StockX’s Emrich. Still, the payoff can be great.

“We talk about the perceived necessary evil of a Facebook or an Instagram and, at the end of the day, I think some of those ideas are maybe tied to an old fashioned [idea] about the marketing funnel or view of a linear customer journey,” Emrich said. “It’s not just about the platforms you’re on; it’s the way you advertise and how you show up.”

Related Articles:

Can Brands Make Instagram Less Toxic?

How To Work With TikTok Talent

The Art of Going Dark on Social Media

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