Branding lessons from a household name: Spanx

Branding

You’d be hard-pressed to find a human who hasn’t heard of Spanx. In fact, you’d struggle to find a woman who hasn’t worn something from one of the iconic shapewear company’s collections.

Spanx is currently worth over 1 billion USD and its founder, Sara Blakely, was once crowned the youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes.

But how did the business ascend to such legendary status? In this article, we’re zooming in on their brand strategy to fuel your imagination and offer some practical inspiration.

Relatable backstory

Back in 1998, Sara had a problem while getting ready for a party: she didn’t have the right undergarment to wear with cream-coloured trousers. Her solution? Cutting the feet off some control top pantyhose. Sara later invested $5,000 of her own money (earned by selling fax machines!) into creating a prototype – and the rest is history.

This story about Spanx’s humble beginnings does wonders for the brand because it creates an emotional connection with consumers.

People can imagine the dilemma because they’ve likely experienced something similar.

They also enjoy supporting a woman who independently built a business from the ground up.

Bold approach

Nothing about Spanx is subtle, which was disruptive to an industry that had always focused on quietly hiding women’s “flaws”:

  • The brand name is playful and tongue-in-cheek
  • The packaging is bright red and pink (a stark contrast to a sea of beige!)
  • The slogan, “We’ve got your butt covered,” gets people laughing
  • The mascot, Sunny, stands out amidst generic shop displays filled with pairs of legs in pantyhose

Sara’s notoriously humorous approach to marketing has helped the brand make waves – and the culture at Spanx HQ reflects this attitude. For example, staff members are required to go through a training bootcamp that involves doing standup comedy. The company even holds “Oops meetings” where employees are actively encouraged to embrace their mistakes in a light-hearted way.

Deeper “why”

From the very beginning, Sara has put her money where her mouth is when it comes to the company’s values. She quickly set up the Spanx Foundation to support women through entrepreneurship, education and the arts. After she became a billionaire, she signed up for The Giving Pledge and committed to giving half of her income to charity. She has even supported female entrepreneurs that were affected by the COVID crisis.

“In addition to keeping butts covered from Savannah to Singapore, SPANX also shapes the world by focusing on our mission: To help women feel great about themselves and their potential.” (Spanx)

It’s well known that consumers buy from brands that align with their values. However, in this day and age, walking the talk is critical too.

Power of the people

Spanx has been built by women discovering the brand from other women – whether that’s mothers sharing with their daughters or Oprah Winfrey highlighting the products on “Oprah’s Favourite Things”.

“People trust friends, family (and even strangers) more than they do ads. Word of mouth marketing means your brand is being recommended in the most trustworthy context possible. And first time browsers are much more likely to take that crucial extra step of handing over their payment details.” (Big Commerce)

Sara has also consistently listened to what women want, for example by capitalising on the growing athleisure trend, and this has continuously set her brand apart. She made it okay to talk about bra fittings, weight fluctuations and post-baby bodies (with the help of Gwyneth Paltrow). All of these elements help Spanx’s ideal customers become true believers.

Helping you make history

If Sara Blakely built Spanx with no outside investment or previous business experience, there’s no reason why your brand can’t become a household name too!

Whether you’re starting from scratch, or considering a rebrand, you might like some expert help. If so, reach out to Rev4 and enjoy the support of an entire team of branding buffs. We’d love to help turn your pride and joy into a profitable, passion-fuelled business that people adore for years to come.

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