Ten Ways Chubbies Shorts Used Social Media Marketing to Appeal to Millennials
Fashion can be a challenging field to break into. Brands either follow trends, focus on the basics, or in rare cases they become trendsetters. Often, the trendsetters don’t even focus on the fashion itself. They focus on the marketing, social causes, or celebrity endorsements. In the 00’s, everyone wore inexpensive rubber bracelets such as Livestrong bands. They were cheap and ugly, but the social awareness erased the faux pas.
In the 00’s people also wore a lot of bulky, baggy clothes. “Who wears short shorts?” was a question asked out of mockery, not with a sense of pride. In the 10’s, the brand Chubbies Shorts sought to free the thigh and make short shorts a staple of men’s fashion. Somehow, this worked. Looking back at the development of the brand, their evolution was a result of smart marketing, a focus on a millennial audience, and strategic implementation of new products.
The Beginning of Chubbies
In 2011, no one associated the word “Chubbies” with an article of clothing. The brand didn’t exist yet, but four friends who met during their time in Stanford took their love of of odd-fashion and decided to take a chance. In September of 2011 the brand’s website launched. Their goal was to appeal to a very specific demographic: college-age males. Specifically, the fraternity crowd gravitated toward their styles and products.
Is this really a surprise? They were four young guys who met in college. They were selling bold styles and hoping to make a change in the fashion industry. Of course they are going to appeal to a demographic who has a similar mindset. If I’m being honest, this is how I found the brand. In late 2012 I was browsing Tumblr and saw their ‘Mericas shorts on various college blogs.
My experience is not unique. Social media was the biggest method of exposure for the guys at Chubbies, and this was leveraged early in their foundation. They specifically recruited fraternity brothers to wear their products. The key was to find people with strong social circles. Start in the inner circle and work your way outwards.
In many ways, a college campus is akin to social media. If you know your brand, find your influencers, and send a message then people are going to listen. It also helps to have a recognizable product, and in 2012 Chubbies Shorts definitely stood out. Moving into the second half of the 10’s, Chubbies would continue to build a following. While the college crowd remains important, they’ve branched out to include a much wider demographic in their promotional materials. Quite frankly, they kill the social media game. They’ve adapted to changes quickly and demonstrated some strategies all brands should incorporate.
1. Your customers are your best representatives. Show them proudly.
Check out any social media from Chubbies: their Instagram, Twitter, or e-mails. You won’t find paid models. Rather you’ll find guys wearing the shorts in various locations. Chubbies loves to show off their customers who embody the messaging of the brand, and customers love to show off their bold shorts.
2. Know the messaging of your brand. Stay consistent.
Chubbies embodies the sophistication of a mullet: business on the top, party on the bottom. You will see this messaging throughout the wording of their social media content. They appeal to people who work hard during the week and celebrate the weekend. That’s why you’ll constantly see them celebrating when the weekend has arrived.
3. Go where your audience will find you.
If you’re looking to get your daily dose of Chubbies, you don’t need to lurk their e-commerce site. They have a presence on most social media sites. Being born in the 2010’s, the brand evolved with apps like Snapchat. Chubbies attributes Snapchat to much of its success in today’s market. After all, Snapchat caters to a younger demographic of 18–34, the same demographic Chubbies targets with its clothing.
4. Keep your content fresh but on brand.
Once you know the tone and messaging of your brand, remember that social media is designed to evolve. Chubbies knows they’re not creating a TV ad that’s going to repeat multiple times over the course of six months. Instead, they recognize the value of creating multiple lower-quality pieces each day. For this reason you can get your daily dose of laughs with fresh content on each platform.
5. Keep your promotions unique but recognizable.
With the holidays coming up, most brands are going to have holiday specials. Chubbies is no exception, and they’re prepping for their Thighber Monday promos (expanded to a full week in 2019!) Of course, the term “Thighber Monday” is a play on Cyber Monday, but emphasizes the thighs you’ll be able to see when you wear a pair of their shorts. Chubbies doesn’t limit themselves to this holiday promotion. They sell shorts, after all! Fourth of July is a huge holiday for the brand, so customers can expect to see their “Julyber Monday” sale in the weeks leading to Independence Day. During these promotions customers can receive exclusive deals and promotional merchandise only available during these events.
6. Grow your business, but make smart expansions.
You’ll find a much bigger catalog today than Chubbies offered in 2013. Thanks to experimental swag from sales like Julyber Monday and customer feedback, Chubbies has introduced new products. Still, these products are consistent with the brand and its mission. Eventually shorts would grow from 5.5 inch inseams to 7 inches. Hawaiian shirts would be offered, maintaining the same bold prints as the shorts, and other tops would later join the collection. Each new addition was tested individually, but seamlessly integrated into social media messaging. This allowed the company to grow but keep their online presence largely the same.
7. When people talk, talk back
Social media has presented brands with fewer barriers than ever when trying to reach customers. The flip side to this: customers can voice their concerns and grievances to a large audience with ease. Brands like Chubbies rely on social media, so they keep their reputation in tact by responding to concerns and celebrating customer successes as soon as they’re posted. It’s not uncommon to see representatives offering exchanges, product care tips, or providing resolutions to customer feedback on social platforms.
8. Promote diversity within your audience
For a brand that began its development by catering to a fraternity/ college market, Chubbies has tried to move past the stigma associated with that audience. Let’s be honest, when you think “frat bro” you probably get an image in your head of a young, wealthy, white dude. Well, Chubbies decided to run a contest on social media within its customer base to find its next model. This contest has been repeated and it has highlighted a fair amount of body diversity. I’ve seen different sizes, colors, and abilities representated in their advertisements, which is commendable and important when keeping up with their growing demographics.
9. Be as bold as the products you sell.
I just scrolled through my e-mail and saw a message from “firstname.lastname@example.org.” It’s common for Chubbies newsletters to change their name or use surprises to grab attention. Head over to their Instagram and you’ll see a feed full of memes and jokes. While I wouldn’t expect this from a brand like J.Crew, Chubbies can pull it off. When you’re selling shorts endorsed by brands like Taco Bell, humor is part of the business.
10. Grow with your audience.
Above all else, Chubbies has aged alongside its fan base. That’s not to say they don’t have their college-aged fans, they still have a college ambassador program, but they also cater to an older audience. The class of 2014 is no longer in school, but they’re still in Chubbies prime demographic. This means the brand messaging may need to adapt, but it is possible to keep that audience engaged. This is why social media marketing works well for the brand. Messages will reach a wide range of people. Content isn’t stagnant and savvy marketers can make changes when the situation calls for them.
Why Chubbies Won the Social Media Game
Social Media Marketing has been a field evolving over the past two decades. We are now seeing brands go mainstream using social media as their prime form of marketing. Chubbies is one such brand. They developed a recognizable product, found their audience, then showcased that audience. Once this process began they allowed the brand to evolve with the attitudes of the public and the demographics of their audience.
Perhaps Chubbies does not have the formula for marketing to millennials, but they do have a formula that works. Bigger brands will opt for more traditional advertising, but newer brands are likely to follow a similar method to Chubbies. The practices they’ve demonstrated have attributed to their success and made them a recognizable brand. Ultimately, they focus on understanding their customers and providing them with products they want. This initiative presents itself in the brand, and in turn it’s visible in their social media marketing. Their strateegies will remain effective because millennials continue to use social media. So long as this generation remains social, Chubbies will have success marketing to them.