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What other marketers can learn from Hush’s audience-driven success

Tuesday 30 January 2018 Customer PersonasData Insight & AnalyticsDigital Consultancy


Suzanne Jiggens-Johnson's picture
By Suzanne Jiggens-Johnson
At CACI, we’ve worked with women’s clothing and lifestyle brand Hush for several years – and I can’t think of another brand with such an intimate understanding of its core customer. But lately Hush has started to use audience-driven multichannel marketing to broaden its market, with impressive results. 
I grabbed a few minutes with Deputy Head of Marketing Steph Dawson to ask how her team did it, and what other marketers might learn from the experience.

Success from knowing your audience

If you’re a professional woman aged over 30, the chances are you’ll already be familiar with the Hush womenswear brand. Evocative of a relaxed, healthy, balanced lifestyle, it was founded in 2003, when UK-based Australian Mandy Watkins spotted a gap in the market: cosy, comfy nightwear that was not frumpy or old-fashioned, but designed for the wearer, and not her partner.
In 14 years, Mandy has built her company from a laptop and a kitchen table to an established online brand, with a growing high-street presence thanks to pop-up retail events and concessions in 16 key John Lewis stores.
By keeping a close eye on data, Hush has identified a clear “sweet spot” audience:
  • Female
  • 31-55 years old
  • Affluent
  • Interested in travel, movies and tv, beauty, food and wine, home interiors and landscape gardening
This information enables the Hush team to build a strong connection with its audience, and design immersive marketing experiences. 
Steph told me: “We essentially are our audience. Mandy still designs the entire collection, and we’d never put out an outfit that we wouldn’t want to wear ourselves. Similarly, our marketing tries to create a world that we would want to live in.” 

Customer-focused growth

As well as the clothing itself, the Hush audience is attracted to the brand’s marketing content – which was always uncannily targeted to the core customer, while still reflecting the relaxed, lifestyle focus of the brand.   
At first, it was a practical decision. With just five products at launch, Mandy filled Hush’s first catalogue pages with lifestyle content that was in-keeping with the mood: books to read in bed, chillout playlists, and recipes for ice cream to eat in your new Hush pyjamas. 
But the approach resonated – and even though the range has expanded to include chic loungewear, daywear and accessories, the data shows Hush’s lifestyle focus remains an important element of the brand’s appeal.
And as Hush has grown, the innate sense of what the customer would like has been underpinned and amplified by data. Knowing the audience’s demographic background, geography and interests informs creative strategy, but also channel decisions, like affiliates and retargeting. 
The result is powerful, and effective. Instead of being followed around the internet with bland retargeting ads, Hush customers see beautiful, relevant imagery, on sites that reflect their own lifestyle and interests.
The data also drives powerful experiences in the real world. Knowing where customers are, and what they want, prompted Hush to a create lifestyle experience in a woodland glade at the Port Eliot festival – while for its film screening at Soho House sold out within a minute.
Steph says: “We don’t expect our customers to always come to us. We use the data to find out where they are, and go to them with a brand experience that mirrors what they want to hear and how they want to digest it."
We don’t use data to automate things; we marry it with creative to come up with our strategy.

Personalisation brings rewards

Steph continues: “We market differently to different customer groups online. Engaged customers get the in-depth stuff: the film screenings, partnerships and emotional blog content. Lookalike audiences are served a really beautiful image to introduce you to the Hush brand, and lapsed customers are given delivery offers that tie in to a new product or collection.” 
Clearly, the approach is working. In the last five years, traffic to Hush’s website has increased by more than 500%, while maintaining a steady conversion rate. The customer base is extremely engaged and loyal; email open, clickthrough and conversion rates are huge – driving 30% of traffic and a quarter of all revenue through the Hush site.
A recent re-engagement campaign saw an uplift of 90% year-on-year among lapsed customers.

From one audience, to several

But while digital has been highly effective, Hush’s lookbooks – mailed out to core customers ten times per year – remain central to its business. The frequency and the target audience have been refined based on analysing transactional data, while customer-match approaches have enabled this following to grow.
Nonetheless, the data has also revealed clear boundaries to the approach.  
DM is only profitable among our core audience,” continues Steph. “Once you get to a point beyond the Hush profile, the response rate really drops, so we need to know our customer very well.” 
While Hush’s tight audience focus was a clear strength, it also presented challenges in terms of finding first-time customers, and – crucially – expanding its product range. And when Hush’s Spring 2017 collection took a clear, fashion-led look, the brand seized the opportunity to engage an additional, younger audience.
Importantly, Hush didn’t reinvent the wheel. It took everything the brand had learned to date about the importance of data, personalisation and understanding the customer, and applied it to a new audience.

Audience-driven marketing in practice

As before, Hush defined clear customer profiles, and used them to tailor marketing experiences, channels and creative approaches – only this time, at a much more granular, segmented level. And as one of a team of specialised agencies on the campaign, it was our job to wrangle the data to find that segmentation.
Steph says: “We used transactional data about past purchases to match recipients to one of the four style personalities: modern feminine, minimalist, urban and colour riot. Then we served targeted social advertising, telling a relevant story to each individual around their own particular look.”
Those stories directed customers to a microsite, with a quiz encouraging users to discover their own style personality – and leading to tailored lifestyle content and product suggestions. Each style had its own brand ambassador – selected bloggers and Instagram users – expanding social reach. And to give the campaign a focal point, Hush opened a pop-in store for ten days, in London’s Shoreditch.
We chose Shoreditch because its demographic profile was a great match for the customers we were hoping to engage,” explains Steph. “And we styled the pop-in into zones, so you could experience the style personalities for real – with events, talks and monogramming sessions.”
Further blogger, PR and affiliate engagement bolstered the campaign – all tailored to match the needs of the audience’s demographic and interest data.

Five things other marketers can learn from Hush

Hush’s audience-driven tactics were an unqualified success.
The campaign reached over 3.7 million potential customers, and resulted in a significant uplift in qualified traffic from the younger audience Hush was seeking. A staggering 22,000 people took the style quiz in its first 24 hours alone, and in its first hour after going online the microsite was shared more than a thousand times on Facebook.
From our privileged position at the table, we’ve had a firsthand view – and I’d suggest there are five key tips that other marketers can apply, if you’re planning your own move to an audience-driven marketing approach:
  1. Everything starts with knowing your customer. When you understand who and where your audience is, and what they want, multichannel marketing becomes much easier.
  2. Look for the edges of your audience. Hush gets a great return because the team knows exactly where certain approaches – like DM – stop being profitable.
  3. Personalise everything. Not just your marketing creative, but your channel decisions too; make the two work in tandem.
  4. Mine your data for insight. As well as defining your audience, you can also find key segments that behave in different ways – and serve them accordingly.
  5. Use analysis as a springboard. The customer data gave Hush a clear target; the creativity around the strategy and delivery was all their own. Take the insight, and run with it.
Working with Hush is always a pleasure because the company makes such creative use of the data we provide. If you’d like to discuss some ideas of your own, please do get in touch.

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Find out how Hush defined clear customer profiles and used them to tailor marketing experiences, channels and creative approaches using a customer segmentation.

What other marketers can learn from Hush’s audience-driven success