Morphsuits are colourful skin-tight spandex costumes which cover the entire body and come in 90 or so different designs and colours. The company was founded by brothers Ali and Fraser Smeaton and their flatmate Gregor Lawson. In the first couple of years after launching in May 2009, Facebook was the only way they promoted their business, primarily because they didn’t have any money to pay for advertising or marketing. They now have almost 1.5 million Facebook followers, a company turnover of £11m and global reach.
We caught up with Ali, Fraser and Gregor to find out how they grew their business using Facebook.
Morphsuits is a unique, niche product – how did you grow your fan base so quickly after launching?
We were one of first the brands to launch using Facebook alone, mainly because at the time we had very little money to spend on advertising and Facebook was an amazing free way to speak to so many people about the fun that you can have in Morphsuits. We started by sharing our funniest images and videos of people having fun in Morphsuits and it really took off. The fact that no-one had seen anything like it before made it very shareable. We spent a lot of time interacting with fans on the page and encouraging them to share their own photos and videos.
You have described Facebook as the heartbeat of your brand – you have now amassed almost 1.5 million page ‘Likes’ – What have you done to grow such a large following on FB?
Our Facebook strategy is simple: share cool stuff that our fans are interested in and hopefully make them laugh (real fan photos, videos, reaction shots, new costumes, behind the scenes stuff), involve our fans in the brand (costume design competitions, caption competitions, hero our VIP fans), respond to all interactions on the page (reply to all comments and messages), stay true to the brand, and relentlessly test everything. We spend a fair chunk of our marketing budget on Facebook, and in the early days a lot of that was on gaining new fans through promoted posts and sponsored stories.
You spend 3-4 hours a day on Facebook – how are you using the platform to engage with existing followers as well as to gain new followers?
Theres always someone in our team on the page – so probably more than 3-4 hours a day! Our main priority now is engaging with our existing followers rather than gaining new ones. The change in Facebook Edgerank means that we find it more and more difficult to even reach all of our existing fans, so we now focus our activity on engaging with as many of our existing fans as possible. We recently launched a VIP Facebook platform for 50 of our biggest fans around the world, and we give them exclusive access to new costumes, promotions, and even tickets to World Film Premieres of our costumes (Amazing Spiderman), in return for them sharing their cool pics, videos and new ideas with us and being our brand ambassadors.
Have running competitions played a key part in engaging with your followers? What have been the competition mechanics that have worked for you?
We have always found competitions work well for us on Facebook – we run at least one competition a week and sometimes up to three a week in key times like Halloween and Christmas. We mix it up in what we do: design your own costume competitions, caption competitions, submit your best photo competitions etc. and always offer free stash in return. Given a lot of our fans are cash strapped students they love a good freebie. We always ask that they post a photo of them having fun in the costume back to the page (and sometimes they do!). Our design your own costume competitions always work really well in getting people engaged – we get people to submit their ideas, they vote on their favourite and then the winner actually gets made. This year we stepped it up a gear as well by offering the winner $10k and a % of the profits from the costume sales ongoing.
Foul Fashion has landed 87,000 Facebook fans just six or so weeks after posting your first entry – How have you done this?
We use the same approach with Foul Fashion as with Morph. Its all about showing guys in the shirts being the king of the party and having the best time. We run the same types of competitions, and learn from each brand on which types of paid advertising works best to gain fans and drive engagement.
You have said that Facebook has become more expensive and less productive – and are now focusing on paying for AdWords. Are you specifically targeting people searching for Morphsuits? If so, is this about making Morphsuits more visible rather than growing your following?
We have big ambitions to become the biggest and most innovative costume brand in the world, and so we are always trying to drive awareness and make ourselves more visible. We spend a lot of time and effort making sure we have the right Adwords plan and keeping up to date with the latest changes in Google I.E. Google shopping this year. However, the objective of our Adwords campaigns is to make sure we are winning vs. our competitors (knock offs) and converting the people who are already aware of our products, and there are a lot more broader awareness tools we are using now to drive the visibility of our brand to people who have never heard of us before.
We see you have PR’d the million dollar diamond Morphsuit. Is PR playing a more pivotal role in your marketing now that you are moving away from Facebook as your main marketing platform?
In the past year, we have expanded our marketing activities much beyond Facebook as we are looking to attract different consumer segments and test out all marketing channels available. This year we have invested more in PR, digital display advertising, Youtube advertising, search re-targeting campaigns, affiliates, sponsored content, and a TV sponsorship package. PR plays a large role in our marketing strategy, both in driving our brand awareness and getting great coverage to drive our site SEO. We do product-led PR I.E. costumes which are completely ridiculous like the Nicolas Cage Morphsuit, the Million Pound Morphsuit, the “Invisible” Morphsuit (April Fools Prank!) or our most recent launch of the Naked Man Morphsuit. We also do event-led PR I.E. flash mobs, and halloween specific activities like the “Fright” mob where you could nominate your mate to be ambushed by the Fright Mob.
You have said mobile is going to be your main focus moving forward and you already have a very creative mobile app. What are your mobile plans other than changing your site to be more responsive on phones?
The shift in consumer behaviour and mobile usage is obviously having a huge impact on everyone who works in marketing and eCommerce. We are very focussed on how we can try to be ahead of the game rather than constantly catching up. To begin with we’ve redesigned our mobile website to make it more user friendly and relentlessly tested it to make it more intuitive and easier to shop – this has resulted in a 25% improvement in our mobile conversion rate. We are the only costume company in the world to have our own app where you can both buy your costumes and also helps to make your costumes the coolest at the party. You can use the free animations to add gory beating hearts to your zombie costume, or customisable responses to your magic 8 ball costume, as well as augmented reality animations which gives your Spider-Man costume interactive webs that shoot from your wrists. We have big plans to make our app even more integral into having a good time at a party and giving you the most impactful costume.
What are your top tips for growing your audience/fan base on Facebook?
Share cool stuff (content) with them that inspires a reaction (a laugh, a shock, or a WTF).
Make your fans feel involved and reward them for getting involved.
Test your advertising spend to find what works for your brand – types of ads, copy, call to action, placement of ads, device etc.
Try to sell “softly”. Don’t tell them that your stuff is cool, but show them people having fun and being the life of the party and people will make up their mind whether to come and buy from you.