Interview with Alexandre Vanier from Poches & Fils: Marketing innovation through stunts

interview-poches-fils-mtlecommerce

On the occasion of the #31 Conference of MTL + ECOMMERCE, we asked some questions on the brand’s ecommerce techniques to Alexandre Vanier (on the left), one of the three creators of the enterprise Poches & Fils

The creators participated at the beginning of the year to the TV show Dragon’s Den, from which they received a funding of $100,000. The concept is simple: choose the model, the pocket design, and the size. With more than 4,000 possible combinations, the website updates a new pocket a week. How does the brand handle these variations and its sudden expansion?

 

1.    How did the idea behind Poches & Fils of adding a personalised pocket on a shirt come into life?

The idea behind our business came from our CEO Anthony Vendrame. Back when he was still attending HEC Montreal, one of his friends came to school with a burger pocket shirt. Anthony found the shirt to be funny and wanted one for himself. Turns out that the shirt were custom made by his friend’s mother, so he asked her to make a few for himself. Few days later, Anthony had already received dozens of comments on the pocket and made a few sales to other friends. After seeing the hype around his new shirt, he took the opportunity and started selling them under the “Poches & Fils” name.

 

2.   What would you say were the biggest challenges and threats when you started your business?

The main challenges/threats when the company was founded were:

  • To quickly find a way to differentiate ourselves from all the other apparel companies before somebody else beat us to the pocket shirt race. At that time there was almost no barrier of entry to make shirts and compete with us.  
  • To compete in the e-commerce industry with a limited budget and no knowledge at all in this field.

Poches & Fils addressed these issues pretty quickly, by using a humoristic approach for the brand and making as much noise as we could to promote Poches & Fils. For the e-commerce part, it took around a month or two before they fixed this by taking on a third co-founder to act as their CTO / E-commerce director (me!).

 

3.   In which way did participating in Dragon’s Den changed your work vision?

We received quite a lot of good advice from our Dragons and were lucky to live the adventure, but for us Dragon’s Den was mostly a boost in sales for a few weeks and a good marketing/PR stunt. After the show and some further negotiation, we ended up turning down the deal and went our separate ways. I can’t really say that it changed our work vision, but it surely gave us a lot of new contacts, a good visibility and a taste of the founding game.

 

4.   How would you explain Poches & Fils success’?

If I had to pick one thing I would say that our original marketing campaigns are the biggest reason of success for us. We invest a lot in marketing innovation through stunts and new ways to catch the attention both online and in the real world.

Add to that a fun and simple product with a good quality that can be bought by almost everybody, a highly converting website and a killer customer service and you have a good recipe for success!

 

5.   I believe your main target is people from Montreal. How do you promote your brand in this local business?

We never really planned to target Montreal specifically. I think it became our main market pretty naturally because of proximity. We started doing stunts and marketing efforts there because this is where we work and live. After that we made a few partnerships with local shops, associations, comedians and humorists from the city and that was it. Everybody started to talk about us one after another.

Recently we made the #MTLenpoche campaign that is indeed targeting people from Montreal but we are doing this mostly because we love the city and we wanted to give back.

 

6.  How are you planning on selling outside of Quebec?

We already sell around 5% of our t-shirts outside of Quebec. It’s a first step in this direction. We sell mostly in Ontario for the moment but we are slowly expanding our reach.

Our strategy will be to adapt our humoristic tone to the English universe and use a hyper local targeting in our communications to concentrate our efforts at the same place. For example, we are starting with specific neighborhoods of Toronto and Ottawa with different messages. Conquer one city at the time ! Other than that, we will keep using key influencers and medias that fit with our business like we did in Quebec.

 

7.   Your community is very strong on social media, and especially on Facebook. Have you placed a Facebook Pixel onto your page? If yes, how do you use it?

Yes, we have a Facebook pixel installed on our website. We started using it around 6 months ago. At first we mostly used it to gather data on the people visiting our website since we were not using Facebook Ads. For the past month we started using it to build relevant custom audience for our Facebook ads tests and of course to track our conversions. It’s a must for anyone running a business Facebook page.

 

8.   Your business model is based on ecommerce. How are you planning on expending in retail stores?

This plan is already in action, we opened a wholesale division a couple of months ago and are already selling in all the Simons stores in Canada as well as a few Sport Experts and other smaller stores. In order to expend more quickly we also hired a sales rep agency. We are currently closing a few big names for 2017 and we will use this sale channel to enter the other provinces.

If you want to learn more about how they communicated as a startup, and now are expanding, do not hesitate to read the Wink Stratégies blog article.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>