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Content Led Retail – a New Path to Customer Loyalty – Part Two

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Wise Marketer Staff

Posted on June 7, 2024

Founder-led strategy and three examples of retailers with content-led marketing

In Part One on this topic, we posed the argument that storytelling is the most underutilized aspect of marketing strategy for online retailers. When it is well-executed, content-led marketing (a/k/a “caffeinated storytelling”) will spread the word and build awareness among potential customers. In CFO terms, it can create customer acquisition, grow relationship value, and increase customer satisfaction. That is a lot of tangible benefit from a seemingly “soft” concept.

Storytelling comes naturally to the founder, but for practical reasons, many brands persist in engaging third-party influencers to tell their stories. We understand the power of influencer strategies but believe consumers are ready for an evolution of this early concept.

Even the most thinly resourced DTC brand should at some point see past the physical appearance of a pitch person and balance the temptation to hire an eye-catching model with the risk of appearing to be a “faker,” i.e., a brand whose marketing strategy is partially built on the belief that it can dupe people into purchasing its products as a result of the influencer seemingly having everything we want but don’t yet have. You might describe that approach as aspirational marketing with a negative spin.

The only Faker that you would want to be is Lee Sang-hyeok, a South Korean professional League of Legends player. If there is a superstar in e-gaming, Faker will lead the list. Over his career, he has secured a record of 10 League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) titles and a record four World Championship titles. Faker is widely regarded as the greatest League of Legends player in history, putting him in the e-gaming class comparable to Tom Brady and Michael Jordan in their respective sports.

So, if it is authenticity that you value, you might want to revisit your current influencer strategy, including a thorough assessment of your exposure to reputational risk. Delegating a brand reputation to a contracted talent carries risks that can’t be understated, and there are many examples of influencers and celebrities who have temporarily torpedoed a brand due to their own behavior or an errant post on X.

The term "Founder-Led” marketing came into our awareness recently, and it’s something we actually talked about in Part One of this Two-Part series. It’s also an important element of the content work we do at The Wise Marketer. Founder-led marketing leverages the personal brand of the company founder to clearly communicate brand essence and build direct relationships with customers. A Founder-Led strategy emphasizes authenticity as the founder becomes the embodiment of their brand's values and aspirations.

Traditional corporate marketing strategies are changing to incorporate founder messages and it is used even in larger enterprises. This article shows that execs Sam Altman of OpenAI and Brian Chesky of Airbnb have started using their personal platforms to connect with their communities. These folks have become the faces of their companies, effectively blurring the lines between a founder and a brand ambassador.

By taking this approach, brands can build consistent messaging and have greater control over their narrative. The brand can work with the confidence that it won’t be caught by surprise. And, it certainly has the potential to deliver greater impact than by using third-party influencers.

We’ve got two examples of our own for you here:

To bring Content Led Marketing into focus, we offer three retail examples of great execution as well as missed opportunity.


Someone on our team recently bought a set of trekking poles from REI. These high-end carbon poles came in a plain, boring box and included instructions in multiple languages. Unfortunately, the instructions didn’t tell us much about how to assemble the poles or change out the tips for use in different terrains like snow and mud.  

Naturally, we turned to Google and looked for videos that would fill in the blanks on our knowledge of these new trekking poles. We found many videos and had to wade through a bunch that covered how to use the poles but skipped over how to change tips. After a while, we found an ideal video, but reflecting on our search we realized that none of the videos came from REI.

Doesn’t it seem natural that REI would create videos using its own outdoorsy associates or trusted partners to cover key topics on specific items? Wouldn’t it be a natural outgrowth of its Co-op Membership program?

By creating these videos themselves, REI would accomplish multiple objectives:

  • They could create a walled garden documenting outdoor fun.
  • They could engage customers with the content, maybe even rewarding views, comments, and referrals in their loyalty program.
  • They might elevate customer satisfaction and the quality of product reviews as customers get what they need to enjoy an individual product and could link easily from video to review.

Hammer Nutrition

For 36 years, Hammer Nutrition has been selling products for the endurance athlete. Founder Brian Frank had the idea to serve this community before the market exploded with hundreds of competing electrolyte, supplement, and energy products.

The center of Hammer’s marketing strategy is the educational material they make available to customers – actually anyone who visits their site – in the form a bi-monthly Endurance News magazine, their industry standard “How to Hammer” guide, and a host of columns with expert opinion on knowledge and usage. They also invite customers to join a referral program, and share user-generated content about how they used Hammer products in their latest adventure in Endurance News and on the website.

The vitamin and supplement market are one of the most crowded and confusing for the consumer in the world. The way these products are formulated, regulated, and recommended to be consumed, there is plenty of room for doubt and skepticism on the part of consumers. And since most of these products are marketed at a higher price point than something you might find in a mainstream pharmacy, the need for product education is obvious.

Hammer goes beyond content creation and invites customers to contact its resident experts for advice. The availability of information and the transparency communicated by giving access to sources is powerful. That’s a big reason why Hammer continues to perform well in a very crowded market.

Ten Thousand

Ten Thousand is an athletic clothing retailer sporting the tagline” Better than Yesterday.” They express a “stoic dedication” to continuous improvement and use an “athlete-led design” concept to create gear. They set an aspirational bar as a goal, saying they create gear worthy of the world’s top athletes.

The company’s founder is Keith Nowak who brought experience leading Seed and Series A investing for a family office into this new business idea. Apparently, Keith combined his financial acumen with a passion for fitness (he spends his time training for marathons and Ironman triathlons, or in a CrossFit box) to found Ten Thousand.

Bringing forward Keith’s personality and interests into the brand marketing, Ten Thousand tells its story through its Ambassador program with people from diverse backgrounds (military, special forces, cross fit, Olympic sports) sharing their experiences and training tips as they demonstrate how they use Ten Thousand gear. Before you portray the Content Led approach as simply influencer-based, notice that it carries a nuance that adds believability, inspiration, and authenticity. During the “product demo,” you enjoy the inspirational story of the athlete and pick up training tips. You can get the flavor of the Ambassador-driven content strategy with this demo of their amphibious short product, the Set Short.

Ten Thousand does operate a loyalty program, Decem Milia, but its simple structure almost stands in denial of the great content strategy they are executing.

Wrapping up this story

A Content-Led retail marketing strategy is the key to engaging with potential customers before they have experienced your brand firsthand and it is critical for building relationships with customers once they have made a purchase.

Well executed Content-Led strategy can drive:

  • Better customer experience
  • Higher engagement rates through sharing, commenting, referrals
  • More precise data gathering through increased trust and confidence
  • Higher customer satisfaction rates
  • Advocates, Ambassadors, and ardent fans

Again, the beauty of a content-led retail loyalty strategy is that everything you create is proprietary. A competitor may match your introductory discount offer – or any other element of your pricing strategy for that matter – but they can’t tell your story. The nature of your content is authentic by definition, and you unlock options to move ahead successfully without engaging costly and sometimes risky influencers.

Bring your founder or others in leadership out of their shell. Invite your customers to share content and become part of a community. Provide all the knowledge, tips, and tricks to create a vision for how to use your product and its potential results.

All of this becomes part of a content-led retail marketing strategy that might, in fact, become your “loyalty program” in the future. No one else will tell your story as well as you. What are you waiting for?