I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Tom Lawson, Marketing Manager for I Love Ugly. I wanted to pick his brain about the brand that has boomed in recent years, and developed a cult-like following.
We’re intrigued with everything about I Love Ugly, and often use them as an example of a brand that does social right! From ridiculous Facebook engagement rates, to opening stores in the US – I Love Ugly are setting the bar in New Zealand for a Kiwi brand with big ambitions.
Tom has a background working with brand-orientated companies such as Red Bull and Stolen Rum. When starting this conversation his first words were “At I Love Ugly, we primarily market through product”.
How did I Love Ugly initially start?
“It started as a university assignment from the Creative Director and founder Valentin Ozich. He was an illustrator to begin with, I Love Ugly was the name of the art collective, and started putting some of his illustrations onto t-shirts.”
Where did the idea for the name come about?
“The name is about the subjectivity of beauty and ugly, there’s a lot of beauty in the things that other people find ugly.
It’s about having an eye for detail, and noticing things that others don’t. There is detail in a lot of our products – whether it’s in a lining of a pant or shirt, or the buttons that are embossed with a quote from our brand. Beyond product we focus on the small details that make every brand output unique”.
What is the overall message you want your brand to communicate?
“Good quality, design led, forward thinking fashion, with strong roots creative arts.
The idea being it’s edgy menswear that is accessible and affordable. It’s about telling a story with the visual elements of the brand so as to create a clear identity.
Some of the tag lines we’ve used in the past are – Sophisticated Simplicity, and Aspire to Inspire before you Expire.”
How did I Love Ugly initially start to promote the brand?
“In the beginning we used traditional forms of advertising and marketing, such as look books, posters, and fliers. Sometimes using street posters – guerilla marketing style.
Digital has always been natural to us. Being born into the digital age has influenced us immensely in regards to how we communicate with our peers at a very basic level and this effects how we socialise in a wider sense. For a brand why should that be any different? You want to converse and relate with your customers via channels they feel comfortable & natural using.
Social media has hugely influenced our brand and our growth; it has been the main contributing factor to the growth we’ve seen on the global stage. Social is paramount to us, and a very cost effective way to communicate.
In the beginning social media was a necessity because we didn’t have big budgets. Although we’re bigger now and have bigger budgets, this hasn’t really changed [our focus on social]. At the end of the day it doesn’t mean you have to spend more just because you can.”
What is the purpose of the your blog?
“While our social media channels are more effective for e-commerce sales, the blog is more about brand education for our customers. It’s the central platform for all of our brand output. We launched our blog in November, and we’ve already seen really positive growth on readership.
We look to use brand related content – whether that’s around music, art, design, illustration, architecture, food, film, beauty or fashion. The blog gives us an opportunity to widen the scope and share the complete I Love Ugly.”
“The growth of this brand through social media, seeing the Facebook page reach 200k likes was pretty satisfying.
The launch of the lifestyle blog was also a personal highlight for me.”
Anything big we can expect in the future?
“We’ve got big growth aspirations; we’re opening two stores in the States this year. We’re seeing a lot of online growth here so it makes sense to focus on the States for now.
We’re also currently looking at extensions into other categories outside of clothing. Watch this space…”