Home » 2013 » January

Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why ‘Cahoots’?


Playing the Name Game

Ideas are a bit like wine, they improve over time.  At the same time ideas require decisiveness and execution to bring them to life.  Finding a balance between rumination and action is one of the trickiest skills to master as an entrepreneur.  You have to know when to pounce and when to hold back.  In the case of our name, it was worth the wait.

The concept for Cahoots was loosely born out of the idiom “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”  This led to to the idea of backscratch.com.  We even contacted the owners to determine whether or not they were interested in selling the domain backscratch.com.  We’re really glad that they weren’t, because that was a terrible name for the platform we’ve built.  We then proceeded to toy with a series of mediocre names before arriving at ‘Cahoots’.

‘Cahoots’ was a word that jumped out at us when browsing synonyms for words such as partnership, affiliation, and alliance.  The sound of the word instantly appealed to us, though the definitions varied a bit:

“go cahoots, to share equally; become partners”– Dictionary.com

Colluding or conspiring together secretly”– Google

“The sound an owl makes when it sneezes.”– urbandictionary.com

The first definition was the one that resonated with our vision.  The earliest usage of the word can be traced back to 1829 as American slang derived from the French word ‘Cahute’ (Cabin).

We liked the word because it was:

  1. Relevant
  2. Short
  3. Sounds like it looks
  4. Familiar, yet uncommon
  5. Memorable
  6. A little bit fun and playful

Of course Cahoots.com was already taken, but it wasn’t being used.  Fortunately, we were able to negotiate and acquire the domain. When it comes to names, there is always a sense of urgency with a project- we need  a title to refer to, a brand to build, a name to Incorporate under, a domain to buy, keywords for SEO… At the same time it is tricky to change a name after it has been established, so you want to make sure you get it right. We think it was completely worth the patience.

By the end of this week you will see our landing page up at Cahoots.com.


How to create an engaging online product display

Five ways Lululemon Athletica mixes social media in with their products

Fashion is increasingly sold online, but online retail shops can be stale- just line after line of different products.  If you want to get modern and creative, mix things up a little.  Treat your online inventory as another opportunity for engagement. Lululemon, a brand of yoga clothing, keeps it engaging by mixing content in with the products.

1.  Hashtag Your Products

If you have something unique to your brand or a trend you’re trying to promote and you want your followers to talk about it initiate the conversation with a hashtag. As you can see below Lululemon is tossing the Twitter hashtag directly into the product gallery.


2.  Motivation and Inspiration

Tank top, tank top, tank top, Inspiration, tank top…  Lululemon knows it audience is into health and fitness and that these individuals have varying skill levels and goals, so throwing a bit of motivation into the mix is a nice way to break up the product line and reinforce the brand’s identity.  In the image below you will see the tank tops titled ‘contentment’ and ‘optimal’ followed by a pinterest style snippet of motivation.

lululemon advice

3.  Change it up with Video

If there is something extra awesome about your product and a picture just doesn’t do it justice, toss in a video.  It changes up the content too.

Lululemon video

4.  Mix in a Blog Post

Lululemon directly links to a feature on it’s blog by mixing it in with a relevant product line.

Lululemon Blog

5.  Customer Service

If you have an awesome customer service team or a unique customer service feature, it never hurts to give your customers a reminder  about what makes your brand stand out.  Below you will see an example of Lululemon reminding the viewer that they offer complimentary hemming at their stores.

lululemon service

Putting the ‘Mod’ in ‘Modern’

ModCloth Gets an A+ in Social Media and Engagement

The couple behind the social media superpower modcloth.com

The couple behind the social media superpower modcloth.com

ModCloth.com is an online clothing, accessories, and decor retailer specializing in vintage, indie, and retro-inspired style.  Mod Cloth was started by high school sweethearts Susan Gregg and Eric Koger who were only seventeen and eighteen at the time and are now married.  Much like Facebook, ModCloth started in a college dorm.  Susan began selling her unique vintage and thrift finds through an online store she started with Eric during their stay at Carnegie Mellon University. They now have over 370 employees and 28 dogs on their roster.  ModCloth still sells one-of-a-kind vintage items alongside vintage inspired frocks from indie designers.

There are countless online retailers, but there are a few things that make ModCloth stand out as something truly unique and act as a game changer in the fashion industry.  Although ModCloth’s style is vintage, their approach to consumer engagement is cutting edge.  Susan is challenging the top-down process of trend setting  and giving the power to her customers to be the decision makers when it comes to fashion through their ‘Be the Buyer’ program.  They treat their inventory like content.  Their social media team, referred to as the Social Butterflies, has a strong presence on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.  They provide a stylist to for their users to consult with freely.  They listen to the voices of their customers one tweet at a time.  They have a blog and connect with other bloggers.  One third of their audience comes back to the retail site at least once a day.  Here is a look at some of the unique little things ModCloth does to engage it’s customers:

Know Your Crowd

ModCloth Founder Susan- Photography by Ashley Batz, courtesy of theglitterguide.com

ModCloth Founder Susan- Photography by Ashley Batz, courtesy of theglitterguide.com

Susan Gregg-Koger is a lover of vintage finds and thrifting herself.  Sometimes the best business you can start is the one that solves your problems or the place you wish you could shop at.  ModCloth knows it’s crowd.  They understand the culture that surrounds the love of retro and vintage fashion and they understand that this target market forms the core of their online identity.  The women who love vintage often love it because there is a story behind it, its unique, and that they can  identify with it.  There is a process of discovery about finding vintage items, and ModCloth has effectively carried that over to their retail site and community.  The women who shop at ModCloth are typically 18-30 and social media savvy, so a presence on social media is a must.

Clothing as Content

Mod Cloth treats it’s clothing like content in a blog throughout the retail website.  They’re pros at keeping this content fresh and interesting.

  • Item Names:  ModCloth names the clothing it sells.  For example, instead of simply calling a skirt “Grey Pencil Skirt” they call it “Secretary of Slate” or a navy striped sweater is dubbed “Need I Sail More”.  These puns act as a clever and entertaining approach to naming inventory.
  • Stories:  Part of the appeal of indie, vintage, and retro is that it feels like the clothing has more of a story to it- whether it be a pop culture reference, a movie, or an era.  ModCloth understands this and publishes a little story, no more than a paragraph long, to accompany each item.
  • Microblogging:  The way ModCloth releases new arrivals is similar to tweeting on Twitter.  They add an average of forty new items a day and they don’t add them all at once.  They add them in small lots, so there is always fresh content to come back and check for on ModCloth.com.

Mod Cloth also treats it’s consumers like users that are part of an online fashion community.

Democratic Fashion

Mod Cloth

The ‘Be the Buyer’ program on modcloth.com is an amazing engagement tool that allows users to be a part of the process of choosing what comes next to ModCloth and allowing them to be notified when it does.  This has many advantages:

  • ModCloth gets to know whether or not to buy and stock an item directly from their target market rather than guessing.
  • ModCloth will have a list of people to notify as soon as the product is ready for sale.
  • ModCloth has a good indication of how much supply they will need of an upcoming product.
  • ModCloth can read the comments and potentially come up with product improvements.
  • ModCloth is engaging their consumers on yet another level.

This ‘Be the Buyer’ program is the democratization fashion at ModCloth.

Participation and Games

ModCloth constantly has fun, creative contests such as ‘Name it and Win it’ where they ask people to come up with names for a product, and if theirs is chosen do then they get the product for free.  These contests encourage participation, include people in their creative process, and motivate people to stay up-to-date with what is going on at ModCloth.  They’ve even had contests where customers submit designs to be featured and sold on the site.   ModCloth also loves to do giveaways in the name of engagement. For example, giving away a ‘Book of the Month’ at random to someone just for participating in a blog discussion.  In addition to engaging previous customers/followers the games have the benefit of attracting new ones.  ModCloth doesn’t host their contests on the same platform each day, so their followers have to follow them on all their different platforms in order to fully participate.  This is a great technique for building cross-platform user connectivity.

Customer Service is Key

An infographic ModCloth proudly pinned regarding their customer service in 2012.

An infographic ModCloth proudly pinned regarding their customer service in 2012.

Whether it is responding to a tweet or a ModStylist giving fashion advice, ModCloth does it’s best to deliver stellar customer service.

The Social Butterflies

ModCloth has a team of ladies dedicated to tweeting, asking the right questions on Facebook, and sharing their favorite finds.  ModCloth has dubbed these four women ‘The Social Butterflies’ and they take care of the site’s front on social media.  ModCloth has a presence on so many social media platforms and they know what to post on which platform.  They tailor what they share to the type of platform and it’s audience rather than treating them as the same and bombarding all of the different avenues with identical content.  If you follow ModCloth on Twitter there is different content to be seen on Pinterest etc.  There is a reason to engage with them on each platform, not just one.  Here are some examples of how ModCloth gains and uses it’s presence:

  • Blog

ModCloth blogs about all kinds of things like decor, cool jobs, travel, fashion, and street style. They feature cool behind the scenes videos of their buyers, staff, and office dogs.  They get a lot of independent bloggers to feature ModCloth in their outfit posts. They also feature other bloggers.

  • @ModCloth

Mod Cloth TwitterOn the ModCloth.com landing page you don’t actually see a bunch of links to their Twitter and other social media platforms unless you scroll all the way down to the bottom.  They have over 103,000 followers on their @modcloth account so you’d think they would want to, but ModCloth is targeted more at quality over quantity.  The ModCloth tweeters read and respond to every conversation about their brand, including their direct messages.  Now that is true commitment to engagement.

  • Facebook

The ModCloth Facebook page currently sits at 807,000 ‘likes’.  ModCloth uses this page for posting new products, contests, and posing questions, but more notably for it’s unique way of engaging with it’s fans.  For example, a few months ago the ModCloth page started an album titled ‘Cats in boxes’ that featured cats inside of ModCloth boxes and they encouraged their fans to take pictures of their cats in ModCloth boxes.  The response they invoked was massive and adorable.

Mod Kitty

  • Pinterest
An example of a ModCloth Pinterest campaign.

An example of a ModCloth Pinterest campaign.

ModCloth doesn’t use their Pinterest board as another place to post their inventory, instead they use it to put together visuals of beautiful decor, recipes, arts and crafts that resonate with their target market.  They also use it for campaigns and contests.

The Take Away

ModCloth is a truly online business and a truly social business.  They are a great example of brand engagement and here are a few key points that you can learn from them:

  1. Be yourself.  Be your brand.  Be real.  ModCloth founder Susan Gregg-Koger is still a die-hard thifter and vintage hunter.  She lives and breathes her passion for fashion.  If your end goal is simply popularity or money, you risk not enjoying your work.  Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of raw passion that can thrive independently before, during, and after the profit comes.
  2. Know your audience inside out.  
  3. Immaculate customer service.
  4. Use the platforms that suit your brand (ModCloth may seem to be everywhere but they aren’t on google plus because their audience isn’t there).
  5. Tailor your efforts to each platform- they are not created equal.
  6. Presence is one thing, engagement is another.  You need both.
  7. The element of surprise.  ModCloth doesn’t always post their contests on the same platform and they don’t add their new arrivals in one fell swoop.  There is always something to look for and to come back for.
  8. Listen.  ModCloth does a fantastic job of listening to it’s community and including them.
  9. Collaborate.  ModCloth has partnerships with other brands and involves other bloggers.
  10. Don’t forget to have fun.  From allowing staff to bring their dogs to work to hosting Twitter scavenger hunts, ModCloth knows how to keep it fun.

ModCloth shipped 1.2 million orders in 2012 and experienced 50 percent company growth.  We look forward to seeing them carry out a strong 2013.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more,



A Model for Social Media?

How Kate Upton changed the game with social media

Kate Upton is a girl with her own following (nearly 678,000 followers).  The Twitterverse was an obvious transition for the celebrities we’re used to hearing from: singers, actors and actresses, and talk show hosts.  However, in the case of models we didn’t hear from them as much unless it was on reality TV.  Social media has brought the dimension of personality to models- a group of women who are so often seen but not heard from in the media.  We’ve got frequent tweeter Coco Rocha at 450,000 followers, Karlie Kloss at 154,000, Adriana Lima at 835,000 and Joan Smalls at 100,000.  Not only has social media added a voice, it has changed the path.

Social media took Kate Upton from obscure to famous after posting a simple video of herself doing a dance ” The Dougie” at a Clippers game.  It wasn’t that this video was high production, clever, or inspiring- it was that people watched it and it went viral.  Kate was quick to see the power of this tool and leveraged this accidental YouTube popularity to land herself a cover on Sports Illustrated and got herself signed with IMG, a top modeling agency.

Since then she has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, GQ, Muse and even a few movies.

Kate on the cover of Vogue Italia

Kate in Vogue Italia

 However, her popularity hasn’t won over Victoria’s Secret casting director Sophia Neophitou:

“She’s like a Page 3 girl,” Neophitou said, referring to the scantily clad voluptuous women featured in The Sun, a London tabloid. “She’s like a footballer’s wife, with the too-blond hair and that kind of face that anyone with enough money can go out and buy.” (Source: Business Insider)

Kate has been snubbed by much of the fashion industry and has not walked New York Fashion Week despite her popularity.  Thinspiration websites have attacked her curvacious, overtly sexual figure to which Kate Upton responded:

 “I’m not going to starve just to be thin…. I want to enjoy life and I can’t if I’m not eating and miserable...”


If you watch a video of Kate Upton, she certainly doesn’t have the hollowed out cheekbones and hungry eyes of many of the too-thin models we see on runways.  She bounces down the runway with a spark in her eyes.  Indeed, she has the type of body that is idealized by many men, and she is no fool:

“I grew up in Florida riding horses, so for the majority of my life I was either in boots and jeans or a bathing suit. I understand why my male followers like me… It’s like any job. You find your strengths and play them up.”

Kate is notorious for posting seductive photos of herself on her Twitter.  She is indeed a model-celebrity, which gives her a distinct advantage in a world that is increasingly wanting to identify with the girl on the cover.  The number of celebrities being used over models in advertising campaigns and magazine covers has been rising steadily.  Although Kate’s too-curvy figure and girl next door face may be too much for New York and Victoria’s Secret, it is much easier to relate to for most women.  Kate has gained herself a reputation as a game-changer by her use of social media, ability to appear in high fashion magazines and men’s magazines simultaneously, and appeal to men and women alike.  She is only twenty years old and may be the first of her breed, but is certainly not the last.  It will be interesting to see how social media remodels the modeling industry in the years to come.

A candid Kate Upton smiling and holding a copy of her cover of Sports Illustrated.

A candid Kate Upton smiling and holding a copy of her cover of Sports Illustrated.

%d bloggers like this: