Clothing brand Normans and how sustainability, practicality, and having brand ambassadors are getting them noticed | The UnNoticed Entrepreneur — step into the spotlight.
By Jim James, Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur .
In the recent episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, talked about , a brand he and a partner he hasn’t met have been building. They’re building an online clothing brand in the hybrid space — for people who want to wear them from home when working. It’s not pyjamas and suits but somewhere in between, and it’s also focusing on sustainability.
He also discussed using brand ambassadors who aren’t influencers to build the brand.
What Normans Stands For
Normans is an online, sustainable fashion brand, and they stand for three main things. One is practising sustainability in a practical way for their business.
They’re not a big company that can afford to have everything “green.” For instance, they don’t own any green technology. But there are things that they can still do in terms of manufacturing and packaging so they can contribute to the sustainability movement.
Second, they produce products tailored for people who work from home or on a hybrid model where they can work from home or office, looking presentable and right for the business but also comfortable. They’re trying to strike a balance between wearing a suit and pyjama.
The third thing that their brand stands for is that although they use influencers for marketing purposes, their main promotion or demonstration comes from their brand ambassadors. Their longer-term vision is to become a source of inspiration for others.
They at Normans believe people can draw inspiration from celebrities and well-known, successful businesspeople or athletes. However, thinking back to Brian’s personal life, most of the inspiration he got is from actual people he came across on a day-to-day basis. This helped him understand that everyone has a great story to tell and some inspirational portion of their life, if not more of that.
They identify brand ambassadors who will promote their clothing. But, more importantly, they want to give them a platform to tell their story, whether it’s about something they do as a hobby, their career, or just their life in general.
Normans is a brand based out of Toronto, Canada. Canada is generally known as the northern side of the world, so they used the word “north.” As they do men’s apparel for the most part, they combined the two words to become “Normans.”
Sustainability as a Brand Promise
In the bigger picture, Brian believes that sustainability is what the world needs right now. Daily, there’s more and more news about global warming or how people can save the world in a way.
Through Normans, Brian and his co-founder emphasise and try to illustrate that people can do it without making wholesale changes in their lives.
Right now, the brand is trying to practise sustainability in the area they can afford. Though their entire supply or value chain isn’t practising sustainability yet, they are getting there. At some point, they will have their own technology to make things more sustainable and generate less waste throughout the process.
But as a startup, they can’t do that yet. This is why they put sustainability across with practicality. Even as a brand-new company, they can still do things that contribute to this movement.
This move is akin to how it is with someone’s personal life. That person could be using plastic bags and driving a regular car. Driving an electric car, taking away all of their plastic bags, and basically not throwing any waste will be overwhelming and impractical.
It’s all about incremental change. It’s about slowly doing smaller things, which is better than not doing anything at all. And this is the kind of mentality that they have: They are slowly implementing more and more of this sustainability component as they go.
The bigger point is the illustration of how smaller things may not be crazily significant, but they’re still contributing to the movement. And that is still meaningful.
Weaving Sustainability with Practicality
Normans uses end-of-line materials.
In China and around the world, the manufacturing practice is that when they need to fulfil any garment product order, they don’t just get supplies just to make enough for that order. They always have some buffer, and they have a budget for that.
Assuming production goes fine, there will be something that’s left over. Usually, those leftovers won’t get used because they’re very specific for a particular product to be made. And that contributes to waste.
At Normans, they ask for those materials to make their products.
Brian knows that there will be challenges in terms of how many they can make because it’s limited (e.g., for a particular colour, they can only make 75 units, not 500). But, at the minimum, they’re still contributing to preventing those materials from being sent into the waste field. They, instead, help circle it back to the economy and generate value.
As they were promoting their brand and setting up their company, Brian noticed that people in Toronto actually buy things from ethical brands or brands that contribute to sustainability or are fully sustainable. It’s important to them because they want to do those things themselves.
But, sometimes, they cannot control the companies or brands they consume from — what they eat, what they wear, and what they consume for entertainment.
By no means they at Normans aren’t using this movement to draw attention. They try to walk the talk. And this is what they emphasise and are 100% honest about: Not everything’s green at this point, but they’re trying to practise it as much as we can.
So far, it’s been well-received by their consumers because it’s not just about sustainability but also about transparency. People who learn about that appreciate it because it’s not always realistic. If Brian goes around and tells people that they have a very green new technology and they’re a start-up, it won’t add up.
Putting sustainability across practicality sounds a lot more authentic in terms of what they do, and people resonate with that.
Getting Normans Noticed
They’re now at a phase where they’re getting their digital presence established. They’ve gone through the steps of having an Instagram account and and putting out digital advertisements, whether on Google, Instagram, or Facebook.
With their online direct-to-consumer (D2C) approach, they also noticed that their organic or “walking” customers don’t know the quality and texture of their products when they first interact with the brand.
Normans is not selling software but physical products. They have people who tried their products and have very good things to say about the quality and its comfort and softness. However, the challenge is that people who haven’t tried their product yet don’t know that.
This is why they’re finding different ways to get noticed, make their products more out there, and give more opportunities for people to try their products. One thing they do is look for physical pop-up stores that they can participate in to at least let more people physically see their brand and try it.
They also reach out to people who align well with their brand value. They offer a couple of their products and ask for some feedback. They’re not asking for them to promote the product, but they give them a chance to try it and see if they like it or not.
On Tapping Brand Ambassadors to Serve as Inspiration, Boost Relatability
Normans’ strategy of using real people to talk about their real stories is interesting and also very affordable.
As stated, the brand aspires to become a source of inspiration for others. People can draw inspiration from celebrities such as Elon Musk in his early days. They have inspiring stories but for Brian, some of the major turning points in his life were usually inspired by people he came across with. Even if somebody has done something wrong that’s not 100% related to what he’s doing, he can still get inspiration from that.
This has taught him that a lot of people, if not all, have an inspirational story to tell. It’s just that it doesn’t get broadcast. These are more like day-to-day life incidents.
Their ambassador program gives them a platform to bring out these inspirational stories. They also use it to hone how their customers relate to their brand.
Fans of soccer and basketball will look to Lionel Messi or LeBron James and what they wear (for example, a pair of boots or a jersey). If that product is on Brian instead, it won’t be 100% relatable because he’s not built like Lionel or LeBron. Fans support who they root for and who they like.
In the long term, Normans think about relatability. This is why they identify somebody who works in Financial Technology (FinTech) or somebody who works as a management consultant.
When consumers see that, they will know what the brand stands for and can relate to what they’re talking about. From there, they build brand equity.
Selling online through the D2C approach is the main way they distribute their products. However, they’re also in talks for opportunities where they may have some physical presence — whether in the form of pop-up stores or a physical retail location.
Though nothing is finalised yet, they’re trying to let more people try, see, touch, and feel their products. Brian knows that it’s one of the key things that they need to do at this point.
What He Learned So Far
Brian has no sales or marketing background, and he’s learning all these on the fly. But on the days that he communicates to the outside about Normans — whether it’s people who bought their products already or people he’s cold-calling — he usually gets better results than when he doesn’t do it.
He still has a full-time job, doing Normans on the side. But that doesn’t stop him from using his downtime to communicate with somebody.
He’s checking in on his customers. He’s reaching out to their ambassadors and asking how things are going. He’s reaching out to people he thinks can be brand ambassadors. It’s about talking about their brand every day.
In some ways, he has blind faith that it will turn out well. Nonetheless, he considers it important to do that thing every day. When it comes to getting noticed, talking to different people every day, at some point, will pay off.
Learn more about Normans at https://normansapparel.com .
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This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.