22 March 2019

Capitalising on celebrity endorsements

Thanks for the shout out, Taylor Swift!

Stylists often get small brands’ hopes up when they request items – only for the celeb they’re dressing to go with another label. But what happens when a startup is lucky enough to be selected for a red carpet event?

At an awards show last week, Taylor Swift wore a Rosa Bloom sequin playsuit. It’s a big deal for the fashion brand, which is based between the UK and Bali: Swift has the ninth largest Instagram following in the world (115 million followers, compared to Rosa Bloom’s 42,000).

‘Although Swift hadn’t tagged us in her posts, her stylist had, so it was extremely easy for anyone who wanted to to track down our website,’ says the eponymous founder of the brand. ‘The exact piece she wore sold out in around 10 hours.’

Bloom says that in the week of Taylor Swift’s appearance, online sales increased by 1358%, while web hits were up by 1,000%. However, despite the Rosa Bloom Instagram account receiving 40,000 visitors, compared to 2,000 the week before. The flood of traffic only led to around 1,500 new followers.

‘It was Swift’s first red carpet appearance in a while, so everyone from Vogue to The Daily Mail covered it,’ Bloom adds.

What counts as a failure?

Backstage Capital, the fund set up by Arlan Hamilton which focuses on funding underrepresented founders, has hit headlines this week. First, Axios reported that its fund has fallen through. Forbes followed by reporting that Hamilton would be stepping down as CEO.

The headlines are sensational, and the language used to describe these events is indicative of a wider culture problem within the startup community, where founders are seen as winning or failing. But this is a false dichotomy, and all founders know that most business decisions sit somewhere in the grey spectrum of compromise. Founders that can adeptly navigate situations that aren’t going to plan are more likely to find an opportunity in a ‘failing’ – and therefore build a more resilient business.

Hamilton was quick to hit back on Twitter and ask why these events have been framed as failures – particularly when, she argues, Backstage has had a number of significant wins.

Making a modern neighbourhood

Phase one of the Hudson Yards development – a 28 acre plot of land located near New York City’s High Line park – opened to the public last Friday. Like many modern developments, those in charge of the project have been hard at work luring interesting businesses to reside in this new neighbourhood.

One, 3den, is a co-working space-cafe-sauna hybrid, complete with Casper nap pods, a massage room and desk spaces. A massive 35,000 sq ft food hall is also rolling out in the development.

Opinion on the scheme is divided. This New York Times piece does a good job of explaining the tensions arising over this £15bn development.

Looking beyond the logo

Is it a problem if customers can’t tell what a business does by its name or logo?

A survey released this week by Studio Graphene asked 2,000 people to look at the company names and logos of businesses that had raised over £3m in Series A investment in the last year. It found that only 21% of respondents could correctly identify a brand’s sector based on these two elements.

Startups with industry-relevant names were most easily identifiable (for instance, healthtech brand Medopad and virtual reality social network Vtime). By contrast, only 8% of respondents could figure out what on-demand contact lens company Waldo does.

Finding a unique business name is hard, and most words that spell out what a business does aren’t exactly catchy (what’s better: Courier or Modern Business and Lifestyle Inspiration Bi-Monthly?). So, what to do?

Branding is an art, rather than a science, and many companies rely on visual cues beyond their names and logos. Floppy cacti? It’s Hims. The colour purple? Probably Cadbury.

The business of instant noodles

An unusual pop-up restaurant opened in Melbourne this week. Indonesian brand Indomie is serving up its instant noodles with a variety of freshly cooked toppings – from fried eggs to Balinese beef.

Alongside legacy brands like Indomie, a number of smaller players are trying to reposition dry noodles as a gourmet snack.

In the UK, Bournemouth-based food company Mr Lees has been targeting train and airline operators to stock its gourmet instant noodle alternative. The brand has also been installing its own vending machines in locations across the UK – most recently in Elephant & Castle, south London. Kabuto Noodles, meanwhile, recently struck a deal with French supermarket brand Franprix. The sushi chain Itsu has been selling instant pot noodles in supermarkets since 2014.


Ten things on our radar

  1. Brits are candle-obsessed: the market’s gone up by 33% since last year.
  2. Axe throwing, esports and escape rooms: the saviours of malls?
  3. This guy reviewed his stay at the cheapest hotel in Manhattan.
  4. Brand owners: beware of ‘legal fakes’.
  5. This novel about fake wellness gurus in the startup industry sounds hilarious.
  6. A sustainable (and beautiful) coffin that’s good for the environment.
  7. A mental health, money and advice service for hospitality workers.
  8. The zipper wars are heating up.
  9. Glossier is a unicorn.
  10. A partner of a defunct design studio explains the reasons for its death.