Reinventing modern marketing techniques - How 6PM became the leading streetwear brand in Germany
Streetwear is the new high-end, en vogue fashion - with Virgil Abloh, creative head of Louis Vuitton, introducing the concept of streetwear clothing combined with fine luxury fashion. Since his appointment as head of the historical powerhouse, the streetwear industry experienced an unprecedented hype. It is all about designing pieces that can be worn in everyday life as well as to special occasions and red carpet events.
Achraf Ait Bouzalim was an early starter and realised the immense potential that streetwear brands can have. So he decided to give it a try and founded his own brand, 6PM. And all beginnings are hard, even Achraf had to realise that just designing fashionable clothes is not enough to succeed in the fashion industry - every brand needs to reach its customer base and community and must create lock-in effects, especially in a volatile industry like fashion. After a few struggling months in 2017, Achraf decided to partner with PAPA OSCAR Ventures in 2019 to get a head start, a competitive benefit, and build a legacy with 6PM.
The Business Model
6PM’s business model seems simple, yet disruptive. Throughout the year, 6PM releases 5-7 collections roughly every 6 weeks. The collections drop on Fridays at exactly 6 pm. Unlike normal fashion brands, 6PM collections are highly limited and therefore sell out within minutes, creating an unbelievable scarcity, hype, and FoMo (Fear of missing out) effect. Certainly, the sales strategy is not enough, but combined with unique designs, cutting-edge collaborations and a founder like Achraf who tries to be as close and approachable to his customers as possible, this is the basis for 6PM's success.
Achraf as personal brand to create a unique experience and build a community
It quickly became clear that there are several components to building a successful brand. The founder has to be the face of the brand - just as Virgil was for the modern image of Louis Vuitton. The new generations of customers don't just want to buy chic designer pieces, they want to feel understood, have a unique shopping experience and, above all, be part of a certain community with similar values and beliefs. All this should be conveyed not only by the brand, but also by its founder.
Achraf achieved exactly that in an impressive way, creating traction not only for 6PM but also for himself as a personality and, above all, as a style icon and streetwear pioneer and designer. And Achraf did all this unconsciously, which in turn made it very authentic and honest – which is the key to an impressive point of departure. Along the journey there were countless copy-cats trying to mimic Achrafs approach, but since they strategically copied Achraf, it was not authentic and therefore not successful.
For PAPA OSCAR Ventures, it was a no-brainer to partner with 6PM in 2019 since creating an authentic point of departure is the sole task of the founder. From then on, PAPA OSCAR Ventures was able to successfully support the company in bridging the gap, conquering the mass market and building a successful and sustainable brand.
Achraf as “King of Codes”- Lock-in effects, hype, and scarcity through marketing finesses
6PM has not spent a single euro on performance marketing. Performance marketing is an extremely competitive market and IOS14 has made it even more difficult to succeed and achieve a high ROAS (Return of Ad Send). Performance marketing can also damage the authenticity of certain brands as customers are more sensitive to advertising - they don't want to feel the obvious consumer pressure in terms of push marketing.
That's why PAPA OSCAR Ventures and 6PM have found a new, more authentic and honest way to market the brand and gain organic traction and followers. When a 6PM customer is asked about Achraf, he or she is sure to mention the term "code". But what exactly is meant by this?
As mentioned earlier, the volume and stock of collections are severely limited, leading to scarcity. The strategy was to exploit this certain scarcity even more by offering Early Access Codes to a certain number of pre-selected customers - meaning that they can access the web shop 30 minutes before everyone else to browse all the products and buy the products in the right size without the time pressure and risk of getting a "L(oss)" - meaning that the pieces are already sold out.
Giving out early access codes has several advantages for 6PM and the customers, it's a win-win situation. For the customers, it is quite easy to see how they benefit from the codes; if you get a code, you can buy what you want without taking the risk of not getting your favourite piece because it is sold out.
The mechanism behind giving out the codes is a real marketing finesse by 6PM. In order for someone to receive a code, he/she has to promote 6PM by, for example, commenting on social media posts as often as possible, or posting 6PM outfits and talking about the brand and Achraf. By doing this, the algorithm of e.g. Instagram automatically brings 6PM into the "trending" area, which leads to a larger audience and more people noticing the brand. Millions of people see the various 6PM posts because these posts have thousands of comments, likes, reposts and saves. To get the same number of impressions and reach as many people as 6PM currently does, you would have to spend thousands of euros on performance marketing, over and over again.
In summary, the Early Access Codes are a free, authentic and very smart marketing tool for 6PM that is useful and free for 6PM's customers.
However, as the competition quickly adapts this type of marketing, 6PM and PAPA OSCAR have to constantly come up with new and, above all, authentic "marketing" strategies and campaigns.
One reinvention of the code game is to release extremely limited "Family and Friends" pieces or colour variants of certain products that cannot be bought. The mechanism is the same, customers have to create awareness and with a bit of luck they will be one of the chosen few and receive a highly limited colour variant of a certain product - a "family and friends" piece that also strengthens the community aspect and the family atmosphere of the brand.
And this much can already be revealed at this point: The team has already planned and conceived a few completely new marketing campaigns for 2022 - so stay tuned!
Creative freedom through “outsourcing” of important general business-critical departments to PAPA OSCAR Ventures
6PM's business case is indeed a very special one. However, one of the most striking success factors along the way was a clear separation of tasks between the different parties involved in 6PM. And that is exactly what makes PAPA OSCAR Ventures' business model so unique and special - the co-founder mentality.
In the case of 6PM, the company had an incredibly talented young designer in its founder Achraf. However, as a one-man army, it is almost impossible to fully exploit one's creativity. With all the administrative, financial, strategic and IT issues involved in starting and scaling a business, it was palpable that Achraf's strength could not fully develop. Hence, the partnership with PAPA OSCAR Ventures came at the right time. The aim of the partnership was to give Achraf 100% creative freedom and take all other business management tasks, processes and administrative work off his hands and support him in all daily operations as much as necessary.
To be precise, PAPA OSCAR Ventures has various teams of experts in IT, shop development, goods financing, strategy and marketing. This means Achraf can focus on its strengths and continuously work on designs, collaborations, collections and brand development without having to worry about financing new collections, contract negotiations with producers or manufacturers, an optimised web shop to increase conversion rates and create a unique customer journey, and a lot of tedious administrative work like accounting or taxes.
A perfect symbiosis of individual experts and know-how is the key to a promising partnership and a long-lasting success story.