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When Annette Azan launched the body essentials brand Nuudii System in 2019, its early adopters funded the first shipment.
Through a Kickstarter campaign, the Brooklyn-based brand raised $750,000 over 30 days for its first product, which Azan described as an undergarment option “between bra and braless.” This funded production of the Tee System, and resulted in the company shipping to backers globally.
It marked a big debut for Azan, a 25-year fashion industry veteran who decided to make a product herself after being unable to find anything on the market to wear for her wedding.
“After years of development, we wanted to catapult it out of a cannon,” Azan said. “With Kickstarter you can do that...They have an audience that has an appetite for innovation.”
It’s an approach to launching a new business that leverages the crowdfunding platform: By supporting the project early, backers receive rewards, including the products themselves. In turn, brands receive the initial funding to make and ship their product within months. It also means the brands have a base of people supporting them.
“It’s different than having customers,” Azan said this week. “They are getting perks, but they also believe in your company. That sort of energy and community, you cannot find anywhere else.”
Three years later, Azan is launching a new Kickstarter campaign this week to galvanize that community around a new product. Called the Backless Nuudii, it's the result of engineering 360-degree stretch fabric to fit a wide range of bodies. It's designed to be worn with the open back styles that are currently in vogue, and also offers “total back freedom” compared to a typical bra, Azan said.
“This is not just for fashion,” Azan said. “This is actually for every day comfort.”
A CPG brand
Plant-based packaging. (Courtesy photo)
On the design and production side, the brand centers simplicity in everything it does. The product does not need to be displayed on a hanger, or tried on. Rather, it comes in plant-based packaging. Yet because of how it is made for fit, it has had a return rate of 4% over two years in an industry that sees an average of 37%, Azan said.
As it defines a new category focused around body liberation and classifying its products as accessories, Azan said Nuudii System is building a true CPG brand. The product has five components, made in one factory. Designed for an on-the-go lifestyle, Azan sees the potential to sell the product in vending machines going forward.
The product launch and crowdfunding campaign comes after three years in which ecommerce was the five-employee brand’s primary means of growth.
After the initial Kickstarter campaign, Nuudii System launched a website to sell direct-to-consumer in 2020. That year, it also received resources and built community with other brands through participation in XRC Labs, a retail tech and consumer goods accelerator based in New York.
As Azan and many other businesses found, building a brand during this period required lots of grit and willingness to change. The pandemic arrived soon after the company got its website up and running, throwing the economy into a tumultuous period.
While Azan said the focus was on "weathering the storm," the team worked to build traction through this time, and was bolstered by an appearance at a self-love-themed pop-in event at Nordstrom. Now, the brand sells at Nordstrom and on the retailer’s ecommerce channel.
Then, in 2021, Apple made privacy-oriented changes to iOS 14 that curtailed the successful run with performance marketing that brands had on platforms like Facebook.
“We had to retool and rethink the way we marketed,” Azan said.
Now, she takes a diverse range of marketing approaches. This includes Pinterest advertising, and exploring TikTok. Dedicated influencer campaigns are in the works this year. The brand is also planning more tried-and-true guerilla marketing like street posters, as well as mailers and postcards.
Building a community
The Backless Nuudii. (Courtesy photo)
Marketing also factors into crowdfunding, through which the brand can spread the word while at the same time pursuing growth opportunities. At the same time as the Kickstarter, Nuudii System is running an equity crowdfunding campaign through WeFunder. Made possible by changes to regulations of the the federal JOBS Act of 2012 that redefined the wealth requirements to be an investor, this approach allows the people who fund the campaign to receive ownership in the company. It’s also another chance to forge a connection around the brand.
With crowdfunding campaigns and a recent feature that appeared from ClearCo as part of Women’s History Month, Azan is finding a response that goes beyond product satisfaction. Shoppers want to know who, and what, is behind the product, and these campaigns are venues to tell the story. People who feel like they are part of a brand’s community are more likely to be loyal customers that make multiple purchases, and spread the word about a product.
“I think we have a unique opportunity here to continue to build this out with a community feeling to it because people are really responding to it,” she said.
Trending in Marketing
Labor disputes on the West Coast could cause further disruption heading into peak season.
When the first half of 2023 is complete, imports are expected to dip 22% below last year.
That’s according to new data from the Global Port Tracker, which is compiled monthly by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
The decline has been building over the entire year, as imports dipped in the winter. With the spring, volume started to rebound. In April, the major ports handled 1.78 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units. That was an increase of 9.6% from March. Still it was a decline of 21.3% year over year – reflecting the record cargo hauled in over the spike in consumer demand of 2021 and the inventory glut 2022.
In 2023, consumer spending is remaining resilient with in a strong job market, despite the collision of inflation and interest rates. The economy remains different from pre-pandemic days, but shipping volumes are beginning to once again resemble the time before COVID-19.
“Economists and shipping lines increasingly wonder why the decline in container import demand is so much at odds with continuous growth in consumer demand,” said Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett, in a statement. “Import container shipments have returned the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019 and appear likely to stay there for a while.”
Retailers and logistics professionals alike are looking to the second half of the year for a potential upswing. Peak shipping season occurs in the summer, which is in preparation for peak shopping season over the holidays.
Yet disruption could occur on the West Coast if labor issues can’t be settled. This week, ports from Los Angeles to Seattle reported closures and slowdowns as ongoing union disputes boil over, CNBC reported. NRF called on the Biden administration to intervene.
“Cargo volume is lower than last year but retailers are entering the busiest shipping season of the year bringing in holiday merchandise. The last thing retailers and other shippers need is ongoing disruption at the ports,” aid NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “If labor and management can’t reach agreement and operate smoothly and efficiently, retailers will have no choice but to continue to take their cargo to East Coast and Gulf Coast gateways. We continue to urge the administration to step in and help the parties reach an agreement and end the disruptions so operations can return to normal. We’ve had enough unavoidable supply chain issues the past two years. This is not the time for one that can be avoided.”