42 Birds has all the hallmarks of a vagabond startup launched by free spirits who live and breathe nature.
But the eco-conscious cork yoga equipment company is actually the brainchild of Decoded -- an independent agency on a mission to reinvent the in-house system.
"The in-house model is flawed on both sides at the moment," said Decoded CEO Matt Rednor, who founded the agency with chief innovation officer, Addie Conner, and together launched direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand 42 Birds.
Decoded’s first client was Dollar Shave Club back when it was a startup. The team is no stranger to this space now, having worked with other DTCs like BarkBox and Honey. Rednor and Conner have since added huge brands to their roster, including VISA, T-Mobile and HP.
"Start-ups are a completely different beast to working with the big brands," Rednor continued. "They’re a little more ahead and advanced in the work that they do based on the fact that they’ve been measuring their goals, they can using the digital platforms much more nimbly and agilely, and they’ve been testing and learning and experimenting a lot more."
However, he said startups have a habit of stalling out once they’ve saturated desired platforms because they don’t truly understand or appreciate brand building in the same way Goliaths do.
Big brands have a much better handle on long-term marketing strategy. But they’re too slow, and haven’t adapted to be quick enough in the same way DTC companies have.
Rednor said: "As a response to that, we wanted to learn this world and become experts in it. So we felt like the best way to do this was to put our money where our mouth is and to experiment on our own and take the risks we needed to do by controlling the full end-to-end."
42 Birds in its infancy was a way to learn everything about Amazon and other online marketplace giants. Then came the surprising amount of passion for a product which seems to answer an industry problem. It’s basically a reverse startup in that sense.
Conner is a skier in the winter and a hiker in the summer (AKA one intensely-active human being). All this exercise comes with a heavy investment in massage rollers.
"I’m constantly rolling," she said, "and I hate the way that all the rollers look around the house, and how they pick up dirt."
The first conception of a product was for cork massage balls. Then, as Conner learned more about the material and its sustainability, she had a breakthrough moment with yoga mats.
"My hot yoga mat smelled rancid," she confessed, adding that having to wash it after every single use isn’t exactly efficient or fun or time/money saving.
The properties of cork, however, means a yoga mat that gets grippier the more you sweat. The best part? It’s antimicrobial, so it doesn’t smell. Conner’s workout buddies no longer have to endure her ripeness (hallelujah!).
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?? Let’s get rolling with our new 42 Birds Cork Massage Ball set! It’s great for self-myofascial release (SMR), which was listed as one of the top fitness trends by the American College of Sports Medicine. SMR works to correct muscle imbalances, improve joint range of motion, relieve muscle soreness and joint stress, improve blood circulation, relax muscles and help lengthen muscles and break up adhesion and scar tissue. You also just get a really great and soothing massage without the expensive price tag and in the comfort of your own home. Who wants to give them a try? . Plus, a big thanks to our friends at @epichybridtraining for letting us shoot at their gym and to Matt and Sarah for making this video!
It’s an experiment-led launch that’s inadvertently sparked a product borne of fiery zeal by Conner, who has every intention of making 42 Birds a huge, yoga-game-changing success.
"Selling our own product, designing the UX, search strategy and handling the supply chain will allow us to learn e-commerce -- and Amazon especially -- better than just managing a campaign for a client," she said.
"Typically, ad agencies are only able to solve for the first part of a user journey, but 42 Birds allows us to control the entire user experience. Not only does it give us access to important levers, it will provide us with more insight into the pairing of ads with UX and the opportunity that exists for brands."
The founders believe that every DTC brand is using the same playbook right now; all the ads look and feel like one another. From a creative standpoint, they’re on a mission to figure out the best funnel to take consumers through in terms of message sequence, in a bid to change that sea of sameness.
So far they’ve not unearthed a golden bullet to new territories and better practices for DTC marketing. But they intend on experimenting until they find one. And when they do, it will be brought back to the Decoded community to rewrite the rules for better advertising.
Rednor added: "I founded Decoded to be a disruptor of the current agency model. As the industry evolves, we need to find new ways to provide value and bring innovative ideas to brands -- the old ways aren’t working.
"We’re trying to change the culture -- we don’t want to operate like an agency. We’re trying to be a hybrid of a creative agency but also in-house startup. We want to be able to give our talent the best of both worlds so they can be trained within both those environments and adapt according."