How to Structure Your Story to Sell with Cameron Parker
The Brand Stable is an international collective of fashion brands, with a focus on men’s accessories.
You can contact Cameron Parker on LinkedIn here.
Simon Dell: Welcome to the show, Cameron Parker. It is fantastic to have you here. You are the second, third person I’m interviewing face-to-face so you should feel…
Cameron Parker: Very honoured.
Simon Dell: Slightly honoured.
Cameron Parker: Well, it was a two-minute walk to be here. It was nice and convenient. It’s good to be back in Australia.
Simon Dell: We’ve obviously known each other for a long time. I suspect there’s lots of people who listen to this who know who you are, but let’s, for the masses out there who have no idea who you are, give us your very quick elevator pitch.
Cameron Parker: A very quick one: For the past 20 years, I’ve been in either in-house agencies or in-house marketing teams. Past 10 years really, BlackMilk Clothing, which was an incredible Brisbane-based brand. I was with them for 6 years right from the beginning and then moved over to London with another brand, Sunday Somewhere.
Simon Dell: Let’s start with BlackMilk because… You either know BlackMilk, and when you say BlackMilk, they go, “I love that brand” or you say, “Never heard of it.” And I guess if I’ve never met you, I would’ve never heard of it. But give us the very short history about what BlackMilk is and where that came from.
Cameron Parker: BlackMilk came from a serendipitous meeting with a guy called James Ellis who is a stay-at-home dad teaching himself how to sow, and he had this idea of starting a legwear business. I guess maybe you have friends who start business they come, “Oh, can you give me a hand with some marketing advice?” So, we met like that. And then very quickly, I felt this is something truly special with what we’re doing. Because it actually started as a community online with a blog of women who just had crazy leggings in their wardrobe. But essentially, what that became is an international global community of people around the world, and we connected them. It was quite an incredible experience, going from a dining room table of him, his wife, and myself to over 200 staff. And we had offices in LA, and we sold millions of dollars’ worth of clothing made with stretch wear a month.
Simon Dell: From your experience with BlackMilk and my experience when I met you working for BlackMilk, there’s one story that really stood out to me that I was like… How does that happen? Because to me, it was the golden goose of marketing. And you said to me that they used to be these swap meets or BlackMilk social meets around the world where all these women were to get together, talk about BlackMilk, swap their leggings, and things like that.
The thing that stood out to me the most what you guys hadn’t organised that. These were things that were just popping up within the community. How does that even happen?
Cameron Parker: Good question. Anyone that’s listening, if you literally jump on now the Instagram account for BlackMilk, like you said, you’ve either heard of it and you love it or you haven’t heard of it, and when you look at it, you would go, “Oh my god, I would never wear it.” So, how that all started was… And I actually even remember the email. We had this US customer, literally somewhere in the Midwest of America. She bought BlackMilk. And so, when she wore BlackMilk down her street, people would look at her and think, “What the hell are you wearing? These crazy leggings…” But she loved it. It’s a certain type of customer that gets drawn to BlackMilk products.
But when she walked down the street, she felt quite vulnerable. She felt like she was an outcast. What she found though through our social media platforms, they were talking back 2000. Instagram was in its early days. What she loved seeing was other girls around the world just like her wear it, and she emailed me and said, “Can I start up a Facebook group? Because I kind of feel like a bit of a freak in my town, but there’s other interesting people just like me who love your brand. Can I connect with them?”
And then that online community started. And all I needed to do absolutely… It was purely organic, and all my role was to nurture that and facilitate that community. It started with a global one and then it started breaking up to regional ones like US, Australia, countries in Europe, and it started getting super local where they started talking for a number of weeks and months and go, “Oh, I’m travelling to New York. Let’s meet up!”
And then it started like that. Once again, when I saw the power of that, it became an opportunity for James and I to actually travel around and even facilitate and have these things called Sharkie cons where hundreds of women would fly to parts of countries around the world where we’d have hundreds of women wanting to connect.
Simon Dell: When you turned up to those, was it like the Messiah walking in?
Cameron Parker: For James, it was. It was like meeting the emperor. It was incredible because this brand was more than just the leggings. It meant so much more to people who wore it. It was a sense of community and feeling safe. It sounds weird, but girls would come up to me and say, “You’ve changed my life. I had some really dark moments. I felt like a bit of an outcast for whatever reason. But being able to connect with other people online or in moments like this, connecting here in this bar or this picnic under the Eiffel Tower, I feel safe and it’s so amazing to be able to meet people online.”
And you look at the brands out there that are connecting people as well. And that’s what we were. We were a niche brand but when you think niche globally, that had the potential for hundreds and thousands of people, really. That’s what BlackMilk was, and it was incredible forming those online communities.
Simon Dell: It kind of feels now that that niche of personality, female personality that wants to dress up, and be individual, have their own identity in a world that… It’s very easy to just be the same person as everybody else. It seems like that’s much more of a celebrated status now. I mean, I’ve been using TikTok for the past three months. I’m sure you’ve been getting your head around TikTok as well, but that seems to now be this whole … Dressing up, what do they call it, when you go to the Comic-Cons and things like that?
Cameron Parker: Cosplay. Yeah, and that was BlackMilk. We did deals with Star Wars.
Simon Dell: It feels like early days of that.
Cameron Parker: Yeah, absolutely. Back in the day, there was no brand really tailoring cosplay in a fashion sense to females. It would be a T-shirt with a big Star Wars logo. Whereas we did partnerships with HBO, with Game of Thrones, Disney, Warner Brothers, Marvel Comics, and we would produce really awesome fashion for women who wanted to cosplay a bit. Absolutely.
Simon Dell: If I remember right, and feel free to correct me, the R2-D2 swimsuit, did you do that before you actually got the license?
Cameron Parker: Correct. We got a cease and desist from Lucasfilm. This was when we were in a kitchen doing a table. James was a massive fan decided, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have an R2 swimsuit?” And yeah, why not? We were a little tiny business. We just made less than $100. They sold out. We got a cease and desist from Lucasfilm. Next minute, obviously we stopped producing it, but these swimsuits would get, on eBay, hundreds of dollars. They were infamous and everyone wanted it.
We then left it for about a year and then we would, on social media, in the couple of hundreds of thousands there. We were probably decent. We were growing and I thought, “This is crazy. Why don’t we actually just email them, say, “Sorry, but can we do it properly?”” And I thought we’d never get a response but obviously they’d seen the buzz and the energy around it. There were people wearing it and they said, “Yeah, okay. Let’s look at a deal.” And so, that was the first deal.
Simon Dell: You just emailed them?
Cameron Parker: Yeah. What’s going to hurt? I was just going to email them back and say, “Sorry, as you know, we stopped selling it but we’re doing things properly now. Would you be interested in doing…?” And this is before Disney took over. And we got an email back from Lucasfilm and they said yes. That was one of those big turning points for BlackMilk at the days, was doing a deal with Lucasfilm which was in that licensing world, the holy grail.
Simon Dell: Once you got Lucasfilm…
Cameron Parker: Absolutely.
Simon Dell: Everyone else probably took you seriously from that point on.
Cameron Parker: Yeah, and that’s why working with Warner Brothers was huge and Harry Potter. That was incredible.
Simon Dell: Last question on this one: From a technical perspective, when you sat down and said to Lucasfilms you want to do a deal, how long does that kind of thing take? How much goes backwards and forwards in negotiation? You cut the phone calls when you’re signing something? What’s that take to do something like that?
Cameron Parker: Well, the legal contracting part, yeah, that can take a couple of months. But then BlackMilk is super unique in terms of we were all in-house. Anything we didn’t make was a fabric. For people out there, our 200 staff, we were made in Australia. We had 60 sewers in Brisbane. We had the sublimation machines. Once we got the deal, direct-to-consumer, James would come up with an idea for a print and we’d print it next day, sew it in the afternoon. And then the following day, we’d have an in-house model shoot it.
So in terms of speed-to-market, James could have an idea, we listen to our customers, and they go, “I want a cute cat or a unicorn. Great idea. Let’s do it.” And we could mass sell that within 72 hours. We could ramp up production, bring down production instantly. And we’d listen to those. We had 60 community groups online on Facebook at its peak, and that came down to hobbies and interests as well. Mothers’ clubs, foodie clubs, movie clubs, travel clubs. Yes, they had special interest, but they’re all connected around BlackMilk. They actually had the BlackMilk name in it.
But managing 60 Facebook groups, for me, was even just an interesting challenge. I mean, there were no books back in those days how to run an online community. It was an interesting exercise.
Simon Dell: It was early days of Gary V, so you could’ve learned from him.
Cameron Parker: Exactly.
Simon Dell: So, Sunday Somewhere. The next project, tell me how that came about.
Cameron Parker: After six years, BlackMilk got to a certain stage where I was super proud of what I was part of in the movement and community, but I was hungry for something else. The Sunday Somewhere team actually heard about me through BlackMilk and what I was doing there and actually just approached me and said, “Would you be interested?” Big thing for me is I actually loved UK. I used to work there for two years and like most Aussies, you get a two-year visa, get kicked out.
And I always had this part of me. “I want to do it again!” And the opportunity to join Sunday was an incredible brand that I felt was authentic to me but also came with an opportunity to work back in Europe. I then joined the Sunday team and was there up until really recently when we sold the business a couple of years ago.
Simon Dell: From an e-commerce perspective, what were the big challenges that you saw? Obviously, you had the experience of BlackMilk which was an e-commerce business. Was there anything different that you found when moving into it?
Cameron Parker: It’s moved so fast. When I joined and met James, this was in end of 2008, even just back then to build a website, I was like, “Oh my god.” My advertising was like, “You need tens of thousands of dollars.” Our first one was BigCommerce but then this thing called Shopify… And I was like, “Oh my god, we don’t need to worry about servers and capacity. Oh my god.” It was like this thing sounds too good to be true, Shopify.
And for a number of reasons, we’re the second largest business on Shopify. Our biggest day was over a million dollars. We were always testing Shopify’s capabilities back in the day. Shopify was just amazing. I’m sure people who listen to this use Shopify. I’m like the biggest advocate for that, and that has just been incredible. But they’re obviously through Shopify Plus, being able to clone the store and have multi-currency and all of these things. Today, it’s just so easy.
Simon Dell: It’s $70 for a basic subscription to start up a store.
Cameron Parker: And the templates now, you can upload a few images and within a couple of clicks and you can have a side-hustle, try it out. And if it doesn’t work, depending on how you decided to sell what product, you can give anything a go. You’ve just got your time to write off.
Simon Dell: When you were doing Sunday Somewhere, to me I would go, I can see BlackMilk’s capacity to build a community around the unique designs, the funkiness of the clothing, targeting the women who felt isolated, who felt that they lacked a community. That gave an opportunity. Sunglasses are a bit different. How do you build a community around sunglasses?
Cameron Parker: It was definitely my partner. I didn’t have the personality to work with too, even though BlackMilk wasn’t called James Lillis’ Leggings, we had strong personalities in the business, too. So when coming in with Sunday, it actually was one of the first challenges. I had Dave Allison [sp], the designer but it wasn’t like he was doing podcasts, and front-of-center, and kind of like a brand spokesman. Already immediately, I had a challenge. I’m guessing people out there, depending on how you structure the business, it is so much better from a social media point of view to have a person. You’re going to grow your community much easier and you’ve got a stronger, easier story to tell.
But what I loved about Sunday Somewhere was the name. It wasn’t actually called Dave Allison Eyeware. I actually saw that as an opportunity where I could actually build a story around the name Sunday. This is my job working with the brand, was, “What does that mean and why did Dave Allison even call it Sunday Somewhere. That taps into the purpose, the values, the why behind the brand. And I actually got really excited about telling that story.
And again, it was less about the product. It was the aesthetic and the story. If you look in eyewear, a lot of them, Linda Farrow, in our space, like an independent eyewear brand, what unique story could I tell and what story can I share on social media around our brand purpose Sunday Somewhere.
Simon Dell: Tell me about the Sunday Somewhere story. What is it and how do you make that come alive?
Cameron Parker: Dissecting the name. Sunday, everywhere but somewhere like if you lived in UAE, Sunday is that time for you. Sunglasses is actually a product where it becomes a weekend. We knew our customer during the week would wear a Ray-Ban. They’d jump in the car, put in their Ray-Ban. But on the weekend, they wanted something different. This is about the people you meet, the places you explore. So, the brand story came on around Sunday and that spirit of me-time. In a few years, that mindfulness in me, self-care, that movement was obviously an interesting one, and Somewhere is that travel aspect. And so, the DNA and the brand came all around that: meeting people and exploring places.
All our language had to be developed around that in every touch point, and that’s even from a branding point of view. I am all about, “How do you make someone feel?” The senses: how does it touch, taste, smell, look, feel? They’re all the things that I tap into. And I could talk about with BlackMilk or Sunday, “How does it smell?” And I got into that with the team. “We need the smell of Sunday.” And the music, we’d have Spotify playlists which they’re all curated around what music would you play on the weekend when you’ve got your Sunnies on. And actually then, what drink would it be? And it was the Moscow milk. Why is it the Moscow milk? Well, it’s fresh. It’s got that zinginess with the ginger, and you dissect it, and all those touch points and feels. And so, everything, when we do trade shows or in-store… We had over 1,000 retails globally. So, when we do these activations in the store, what drink are we serving? What music are we playing? What’s the smell? We’ve got a candle, then what’s the smell of the candle? Obviously, it’s going to be tropical with coconut.
All of those sensory experiences I get super excited about to create something really memorable.
Simon Dell: One thing you touched on there was the language. I think a lot of people really struggle with that. People can do these great visual brands where they can consistency in the Instagram posts, the logos, and the colours, and all that kind of thing. Then when you read the Instagram post, you have to follow-up with the same type of language. How do you go, “We’ve got all these flavours and we’ve got all these smells.” Now, how do we talk? That’s a big challenge for people.
Cameron Parker: It is and it’s a craft. I’m not a copywriter. What I know is the importance of storytelling, but myself, I need assistance. So at BlackMilk, it was great. James had an incredible, and if you even look at his blogs, his way of writing and telling stories is incredible. I just leverage that and then I’ve got an in-house copywriter. With Sunday, I didn’t have the budget to have an in-house copywriter to work with. But what I did do is research and research and find someone out there that had a beautiful craft, storytelling, and copywriting. And I did. And if you go to the Sunday Somewhere website and you go to the About page, it’s not about Dave Allison launching the product in Sydney in 2013. It’s actually a manifesto. It’s a language.
The easiest place to see if a brand’s got it right is go buy from them online and your order confirmation email. I hate nothing more than when you get the Shopify standard one. They haven’t even taken the time to go and rewrite that in your own unique brand story. It’ll have the subject heading something like, “#Order 10643: Thank you.” And then “Dear Cameron, your order has been confirmed. Please see below.” And I’m going, “Are you joking? That’s like one of your most highly-opened emails and you’ve got no brand DNA or story in there?”
That to me is laziness. You just can’t do that. And to your point, the storytelling and the copywriting is a craft. If you can’t do it, try and find someone who can and look at absolutely every touch point from your social media. But please don’t forget even shipping emails, confirmation emails, just even the language that your customer service team… With all the businesses I’ve worked with, we have a Bible and this is how we say it.
“These are words we use. These are words we don’t use.” And it becomes vernacular. With Sunday Somewhere, anyone who is jumping online, jump to the About page and those words you’ll see repeated in every touch point.
Simon Dell: The two that just spring to mind when you say that that do that really well… One of my early interviews was with the CEO of Vinomofo. They’ve got their About page. The About page starts off with “Go and get yourself a glass of wine. Sit down because this is a long story.” And they tell the whole story. It’s like 3,000-4,000 on this About Us page.
Cameron Parker: It’s great. You’ve gone through a bottle of their wine by the time you’re finished.
Simon Dell: Absolutely. He said, “We wanted to tell a story and we wanted to bring it to life.” I think that’s one of the most obvious areas. I always look at About Us pages with companies to go, “How serious are these people? What effort have they put in to tell us about who they are?” Because if they haven’t done that, then what effort are they going to put in when it comes to servicing me, or their products, or those kind of things?
Vinomofo is always a good one. The other one was Dreamfarm who do kitchen, really high-stylized design, sell all around the world based in Breaky Creek Hotel here in Brisbane. When you meet the team, which is Alex, the CEO, and his sister who runs a lot of the marketing, you go, “Right. I see where the personality of this brand comes from.” So, all of their tough points are exactly as you say: The confirmation emails, the social media: Everything is written in Dreamfarm speak. And it’s a delight to be part of.
The downside on brands like that is that without having someone in that organisation who can do that, if you lost that person, then is there danger that the brand’s going to fall apart without that sort of person in there?
Cameron Parker: I’m going to say yes because I’ve seen it happen. I look at the team that I have back in BlackMilk. It’s a very different brand these days since I left and the team around me had left. Yeah, absolutely. That’s the heart and soul, and there’s a real risk to that for sure.
Simon Dell: The other people who do it well is Slack. You must use Slack in your business, but whenever you see… If you go into the Apple Store and they’ve got an update for their app or anything like that, it’s always written in this jokey, fun language. And you read it and you just go, even someone must be enjoying… I think that’s the key. That’s what I was going with that.
When you read these things, you can tell that whoever wrote it is enjoying what they’re doing. That to me, when you read the Slack thing, “Oh, these guys are having fun. They’re running a multi-million dollar, billion-dollar business, but they’re having fun doing it.” And it really comes through the language.
Cameron Parker: I’ll tell you a good story. I keep going back to BlackMilk, but it was somewhere where I could really apply everything that I’m passionate about too. For example, when we were on BigCommerce, we’d launch on a day and we’d get thousands of people hitting our website at one time. It crashed. Obviously, Shopify doesn’t do that. But when it did crash, most businesses would just immediately put up a post on Instagram or website going, “I’m sorry. Our website has crashed. The servers are not able to meet the demands.” We saw that as a storytelling point.
This is early days. So, we put up a story about… I don’t know if everyone remembers Lady Gaga at the Music Awards wearing this meat suit. And so, we told this whole story about feeling like Lady Gaga in this meat suit in the ocean, and this apex predator like a shark coming to attack us and it’s a feeding frenzy. It’s disruption. Anyway, we told this very visual story across everyone saying, apologising, but this is what’s happening, this is what we feel like.
Since that one story, our customers had identified as them being sharks, and our whole community from that day on became Sharkies. That became iconography and language in itself. That all started with a very simple story about the website crashing, turning something so rational into something really motive, and engaging, and people going, “Yeah! It’s a feeding frenzy! Give us our food! Nomnomnom!” And yeah.
I even look at a brand Desmond & Dempsey. It’s actually founded by a couple of Ozzies. I met them in the UK and I came across their brand, their story. And there were emails. Like, how many times do you get an email and you just delete? But I actually opened their emails and read it, and it’s longform. But I actually read it because they’re telling an incredible story. You just look at those brands out there that get it right and sometimes you don’t know, but you go, “Oh my god, I know why they get it right, is because they tell a damn good story.”
Simon Dell: I always use the Jerry Seinfeld quote, “There’s no such thing as attention span. If you’re entertaining people, people have an infinite attention span.” The other thing I wanted to touch on was The Dairy. The Dairy was your own project, side project or full-time.
Cameron Parker: A little side-hustle.
Simon Dell: A little bit of a side-hustle. Everyone loves a side-hustle. What mistakes did you have? Obviously, you’ve got a lot of experience from what you’ve done before, but surely there must’ve been somewhere in there that you’ve made some mistakes that you look back and go, “I wouldn’t do that again” or “I could’ve done that differently.”
Cameron Parker: Funny thing is, is the dairy is my playground to make mistakes. Because obviously, working with these bigger brands, as you grow, you become a little bit more nervous to take those risks, to try out a different app, to try something out. I started the dairy a couple of years into BlackMilk just because BlackMilk because this big business. On a million-dollar a day, you don’t want to make a tweak to something and then something not work. The dairy has always been my playground where I could independently do whatever I want whenever, and it’s my responsibility if something didn’t work. So, it’s a great playground for that. But it’s really hard, I guess, working on everything, just to have that balance. I made the mistake when I got excited and started Sunday is where I lost focus and energy in that. Guess what happened? Sales went down.
And recently we’ve, since we’ve sold Sunday, been putting a lot more energy into that, which is great. I think this way, you get that balance. I sometimes feel like a plumber with a leaky tap, you know?
Simon Dell: When you started The Dairy, this is advice to anybody who is thinking of starting an e-commerce business. So, The Dairy does iPhone cases, phone cases. Where do you start with, “I need someone to source these.” Where did you start from that and where is it at the moment in terms of how that operation works? Are you buying 10,000 units and they’re sitting in a warehouse somewhere?
Cameron Parker: The Dairy started when I Instagrammed. And what are the girls doing? Taking selfies when there was this amazing canvass on the back of a phone where I could put something on. That’s where that insight came from. And you have to do a little bit of research. What I wanted something is that scale. Before when even drop shipping was a thing, so I needed to find a partner that meant that I didn’t have to carry inventory.
One of the worst things from a brand market, I never want to go on sale. And BlackMilk was an awesome example of that. It was because we had production in-house, we could ramp up production, bring down production immediately so we never had to go on sale back in the day. We wanted to find a product, and luckily and found a partner that would basically make on-demand. And through that evolution… So no, I don’t carry any stock. You order today, I’ll print within 24 hours and ship within 48 hours.
That’s what The Dairy is built on: that business model. So, it’s great because I could collaborate with one artist and sell one case, or I could collaborate with another artist and sell a thousand cases. It’s instantly scalable, kind of like essentially drop shipping in a way.
Simon Dell: Does that affect your profitability?
Cameron Parker: Yes.
Simon Dell: I guess the balance then is much less risk.
Cameron Parker: Absolutely. That was my thing. I wanted something that, yes, my margins may be smaller, but when you’re factoring having to go on sale continuously, and the devaluing of the brand, what that can do to you. And then what you do with this inventory and phones update yearly in Apple, and Samsung brings out… How do you constantly stay up-to-date? I needed that. And luckily, The Dairy has become that.
Simon Dell: When you went and did your research who am I going to use and who can do this, where do you start doing that? Is it just pumping something into Google and going, “Who can make art phone cases in demand?” Or did someone introduce you to do someone? Did you have to go and actually do a trip to China or wherever they’re made?
Cameron Parker: It was Google. You just had to Google and then look at competitors out there, seeing how they were doing it. And then eventually, you find this little nugget and I did. I was able to find a manufacturer that would produce something to the high-quality spec that I wanted and I was happy. It probably 3 to 6 months of research, getting samples, and finding something that was right.
Simon Dell: I think that’s the key as well. And I’ve done that in terms of Chinese manufacturers and things like that, is getting samples and actually seeing what they could produce from the quality perspective. Because you certainly don’t want to start dropping money or sending orders to someone you don’t know what’s coming back out of them. How do you keep on top of quality? How do you make sure if you’re making single units… How do you make sure you’re staying on top of quality for those guys with those kind of business?
Cameron Parker: Luckily, essentially the blanks are produced. And then it’s like a sublimation printed, so the print is printed on it. Therefore, it’s just a colour reproduction. And then for me, I’ve got approved samples that they match to make sure that there’s any variations in ink or anything like that. Yeah, my products I guess, they cover the cost of some of the blanks and the moulds. I luckily don’t have any… My returns are super minimal because unless you accidentally bought an iPhone 11+ Pro case and you have an iPhone 11, the production is…
Simon Dell: It’s funny. The niches we’ve worked with in e-commerce, the difference in terms of return policies… Not necessarily return policies, but clients, consumers sending things back. It varies wildly. iPhone cases is a great example. Nobody’s really going to send one back because low cost, and they either like or they don’t like it. But then you start talking about female fashion, and all of a sudden, the returns… You talked to my wife about sending clothes back, and she’ll send stuff back in a heartbeat.
Cameron Parker: ASOS, because I’m based in UK, it’s just they just buy it because it’s free shipping. “Oh, I don’t like it. I’ll just ship it back.” Within 24 hours.
Simon Dell: I just wondered whether that’s… Clearly, they’ve factored that into their business model.
Cameron Parker: But for a small business, that’s really hard. And even I’ll bring back the BlackMilk example. Luckily, we worked in stretch wear, so obviously there was a given from a fit point of view, but that’s where the online communities were great. We had a group… It was the second largest one called Buy Sell Swap. And because we had an international community, rather than returning it all the way to Australia, they would actually facilitate their own returns between the community members. It was like, this is amazing.
It was like doing our job for us. That was an interesting returns system that we had with BlackMilk. Customers would return it across themselves based on the country where they were in because it would be a lot easier to do.
Simon Dell: You’ve recently started a new role. Tell us a little bit about that.
Cameron Parker: My business partners at Sunday, he bought into a business in the US. It’s called Hat Club. It’s very different for me because I’ve traditionally marketed to women. And this is men, lovers of sports and American sports. And it’s called Hat Club. If anyone’s been to America, it’s very much a sneaker culture and what you wear in your feet or the hat you wear in your head defines what you are, who you are, where you’re from.
I’ve recently working with the team over there. It’s been awesome because any brand that I work with fundamentally needs to have some sort of community aspect. And with headwear and sneaker, absolutely has a community. There’s lines outside stores for the latest sneaker or the latest hat because it’s an exclusive New York Yankees era fitted hat that there’s only X number of units. Guys will line up and we’ll sell thousands of dollars’ worth of hats within a space of an hour, and it’ll sell out because that… I was excited to work with the brand and apply some of my experiences for the past 10 or so years in community online, the e-commerce, and how to bring it to life.
Simon Dell: Give me the major difference between marketing to women and marketing to men.
Cameron Parker: I always come back to more psychographic. I don’t even think too much about that, although obviously these guys, for me, the storytelling has been the biggest challenge. Because obviously, that comes with a level of authenticity. That’s definitely a learning experience for me because as a marketer and brand, I’ve really got to… I’ve obviously travelled to New York and travelled to where the head office is in Phoenix, and spent time in-store. I’ve literally worked in-store. How important is that? It’s crazy how many people start a new job and don’t spend a number of weeks on the ground meeting a customer. That has been so important for me, to learn the language. I mean, even just… I mean, for me, as an Ozzie and then working, when you meet, it could be a handshake, a hug. In Europe, it’s two kisses, three kisses depending on which country. You go to New York and you meet this customer, and it’s… I’ve never felt so awkward. It’s the handshake. It’s like oh my god, it’s like immersing yourself into the custom. That’s been such a big learning experience for me to develop and work with the team to build to life the language, and DNA, and all those touch points. I’ve enjoyed it. Very different.
Simon Dell: Last couple of questions. If people are in e-commerce today, if they’re running an e-commerce store, they think about running an e-commerce store, what’s perhaps the one thing that you would say to them that they have to get right if they’re going to do this well?
Cameron Parker: While they’re starting it?
Simon Dell: Right.
Cameron Parker: For me, I wouldn’t partner with someone who’s just starting it just to make money. That’s not a strong enough purpose. I mean, surely lots of your listeners have read Start with Why? Simon Sinek. He’s actually released a new book The Infinite Gain which I think is the best out of all his books because it ties in, Start With Why, Find Your Why, Together is Better, Leaders Eat Last, his sort of books. For me, it does come back to that purpose, values, why. It has to have a pretty good story. For the past half an hour we’ve been talking about story: You don’t start something if it’s just to make money and retire rich. How are you going to build an authentic About Us page? You’re not going to say, “I started to this brand because I wanted to make a million dollars a year and I can retire in the Caribbean.” That to me is nothing that I can work with as a storyteller of a brand.
For me, you got to get that essence right. So when you have to do an elevator pitch and someone says, “Oh, what do you do?” Oh, you started something? Why did you start it? You’ve got a really beautiful, engaging story whether it’s one-minute long or half an hour, you grab a bottle of wine to tell them. There’s just something super powerful about it.
Simon Dell: My last question for you today: You’ve mentioned a couple of other brands as well, but who do you look at, brands you look at online, be it ecommerce or be it not e-commerce, that you aspire to potentially recreate their brand value, or just people that you see that you just go, “God, they’ve done a great job.”
Cameron Parker: There’s a couple. But when I recently went to New York, Glossier. In terms of language, such a unique style. It’s makeup. But I went to their store. And in terms of that sensory experience, it’s like walking into Willy Wonka’s makeup factory. They literally have uniforms like… It’s crazy. I urge people to go check out Glossier. It’s got an absolute hard-core community. They’ve got Instagram accounts: Boyfriends of Glossier, I think Dogs of Glossier. Their Instagram account is community-driven where girls would go there and they’ll take photos of the boyfriends in store.
And I think even that Instagram account’s got tens of thousands of followers. Check that out. Actually, one for me that I love to work with them is Sofar Sounds. Sofar Sounds started in the UK. It’s completely international now, but it’s like Airbnb for music. Basically, it started where if you had a love of music and you wanted to see a gig… Obviously, you had to pay money and go to a bar and commit. Sofar Sounds is basically pop-up where you don’t even know the artists and it will go for two hours, and each artist will do about a 20-minute set.
You don’t know them so it’s undiscovered. And actually recently, they’ve introduced spoken word, so poets or even comedians to be one of the three sets. You’ll start off with either one person singing and you’ll have a band. You’re introduced and supporting artists which, for them, to gain exposure. And with Spotify now, that’s awesome because you’ll meet these artists and they’ll connect you to their Spotify. All of a sudden, you just open your eyes at this person you never would’ve come across. It’s building a community, and you don’t know where you’re going. You’ll just type in the location and it’ll be secret, and you’ll get the location the day before.
What I love that is you’ll then discover other parts of your neighbour or the city. Or if you’re travelling, go have a look at the place you’re going. There’s been some incredible venues where I’ll be like an art gallery or someone’s office. You even go to people’s homes. So, Sofar Sounds, check out that. In terms of, again, a brand that’s building a community… And I love it because it’s supporting emerging artists that normally wouldn’t have a platform to get discovered unless they’re busking or doing a gig in a pub. But then what are people doing? Drinking and talking.
It’s BYO. You sit down on the ground, sometimes bean bags or whatever, and you bring a bottle of wine, and you bring some cheese and all that and you literally sit down for two hours. And even during the break, they encourage you to talk to other people. I’m a big fan of that. I would work for them in a second.
Simon Dell: For anyone listening in Australia, I’ll just put out there, it’s Melbourne, Perth, and Canberra at the moment.
Cameron Parker: They need more venues.
Simon Dell: Nothing in Brisbane but I look at some of these… It says 444 cities worldwide.
Cameron Parker: That’s insane, right? They only started six years ago out of London.
Simon Dell: Mate, it’s been fantastic. Thank you very much for your time today. We could talk for a lot longer. There’s probably two hours we could do on brand of BlackMilk itself and all the other bits and pieces you’re doing. Appreciate that. You’re flying back to London?
Cameron Parker: Yeah, Australia Day, sadly.
Simon Dell: You better get your thongs and your cork hat and all that.
Cameron Parker: I’m going to go straight from the beach to the airport. Savour that last bit of sun because I won’t be seeing it for a while.
Simon Dell: If anybody wants to get a hold of you, if they want to ask you a question, they want to look at your work at the moment, what’s the best way of them reaching out to you?
Cameron Parker: Twitter, Instagram, @camjparker.
Simon Dell: Brilliant, mate. Thank you very much for that.
Cameron Parker: Thanks, guys.