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Matter is a Singapore-based apparel company that focuses on clothing made using traditional textile printing/manufacturing methods such as woodblock printing and Batik.
Founded in 2014 by Renyung Ho and Yvonne Suner, the brand integrates traditional methods with modern designs and has shipped to over 30 countries.
Matter has also been featured in publications like Vogue, The Good Trade, and Conscious Magazine.
Let's explore how they have managed to get to where they are today:
1. Matter tells stories through their products so customers appreciate the brand and textile heritage better.
For founders Renyung Ho & Yvonne Suner, they see a beauty behind each traditional form of fabric making and art. They see them as symbols of rich cultural history and want to share them with the world through Matter.
Hence, every piece of clothing they make is a story about a particular traditional art form. When customers buy their clothing, they're not only buying it because they can appreciate the story. They buy it because they want to support the community of traditional artisans.
In the book Made to Stick, psychologist Gary Klein explains that stories are effective in motivating people to act. In the book, one of the ways stories can elicit action is by making us feel connected to another person or community.
When we learn about a group of craftsmen who have honed and preserved their methods over generations, we automatically feel a sense of admiration. And that makes us want to support them even more.
Matter showcases artisans and the history behind certain printing techniques and interviews them to understand their passion and dedication.
Brands like Toms and Warby Parker have been famous for allowing customers to contribute to communities that need our support. But instead of a charity-type relationship, Matter Prints is a social enterprise. They help the artisanal communities by creating jobs and helping them to become self-sustaining.
Ultimately, customers who love the brand do so not just for their beautiful products, but also for the craftsmen who made the clothes using techniques passed down for generations.
2. Matter has a strong community who shares their values and spreads their passion through word-of-mouth.
Matter promotes the idea of provenance - to be curious about how things are made and appreciative of fabric cultural heritage. They want their customers to be more conscious of their consumption behavior and to look beyond labels and trends.
Co-founder Renyung Ho mentions Matter's vision of that change,
Ultimately we want to change consumer culture and inspire the importance of provenance. We believe that where something is made, and why, matters.
This desire to educate can be seen from their 'Community' page:
Matter is all about connecting and growing their community, which includes their fabric makers as well as their customer base. Their articles allow customers to learn more about fabric history and how to become a part of the sustainable consumption community.
And getting your customers to feel a sense of community to your vision is key to building long-term customer loyalty.
In Simon Sinek's popular TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, he explains the importance of selling your vision instead of your products. As customers, we don't always buy something just for its function. We buy because it also helps us to express something we align ourselves with.
For a social enterprise like Matter, their goal isn't just to sell nice clothes but also to rally their customers behind a movement. A movement that stands for sustainable fashion and fabric heritage.
According to Russell Stevens, a former partner at marketing campaign agency, SS&K, we often feel a desire to be a part of a community, something larger than ourselves. We become unofficial brand ambassadors and want to actively spread the word. For a business, this can translate to more word-of-mouth referrals as people share and join brands that are tied to social movements.
In co-founder Renyung Ho's own words on word-of-mouth,
When someone buys a Matter piece and talks about it to a friend, feels special when they wear it and shares the story with a stranger, that’s impact too. Those relationships matter.
3. Matter encourages customers to express their social identity by posting photos of their outfits.
In addition to telling their friends about Matter, customers can also tag their outfits with the #mattertribe hashtag:
This adds to that feeling of being a part of an active community of individuals who are different from the mainstream fast fashion consumers. They have a channel where they can express who they are and what they stand for.
One of the driving factors behind why people share on social media is social currency. In the book 'Contagious - Why Things Catch On', Jonah Berger explains that we gain social currency when we share things that make us feel good. In the face of fast fashion being the norm, Matter's customers stand out because they are able to look beyond the price and instead appreciate actual craftsmanship.
How can you apply this to your business?
- Crafting stories around your brand and products: Stories are important devices for educating, conveying messages, and creating emotions. They are also more memorable and easy for people to share with others. Convey your brand story to your customers and show them why they should support and invest in you.
- Building a community around your brand vision: Leverage on our desire to join communities by aligning it with your brand's core values. They are more likely to actively spread that group's shared interests through word-of-mouth. The usage of a referral program can help to increase sales as people are also more likely to trust recommendations from friends.
- Giving social currency through social identity: People want to be seen as being part of the cool crowd and being "in the know". By leveraging on various principles behind social currency, you can give your customers bragging rights for sharing about your brand with their peers.