Ace & Everett makes socks. But if you ask co-founder Sage Disch if they’re a sock company, the answer is a resounding no. “We are a brand who chose socks as our first medium of interaction with the world.”
Smart guy. And ambitious! I like that.
But what I like even more is how Ace & Everett is marketing their product. While most brands toil in traditional marketing, creating digital ads that creepily follow potential customers around the Internet and end up doing little more than pissing them off, brothers Cody and Sage Disch are all-in on content marketing.
“[Content] marketing to us is all about authenticity. Finding ways to showcase your brand and your product in the natural flow of life. It’s not about telling people what they need, it’s about showing people how our socks can be part of a more exciting, expressive, and personalized way of life.” Sage Disch
The key word here is authenticity. Just because content marketing is “hot” right now, doesn’t mean it’ll be effective. Like most things in life, you still need to know what the hell you’re doing. And most brands don’t.
As a result, a lot of content marketing isn’t content marketing at all. It’s just more advertisements that look and feel slightly different, yet still contain the same salesy pitch. Instead of an ad saying “Buy our product!” it’s a sponsored post saying, “We paid this website to tell you to buy our product!”
What’s the point? It’s just more of the same. And millennials, armed with finely-tuned bullshit radars, see right through it.
With Ace & Everett, there’s nothing salesy. They aren’t in in your face trying to sell you socks. They’re selling you on their brand, and them as people.
“Wow, they get it. I like these guys.” That’s what they’re going for. And it’s working.
Phase One: Partnering with Humza Deas
Humza Deas (@humzadeas) is a popular NYC photographer well-known for his incredible shots amongst the city’s skyscrapers, usually with his legs hanging off the edge of a building like in the photo below.
Cody and Sage saw this and figured those naked ankles could probably use some socks. So they started working with Humza, who is now their artist in residence.
He has his own pair of socks, called the Humzillas, and his 185k Instagram followers now get a healthy dose of his famous “hanging legs” photos, now with Ace & Everett socks prominently featured.
“Oh, so they’re doing sponsored posts?” No, not really. There’s none of that “Hey guys, check out @aceandeverett socks! They’re great!” crap in the caption. No “Link in bio for 50% off!” nonsense.
Social media users can tell this wasn’t one of those situations where a brand is looking for a quick buck by using an influencer. This is a genuine partnership, illustrating both Ace & Everett’s interest in photography and Humza Deas’ support of their brand.
Humza produces most of the company’s visual content, too. Including photographing the “100 Man March,” which featured 100 guys bar crawling through Soho wearing blazers, button downs, tighty whities, no pants, and Ace & Everett socks.
You gotta love these guys.
Phase Two: The Great American Road Trip
A month ago, the Ace & Everett team embarked on a five-week, cross country road trip in an RV. No, this wasn’t a vacation. It was a business trip. And in typical Disch brothers fashion, it was a doozy.
“For us, [the road trip] was all about the experience. We wanted to honor the friendship shared between us as brothers, and the creative partnership between Ace & Everett and Humza Deas. We care about honesty, transparency, and sharing our experiences as a reflection of the Ace & Everett lifestyle we want to share with the world.”
Some of the trip highlights, according to the team:
- Driving golf balls into the Grand Canyon
- Sledding in saucers down the mountains in White Sands, New Mexico
- Getting lost half a mile underground in Arizona’s Lava River Caves
Here are the first two “episodes” documenting the trip. Episode 3 comes out soon.
Now, of course, this trip was about more than just creating epic content that can be used for years to come (even though that’s incredibly important). There needs to be some kind of tangible return, right?
So, the guys took full advantage of their many pitstops and secured three new wholesale accounts, one in Los Angeles, one in Las Vegas, and one in Dallas.
They also focused on getting new members signed up for their brand spankin’ new monthly-subscription service called the “Boys Club” by throwing parties in a handful of cities, getting to know existing customers, introducing new ones to the brand, and educating everyone, in person, on this new subscription feature.
Their efforts led to a bunch of new subscribers, helping Ace & Everett double their previous membership total.
Would these guys have been better off spending five weeks back in NYC pursuing leads and cranking out emails? Perhaps. Would they have sold more socks from their office than from a traveling RV? Maybe.
But there’s no denying that this trip helped them strengthen their brand presence, reach new customers in ways you simply can’t from a desk, and come together as a team.
Now, not every company has the resources or ambition to pull off a cross-country road trip like this. Some just hate #RVLife. I get that. As for their Instagram strategy, I also understand that not every company has a product that fits seamlessly into photographs like socks.
But telling Ace & Everett’s story isn’t meant to give anyone something to replicate. In fact, it can’t be replicated. I’ve gotten to know these guys pretty well, and their weirdness and overall commitment to building a brand to honor their grandfather isn’t something that Joe from Seattle is going to create overnight.
No, the point of telling these guys’ story and breaking down their marketing tactics is to challenge young marketers to start thinking outside the box.
And just to be clear, paying influencers on social media to promote your product ain’t thinking outside the box.
Sure, it might get you some sales, but it kills your brand. For every 10 people that inexplicably buy that thing, 20 people lose all respect for you forever.
But seeking out customer interactions, from New York to San Francisco, and back again…now that’s something people will respect. And forming lasting relationships with “influencers” makes them something else entirely. It makes them friends.
So take a trip. Create some epic content. Engage with people in places you’ve never visited before. Because even if the customers (and sales) don’t come right away, you’ll be building a lasting brand. And that’s what counts in our increasingly noisy world.
PS: If you’d like to join Ace & Everett’s “Boys Club,” use access code “brothersdisch” to become a member.
And if you just want a couple pairs of socks or like 30, Hustle readers are getting 25% off all orders on the site. Use promo code “hustle” to get your well-deserved discount, and like Cody and Sage say, “Go ahead. Give your ankles a voice.”
A note from The Hustle: Every morning at 9am Pacific, we send an email with the top news stories in business and tech. It's kind of like if your friend read the internet all day then told you the important stuff in a fun, easy to understand way. Join the club and impress your coworkers with how smart you are.