Matt Taylor created something special when he created Tracksmith. Based on heritage and collegiate styles, Tracksmith has redefined outdoor apparel in a space that is dominated by household names and global retailers. In the second half: LVMH bids on Tiffany and Sucharita Kodali of Forrester gives us the low-down on 180-year-old brand.

Show notes

Main Takeaways:

  • Brian and Phillip are joined in today's episode by Matt Taylor, the Co-Founder and CEO of Tracksmith and they are recording today's episode at the Trackhouse in Boston.
  • Tracksmith is geared towards dedicated runners and has fostered a dedicated fan base based on those values.
  • With customer acquisition costs on the rise, where should your brand focus its efforts to make the most out of your hard-earned dollars?
  • Capturing the passion you have for your brand helps identify your ideal customers, and is invaluable when it comes to developing your brand's identity.

Heritage: An Accurate Description of Tracksmith of a Brand:

  • Matt recalls the first time the brand was in the Trackhouse back in 2015 when Tracksmith used the building as their first pop-up location.
  • As a runner for his entire life, Matt has been involved in running since middle school, which makes running a big part of his life.
  • After college, Matt got more and more interested in running, and before starting Tracksmith, he was the Head of Marketing for the Running and Training categories at Puma.
  • He built an iPhone game with Usain Bolt before the 2012 Olympics that gave him a bridge to take a year to work and develop Tracksmith.

A Powerful Combination: Fusing Interest and Passion:

  • Tracksmith is described by Matt as a combination of personal interest and passion, but also a representation of his years of experience in the industry.
  • There is a lot of talk about timing within the market when it comes to starting a business, but very few people talk about the importance of timing in a founder's personal life.
  • There is always a risk when starting your business venture and everyone's situation is different.
  • What personal factors contribute to an ideal environment if you were to leave a corporate job and start your own venture?

That Tracksmith Feel: Diversifying Against a Giant:

  • Hailed as an Anti-Nike, Tracksmith has developed a unique feel and has a special way they have decided to tell their story.
  • You can't manufacture authenticity, it has to come from a sincere place and for Tracksmith, that authenticity comes from a genuine passion for running.
  • As other running brands have grown, they have left behind a void in the market that is comprised of the core, committed running consumer.
  • Tracksmith has made it a mission to serve the dedicated running audience, and it is something they constantly check in with to make sure they stay on message.

The Pressure to Grow: Navigating a Harsh Environment:

  • There is a lot of pressure to grow in the current environment, especially if you are venture-backed.
  • Brian asks Matt if he thinks that it's inevitable for Tracksmith to broaden its horizons given the constant push for growth.
  • Matt doesn't think that will happen any time soon because there is such a consistent market in the running vertical so there is no pressure to build a multi-billion dollar brand in the immediate future.
  • Where is the line drawn between staying true to a core customer and growing to reach other customer sets?

Who Is and Who Isn't?: Identifying Your Customers:

  • There is a very strong feel to Tracksmith, so Brian asks if Matt thinks that this strong feel is exclusionary in any way.
  • Tracksmith does not view their brand as exclusionary, but rather aspirational which can sometimes feel far away for some people.
  • People tend to think negatively first instead of coming together to build something up.
  • Tracksmith is geared towards people that have made running a part of their identity, and overcoming obstacles is especially poignant to that group.

Selective Partnering: How to Choose Compatible Brands:

  • Phillip is interested to know what Tracksmith's approach is when it comes to partnering with other brands.
  • Tracksmith partnered with Rowing Blazers after they did a pop-up close to the Trackhouse and quickly realized that both brands shared a passion for their respective sports.
  • Team endurance sports specifically become harder post-college due to the difficulty of finding a crew, so there was hope for discovery in partnering with Rowing Blazers.
  • Tracksmith just announced a partnership with outerwear company Boathouse as well as a partnership with Article One Eyewear.

Facilitating Community: How To Foster Relationships With Your Brand:

  • From the beginning, physical interaction was very important for Tracksmith for their customers to connect with their product.
  • Most brands in most spaces don't have an opportunity to create a community, but the running community already exists even before they purchase anything.
  • Tracksmith was hosting runs from inception, but having a location in Boston facilitates the community even further.
  • Boston is unique in the running world as it holds a special space in the minds of the running community.

CAC On The Rise: What It Costs to Run a Business in 2019:

  • A connection that is outside of the purchase experience is trending to be the main way that brands are reaching their customers.
  • There is an opportunity for Tracksmith to build longer-lasting relationships via print due to its very visual nature.
  • Over time, unselfish content builds a stronger connection with your brand but is very hard to draw a straight line back to your revenue.
  • Tracksmith's biggest driving force for content is photography; pictures and words drive everything else they do.

Patience is a Virtue: Emotionally Capturing a Brand:

  • Tracksmith specifically takes extra time to highlight the runner themselves, and that is comprised of more than just the run itself.
  • If you do care deeply about something, there is a process that you go through that bypasses our current world of instant gratification.
  • Matt grew up in a family of makers, and when you grow up around that, he was immersed in the value of something that is handcrafted with time and love.
  • Running is in such stark contrast to the world of today where everything is so instant.

Building Up Your Employees: A Major Key to Success:

  • Employees are the face of your brand and provide your customers with their experience with the brand.
  • Relationships with customers are starting to supersede your story when it comes to building brand loyalty.
  • Tracksmith naturally attracts employees who are passionate about running, and that passion comes across in customer interactions.
  • Phillip has personally experienced the employee passion at Trackhouse when an employee recognized him from an interaction that was months ago.

Pursuing Your Passion: Advice for Other Founders:

  • Phillip asks Matt if he has any advice for other founders that are considering taking a risk and pursuing their passion.
  • A lot of people want to give you advice, but a lot of that advice is specific to their personal experience, and this doesn't necessarily apply to you.
  • Absorb as much information and advice as you can, but you need to discover what makes your situation unique.
  • Identifying what makes your brand unique will help you form your voice and brand identity,

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

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