5 Marketing Principles From Savage X Fenty Your Startup Should Apply
Updated: Jan 18
In his song, 'Best I Ever Had,' the rapper Drake said one of my all-time favorite lines in hip-hop when he claimed that his buzz was so big—he could probably sell a blank disc. And while that line was very boastful; it wasn’t hyperbole. Back in 2009, when the song was released, and even today—off his buzz alone—Drake probably could sell a bunch of blank discs with just his likeness on the album cover.
That’s the impact that a hot contemporary artist could have on a product.
And if Drake’s buzz is so big that he could sell a blank disc—Rihanna’s fanbase (called ‘Rihanna Navy’) is so frenzied—she could easily sell a ton of empty boxes with just her picture on them. However, there’s a huge difference between selling a one-off product and building a billion-dollar brand.
And in order to do the latter, you're going to need great marketing principles and strategies.
Which is exactly what Rihanna and her team at Savage X Fenty have. According to Forbes, the lingerie brand founded by the pop icon currently has a $1 billion valuation. These are 5 Savage X Fenty marketing principles that you should apply to your startup if you aim to accomplish similar success.
1. Obsess over a KPI
In a 2022 interview with Grace Hill, on the ‘Inside Retail’ podcast, Savage X Fenty Co-president & CMO, Natalie Guzman, revealed many of the brand's marketing principles. In the interview, when asked what’s the metric or KPI (key performance indicator) that her co-workers would say she’s most obsessed with—Guzman said that it would probably be net promoter score.
Net promoter score is a good metric to obsess over due to the fact that it measures customer commitment—by surveying how likely customers would recommend your brand to others.
It is important that you also obsess over one of your startup’s meaningful metrics like NPS because you always want to measure which marketing efforts are working best for your business and which ones aren’t—so that you could either iterate certain actions or pivot.
“Companies that measure—will quickly optimize their offerings and make them more virus-worthy." Says entrepreneur and author Seth Godin, in his best-selling book, Purple Cow. Godin further explained that, "As it becomes easier to monitor informal consumer networks—the winners will be companies that figure out what's working fastest—and do it more. And figure out what's not working—and kill it.”
In order to create your own Purple Cow—it is imperative that you obsess over a relevant KPI to measure what is working—and what isn’t. This way, you'll have a much better chance to ensure that your startup is pleasing those that matter most—your customers.
2. Lean into your uniqueness
If this were a list of branding principles, this would definitely be at the very top of it. And sure, critics could easily say that Savage X Fenty is the hottest brand in the lingerie space simply because Rihanna is one of the most popular entertainers on the planet.
But popularity isn’t what builds and sustains successful brands. Heck, if that’s all it took—every popular rapper or singer would have a billion-dollar brand like Rihanna has. What does build and sustain brands are great marketing principles.
Like identifying what sets your brand apart from others and emphasizing that to your target audience.
“For us, when we were entering brick-and-mortar—it was really all about doing it differently.” Says Guzman. “I think that no other brand is really leaning into sensuality the way that we are.”
One of the things that makes Savage X Fenty such a unique brand, is that they openly emphasize sensuality—especially in their advertisements. In stark contrast to most other lingerie and loungewear brands that take a much more subtle approach towards advertising.
Lean into your brand’s uniqueness by identifying what makes you different—and proudly highlight those differences to your audience.
3. Champion the alienated
Think back to when you were in high school (if you’re in high school now, this should be easy). I’m sure that the most popular kid at your school was either an athlete, a rebel, one of the prettiest girls in the school, or the person with the most outgoing personality that was the life of every party.
And that person probably had their own clique.
Now, try to remember the student that was most-beloved at your high school. I’m certain that it was someone that was kind and spoke to everyone in the school. Especially to the students that were alienated and picked on just for being different.
That same logic applies to brands that are beloved by their audience. Savage X Fenty has a cult following and is most-beloved by millions of people because the brand places an emphasis on inclusion—by celebrating people of every size, race, gender, and sexuality. While also ensuring that their items will fit great on all of them.
In his book, The Culting Of Brands, author Douglas Atkin, explains the importance of a brand appealing to an audience that has been alienated. “Instead of trying not to alienate anyone, you must target the alienated and simultaneously separate your organization from the mainstream.”
Like the legendary brand Harley-Davidson, Savage X Fenty has built a cult following. And has done so by separating itself from other lingerie brands—by appealing to people that the more established brands distanced themselves from. By celebrating those that had not seen themselves represented by other brands—Savage X Fenty is beloved by their target audience.
Identify an audience that’s being underserved or underrepresented and position your startup to be their representative and go-to brand that either: fulfills a deep desire. Or alleviates particular a pain point of theirs.
4. Grant exclusive access
When it boils down to it, there’s very few things that motivate consumers to purchase a product. One of those things is something that just about every person on earth craves in one way or another—adulation. And what better way to help consumers receive adulation than by helping them attain a certain level of status?
Savage X Fenty does this with their ‘Xtra VIP Membership’ program.
“Our membership program, which we call Xtra VIP Membership—which is essentially like a loyalty program for us, is something that’s very unique—especially within intimates. And it brings us a lot of value.” Said Guzman. “It’s like being part of a club where you get exclusive access. I think it brings our members closer to Rihanna. They’re getting something special that not everyone else is getting.”
Like Savage X Fenty, you can also bring your audience closer to your brand by creating a special membership program (I beg you, do not call it a loyalty program) that grants exclusive access to your brand to the members that sign up to join. Just be sure that the benefits you offer to those members will be something that they'd brag to their friends about—which would help them attain status.
5. Stand for what you stand for
Brands often make the mistake of investing too much time and money into solely advertising the features of their products or services. Instead, it would be far more advantageous to their brand—if they focused on telling stories about what their brand stands for.
Author Simon Sinek said it best, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Savage X Fenty makes it a point to articulate their mission to their target audience. Which is wanting their customers to feel sexy, confident, and to have fun while doing so. And every aspect of the brand’s marketing communicates that to their audience in one way or another.
What is it that your brand fundamentally stands for? What’s your brand’s mission? Whatever it is, be sure to unrelentingly convey it to your audience every chance you get. And like Savage X Fenty—you could build a brand that’ll be adored by your target audience.