Brand Strategy

How womenswear brand Cider uses influencers—and Discord—to grow

With a new New York City pop-up, the fast-fashion company is looking to translate its digital marketing chops to the brick-and-mortar world.
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· 4 min read

When Yu Oppel co-founded the clothing brand Cider in 2020, she admits she didn’t have much marketing experience. The most relevant recent experience she had, she said, was as a product manager at online clothing retailer Dolls Kill.

More than three years later, Oppel, who serves as Cider’s chief marketing officer, has gotten quite a bit of practice rolling up her fashionable sleeves. The womenswear brand, which according to Crunchbase has raised $140 million in funding, had a breakthrough moment this spring when Jennie, a member of K-pop group BLACKPINK, posted a photo of herself wearing a $16 floral top from Cider, rocketing the garment to best-seller status and causing a sell-out in nearly all sizes.

But the brand isn’t solely relying on viral moments to reach customers. This month, the brand is pushing into brick-and-mortar with its first-ever storefront, a pop-up that opened in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Its global marketing strategy, informed in part by its Gen Z employees, is designed to build out a robust online presence and boost brand awareness around the world, Oppel told us.

“We didn’t think it would be possible to build a truly global brand without real Gen Zers on the team,” she said.

Goin’ global

While Cider doesn’t have permanent storefronts, the company, which ships to more than 130 countries, has invested in out-of-home advertising and fashion-forward activations in major cities. Since it began operating, Cider has hosted more than 20 events in cities across the world, including Los Angeles, New York, London, Berlin, and Mexico City, Oppel said, and the events have featured things like games, DJs, and even sit-down meals. Cider has run paid influencer campaigns in more than 10 countries globally and has partnered with influencers to promote activations, sourcing the creators organically and through agencies it works with, Clare Thompson, Cider’s global head of marketing and partnerships, said.

“A lot of other brands will dictate how influencers that they work with show up for the brand, but we value that authenticity that they’ve created with their customer base and leverage that so it feels very unique,” Thompson told us. “We really look for a variety of influencers that represent the many sides of who this global Gen Z customer is,” Thompson told us.

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One recent, high-profile example: In May, Cider ran a campaign in New York to promote a collection geared toward music festival season. The brand tapped NYC-based influencer Haley Kalil (@haleyybaylee), who has more than 3 million Instagram followers, to help promote the collection through digital content while the brand plastered posters around the city. Ahead of the pop-up’s opening this month, Cider worked with Kalil once again, who encouraged her followers to check it out.

Here’s some advice

Cider works to connect with customers through online engagement. While the brand has 5 million followers on Instagram, Cider leverages a public Discord server to connect with more than 15,000 fans, providing feedback and opinions on Cider’s clothing collections. The Discord, which Oppel said started within the first six months of Cider’s existence, goes beyond feedback and has become a place where Cider consumers can connect with each other, sharing things beyond a common interest in the brand. Oppel described the group as “tight-knit.”

When Cider was initially rolling out its plus-size line, Curve, the Discord community helped, Oppel said. “They helped us get into the really nitty-gritty of the fit and the design of the products when we first launched,” Oppel said. “Now the Curve line has grown to more than 15% of our business.”

Chronically online

Discord is only one of the online platforms Cider has a presence on. The brand also sells through e-commerce platforms like TikTok Shop in the UK, and is “just opening our US TikTok shop as well,” Oppel said.

Cider is staffed by a team of around 600 in 15 different countries. While she declined to state how many marketers Cider employs, Oppel said many of its employees are Gen Z. Having Gen Zers on staff provides the brand with unique insight into the cultures and trends of different regions, which has been useful to customize the brand’s approach, Oppel said.

The brand’s next endeavor is its New York City pop-up, which opened its doors on Nov. 4. If the location is successful, it plans to open permanent stores in the US.

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