True Classic Tees, founded in 2019, has carved a large niche for itself in the men’s fashion industry. Their rapid growth, focus on product quality, and commitment to customer satisfaction have enabled them to disrupt the market and become a leading direct-to-consumer apparel brand going from $0 to $150 million in revenue in just three years. In this article, we’ll explore the key strategies that have contributed to True Classic’s success and provide insights that new brands can use as a playbook to achieve similar results.
Make sure you read until the end where we share how you can apply the True Classic growth playbook.
We’ll start with the key insights in outline format for how True Classic unlocked hockey stick growth, and then we’ll break down the strategies for how you can do the same.
Company Background and Growth:
- True Classic Tees was founded in summer of 2019 by Ryan, Matt, and Nick, with the goal of redefining the classic t-shirt for men.
- The aim was to create the best fitting, most comfortable shirt at an accessible price point to make everyone look good and feel good.
- The business expanded rapidly across three key dimensions: product, market, and channel.
- The product line grew from just tees to around 15 different categories, including jeans, activewear, chinos, and jackets.
- The market expanded internationally, with True Classic now in 190 markets worldwide and international sales accounting for 25-30% of the business.
- Channel expansion involved launching an app, selling on Facebook and Instagram shops, Amazon, and opening five retail locations.
- The company bootstrapped the brand into a commoditized space, reaching nine figures in revenue within two years, all while remaining profitable.
- True Classic managed to become one of the fastest-growing direct-to-consumer brands, launching in 2019 and achieving a valuation of $700 million.
- The company’s first-year revenue was $15 million, followed by $90 million in the second year, and $150 million in the third year.
Marketing and Advertising:
- This success was achieved without raising large amounts of capital, instead relying on strategic marketing across platforms like Meta, TikTok, Google, and YouTube.
- The brand started big on Meta (Facebook) and scaled its marketing efforts, benefiting from the sizable female audience who purchase for male family members and friends.
- True Classic built a strong community with over 2.5 million customers who actively support and promote the brand.
- Meta (Facebook) has always been the backbone of their marketing efforts, but the percentage of spend varies depending on the time of year.
- Focuses on maintaining a certain level of profitability
- Calculates profit per new customer, taking into account all variable costs (including expected returns, exchanges, and customer service costs)
- Aims to break even or even lose a few dollars on the first order, knowing they will become profitable later on due to cohort understanding
- Uses cumulative gross profit per customer as a key metric
- Revenue split: about two-thirds new customers and one-third repeat customers, though cohort analysis is prioritized over percentages
- Seeks creative, technological, and landing page breakthroughs to acquire more customers while maintaining efficiency constraints
- Goal is to keep improving incrementally and finding new ways to scale the business
- Marketing budget landed between $50 and $60 million
- Primarily runs advertising for acquisition, as remarketing becomes too expensive and cost-prohibitive
- Indirectly drives repeat behavior and keeps the brand top of mind, as advertising remains relevant even for repeat customers
- Breaking even on acquisition creates a positive impact on the rest of the business by driving additional repeat customers
Financing and Investment Strategy:
- Uses Wayflyer as a debt provider, raising debt rather than equity
- Operates business responsibly and invests the right amount, accounting for interest on debt
- Considers creative costs as variable, not just Opex, when used to run ads
- Terms from the manufacturer and financing from a provider with a reasonable interest rate
- Focuses on refining math, analytics, and understanding of investment returns
- Emphasizes the importance of relentless analytics to make better financial decisions
Product Development and Customer Experience:
- The initial $3,000 investment was used for research and development (R&D) to develop the initial product, focusing on creating the perfect classic t-shirt.
- The R&D process led to the development of a classic crew neck t-shirt in black and white, focusing on comfort and fit.
- They worked with a manufacturer to create the initial
- inventory, using feedback from customers to continually refine and improve the product.
- True Classic continues to invest heavily in R&D, focusing on the quality and fit of their products to ensure customer satisfaction.
- They regularly engage with their customer base through social media channels and email to gather feedback and understand their preferences.
- The company has developed a strong customer service team to address any concerns and ensure a positive customer experience.
- To enhance the shopping experience, True Classic has implemented user-friendly website navigation and a seamless checkout process.
- The brand places emphasis on sustainable and ethical production, ensuring that the factories they work with are compliant with environmental and social standards.
Corporate Social Responsibility:
- True Classic Tees is committed to giving back to the community and has partnered with several non-profit organizations.
- A significant partnership is with the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides support to veterans and their families. True Classic donates a portion of their proceeds to this organization.
- They have also supported other causes such as education and disaster relief efforts.
- The company’s commitment to social responsibility extends to their supply chain, where they ensure fair labor practices and sustainable production methods are used.
Future Plans and Growth Prospects:
- True Classic plans to continue expanding its product offerings, focusing on quality and fit to maintain a loyal customer base.
- The company aims to further penetrate international markets, capitalizing on the success they have already achieved in their global expansion.
- They will continue to refine their marketing and advertising strategies to acquire new customers and increase brand awareness.
- True Classic will explore additional sales channels and potential retail locations to reach more customers and provide an enhanced shopping experience.
- The brand is focused on maintaining profitability while pursuing sustainable growth and remaining true to their core values.
True Classic Tees has experienced rapid success and growth since its inception in 2019. The company’s focus on creating the perfect classic t-shirt, combined with strategic marketing efforts and a strong commitment to customer satisfaction, has positioned it as one of the fastest-growing direct-to-consumer brands. With plans for continued expansion and a dedication to quality and fit, True Classic is well-poised for sustained growth and success in the coming years.
Key Strategies for Success
- Product Development and Quality
One of the essential elements of True Classic’s success has been their unwavering commitment to product quality. The brand spent their initial investment on research and development to create the perfect classic t-shirt, focusing on comfort, fit, and durability. New brands should take the time to identify their target market and develop high-quality products that cater to their audience’s specific needs and preferences.
- Market Expansion and Channel Diversification
True Classic has expanded its market internationally and now serves customers in 190 markets worldwide. They have also diversified their sales channels by launching an app, selling on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and opening retail locations. New brands should consider expanding their market reach and exploring multiple sales channels to maximize their potential customer base and increase brand visibility.
- Strategic Marketing and Advertising
True Classic’s strategic marketing approach has played a crucial role in their rapid growth. They started by focusing on Meta (Facebook) for advertising and gradually expanded to other platforms like TikTok, Google, and YouTube. The brand maintains a lean marketing team structure and focuses on in-house analytics, supplemented by external agencies and freelancers as needed.
New brands can benefit from adopting a data-driven marketing approach and exploring different advertising platforms to find the most effective channels for their target audience. Experimenting with various marketing tactics and measuring their success through key performance indicators (KPIs) can help identify the most impactful strategies for long-term growth.
- Building a Strong Community
True Classic has built a strong community of over 2.5 million customers who actively support and promote the brand. They have achieved this by focusing on customer satisfaction, providing exceptional customer service, and fostering genuine connections with their audience. New brands should prioritize building a loyal customer base, as this will not only lead to repeat purchases but also create brand ambassadors who will help spread the word about their products.
- Embracing Sustainability and Social Responsibility
True Classic is committed to environmental sustainability and social responsibility, which has helped them build a positive brand image and resonate with their audience. They have partnered with non-profit organizations to give back to the community and plan to implement more eco-friendly practices throughout their supply chain.
New brands should consider incorporating sustainability and social responsibility into their business model, as this can help differentiate them from competitors and create a positive brand perception among customers.
- Financial Viability and Strategic Planning
True Classic has prioritized profitability from day one, focusing on key metrics like return on ad spend (ROAS) and ensuring that they remain financially viable. They have also been strategic in their fundraising, opting for debt financing rather than equity to maintain control over their business.
New brands should carefully consider their financing options and make strategic decisions to ensure long-term financial stability. Establishing clear goals, monitoring financial performance, and constantly refining their business model can help new brands achieve and maintain profitability.
- Continuous Improvement and Innovation
True Classic continually seeks creative, technological, and strategic breakthroughs to scale their business while maintaining efficiency constraints. They invest in analytics and creative strategy to drive marketing success, and they’re always looking for ways to improve their product offerings and customer experience.
New brands should embrace a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, as this will help them stay ahead of the competition and adapt to the ever-changing market landscape.
True Classic Tees’ remarkable growth and success can be attributed to their commitment to product quality, strategic marketing, community building, sustainability, financial viability, and continuous improvement. By implementing these strategies and embracing a playbook for success, new brands can learn from True Classic’s example and set themselves on a path to achieve similar results in their respective markets.
To recap, here’s a playbook for new brands inspired by True Classic’s success:
- Focus on product development and quality: Invest in research and development to create high-quality products tailored to your target market’s needs and preferences.
- Expand your market reach and diversify sales channels: Pursue international markets and multiple sales channels to maximize brand visibility and increase your customer base.
- Adopt a strategic and data-driven marketing approach: Explore various advertising platforms, experiment with different marketing tactics, and use KPIs to measure success and refine your strategies.
- Build a strong community of loyal customers: Prioritize customer satisfaction, provide exceptional customer service, and foster genuine connections with your audience.
- Incorporate sustainability and social responsibility into your business model: Differentiate your brand and create a positive perception among customers by giving back to the community and implementing eco-friendly practices.
- Ensure financial viability and strategic planning: Carefully consider financing options, establish clear goals, monitor financial performance, and constantly refine your business model for long-term stability and profitability.
- Embrace continuous improvement and innovation: Cultivate a culture of innovation and improvement to stay ahead of the competition and adapt to the changing market landscape.
By following this playbook and learning from the strategies employed by True Classic Tees, new brands can position themselves for success and growth in the competitive world of fashion and beyond. Remember that the journey to success is an ongoing process that requires constant adaptation, learning, and perseverance. Keep refining your playbook, stay focused on your goals, and never lose sight of the passion that drove you to start your brand in the first place.