Education and collaboration are the keys to this ecommerce company’s marketing.

I listened to Immaculate Vegan‘s Founder & CEO Annick Ireland on Vegan Mainstream’s Pivot! podcast (which I’ve been on) and knew I wanted to try and get her company’s marketing story in my book. She shared some amazing tips on how she’s grown her ecommerce company. Much of the content Immaculate Vegan shares is around shopping ethically and sustainably, which a growing number of consumers are concerned with.

Founder & CEO Annick Ireland said in my first chapter on marketing basics: “Vegan brands all want to do more than to sell stuff. We want to persuade people to make better choices and do better things. Because ultimately, we have an aim that’s beyond selling stuff and making money. We want to make the world different. And again, content has an important part to play there because it helps inform and inspire people, hopefully.”

 

Sales promotions that give back

Immaculate Vegan’s most successful marketing campaign occurred leading up to and during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend in 2021. Profits of all purchases over the weekend went to The Orangutan Project, which works to protect orangutans from extinction. “We were surprised by how much that would act as a driver for people to buy that weekend,” said Ireland. She explained:

We’re an ethical, sustainable retailer. We don’t go for big flash discounts. But what does resonate with our audiences is giving back. And I think the reason it was so successful is we picked a quite neutral organization in one sense, but also emotive on the other. No one is going to not care about orangutans, right? I think everyone hates the idea of deforestation. Killing the habitats of these amazing animals. And what I think is sad about it is they’re very close to us. They’re a great ape. Picking something that people feel emotive about regardless of their personal affiliations—that was probably one of the reasons it worked so well for us. Obviously, we have an audience that cares about the environment, and about things like that. It felt very resonant. We had people emailing our customer services saying, “It’s one minute past midnight, and I just placed my order. Is it too late ‘cause I really want to help the orangutans!” Which is weird, because I thought, well, you can go straight to their website. But it’s funny how linked these things are.

Immaculate Vegan is looking at implementing a loyalty program for customers. In this case, the reward isn’t cash, but being able to give back to a worthy cause. She explained, “Potentially getting points for discounts might play a part of that, but probably a bigger thing will be more around every pound or dollar you spend, you get points that then go to a charity. We probably will change the charity every month. I think it’s important that customers can see the direct link between what they’re doing and the impact they’re having.”

 

Digital marketing

Social media was a big part of the success of the aforementioned campaign. Immaculate Vegan had posts and Stories going out on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and changed their main homepage banner. Ireland added, “We did two emails over the weekend with almost no product in the middle—just talking about the foundation and what they did, which had amazing open and click-through rates. And then we also did some Facebook advertising as well.” Here’s one of the posts I share in the book:

Immaculate Vegan attributes its success to SEO and a good content strategy too. Ireland explained, “As a young brand that doesn’t have much money, SEO is an important thing to invest in, because for paying an expert who can do the research for you, you can get a lot of traffic from creating good content and making sure all your on-site copy is optimized, and all the other clever things that you need to do. There’s a lot of bang for your buck there compared to, for example, putting your money into advertising, which you don’t always have money to do.”

She explains how a good content strategy can benefit small vegan brands by building deep trust with their customer:

Content-led campaigns work well with our audience. We have an online magazine, essentially it’s our online blog. And we have a lot of content. The aim is to inform and inspire people about shopping more consciously and living more ethically and sustainably. And we do a lot of research in terms of SEO. What are people searching for? What kind of things are people trying to understand more about?

For example, we have a whole series of articles on vegan leathers, because it’s a big area where both vegans and non-vegans have a lot of questions about. We have articles on everything you wanted to know about vegan leather. What is vegan leather, and is it sustainable? What’s wrong with animal leather? And specific articles about apple leather, cactus leather, cork leather, and Piñatex. People love learning more about these because they’re innovative. They’re sexy, cool, new materials. They appeal to non-vegans as well. People want the latest thing. Boring old animal leather—that’s so old fashioned! And that’s how we’re trying to present it as well.

We try not to be preachy at all ever, because we don’t think that’s a good way to go. We post interesting, sticky content that people who are trying to shop vegan or ethically struggle with, such as your vegan winter wardrobe, and we cover things like outerwear and knitwear because that’s been one of our most viewed articles recently. How do I escape wool and down and things like that? We did a popular article on vegan silk.

Wherever possible, we lead with content as opposed to “buy some stuff.” People are looking to find things and buy things, but I think they’re looking to learn as well and looking to understand what choices they can make and the impact of those choices, as well.

Overall, I would say our most important learning has been to lead with content wherever we can and to invest in content. It’s hard to measure a direct return for it because you’re not measuring the sales directly from those posts or those emails. But what you are measuring is engagement and new people that you’re bringing in. We set those kinds of KPIs (key performance indicators) for that activity.

The other thing is it creates a defensible position for vegan brands. Vegan brands talk about a lot, and there’s a worry: what about the mainstream brands that come along and copy us? That happens in food and fashion everywhere. A big food company can come along and make loads of vegan meats or vegan burgers, or vegan fashion. There are dubious ethics around those companies. But, the biggest thing is, what they can’t do is talk credibly and with trust about those topics, and that’s why content is so important for vegan brands and for all brands with a purpose, because we have the authority to talk about those things. We have the trust, because people know that’s where we come from. For vegan brands, it’s important to build up a good content strategy.

 

Vegan Marketing Success Stories is now available in ebook, paperback, and audio on Audible.

Companies in header photo: LUXTRA London (also in my book!), Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather

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