Spark Interview: Growing a Social Following with Emotional Storytelling.

McKenna Taylor — Global Brand Manager at Skullcandy — shares the secret sauce behind their latest campaign and how they grew their social following by 50%.
Rachel Kador
November 18, 2019 - 7 min. read

As marketers strive to find new and more authentic ways to generate engagement, one brand went all-in. Skullcandy — makers of the headphones and earbuds worn by all the coolest kids in my high school — recently launched a 12-month campaign that wove together athletics, music, and new product releases, all distributed via social media.

McKenna Taylor — Global Brand Manager at Skullcandy — came to Spark to share the details of this ambitious campaign and how her team was able to build an entire content ecosystem around emotional storytelling. By partnering with strategic influencers and working closely with Skullcandy’s product development and ecommerce teams, McKenna was able to grow the brand’s social following by 50%.

We had a chance to speak with her about the inspiration behind the 12 Moods campaign and what lessons she’s learned along the way.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the 12 Moods campaign? And what were the primary objectives? Has Skullcandy done similar, year-long initiatives like this before, or was this a bold new experiment?

Skullcandy’s north star is “Music You Can Feel.” We don’t want people to just listen to their music, but rather to feel it. Through this lens, 12 Moods was developed to connect with fans on a more personal level. We all listen to music to make us feel something; to feel connected, to feel understood, to feel inspired — we wanted to go deeper and explore those moods in a unique way with our audience.

Every month we decided to celebrate a different mood through color, musical performances, and athletes’ stories, along with releasing a limited edition product to bring this idea to life. The 12 Moods campaign is the first of its kind for the company, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the reception. The level of thought, organization, content development, and scheduling was unprecedented for the brand.

Q: Obviously with any 12-month campaign there’s a lot of planning involved. How much have your plans changed since launching in March? What sort of metrics or results have you been using to optimize the campaign as you go through the year?

The Marketing and Creative teams at Skullcandy are highly cross-functional. The strategy and planning we did upfront was vital in streamlining asset creation and building the launch road maps. From the start, we wanted to create a level of consistency and to train our audience to build excitement around the monthly “Mood Drops.” Repetition was necessary for this concept to really gain momentum.

It was a challenging puzzle to schedule and organize every month, from photoshoots and video shoots, booking musicians, coordinating with athletes, and aligning PR and interviews to launching international websites, emails, SMS communication, and coordinating global influencer support. Not to mention building content for daily social media posting across all owned channels. Now, layer in additional inline product launches and initiatives, and the only way to make sure everything worked together in harmony was to stay committed to a plan.

As metrics have come in around content performance (namely video views, view time, likes, shares, comments, ROAS etc.) we’ve optimized and evolved some pieces based on learnings and insights. Outside of that, we haven’t changed anything drastically. We’ve moved a few days around but really it has just been refining execution for excellence.

Q: The 12 Moods campaign includes quite a few influencers — artists, musicians, athletes, etc. — how did you determine who to partner with, and can you share some of the lessons you’ve learned from working with influencers across so many categories?

Skullcandy is the original lifestyle audio brand and has a unique position in the marketplace sitting at the intersection of board sports (surf, skate, snow) and music. Knowing who your brand is and what you stand for is a foundational first step to guide selection of partners and personalities who will represent your brand. Sounds basic and obvious but it’s the truth and can make or break the effectiveness of influencers.

Along with due diligence on researching potential partner’s metrics, we’ve developed consumer profiles to help guide brand decisions when partnering with ambassadors, as well as an inhouse Sports Marketing team that oversees our athlete roster.

For the 12 Moods program we wanted to spotlight emerging musicians, exposing our fanbase to a great new artist they should know about, while also supporting these artists in broadening their reach to find new audiences. We consider more qualitative attributes as well: are they looked at as a thought, trend, or a cultural leader? Do they have any tiebacks to the board sports community? Who else is in their network or sphere of influence? And who makes up the bulk of their fan base or followers?

For traditional social media influencers, we have partnered with a fantastic agency who understands the nuances of Skullcandy as a brand and is fully collaborative in finding personalities who fit our brand ethos. We value high engagement levels over a massive following reach. While individuals with millions of followers have their time and place, consumers are hyper aware of the transactional nature of sponsored endorsements, which erode the authenticity of your brand massage. Our goal is to make meaningful connections online, and we have found success with “micro” and “nano” influencers who still have a personal tone and influence with their fanbase.

Month after month, we get submissions which far exceed our original ask from social influencers. From making videos to dying their hair to match the mood to concepting highly creative photoshoots, the 12 Moods campaign allows for a lot of creative interpretation from these content makers, leading to more enthusiasm to participate. It’s not something we expected, but it speaks volumes to the importance of teaming up with the right talent to represent your brand and messaging.

Q: Your session will focus on what you call “Universal Emotions.” Can you explain a bit what you mean by that and how you chose the 12 different moods or emotions that you’re featuring in your campaign? What was the thought-process behind choosing these for your brand and how has your audience responded?

Music is universal and so are the moods we feel. Month by month, we took into account what was happening socially, as well as seasonally, to help us hone in on what moods should be represented.

For example, since March was International Women’s month, we went with “Bold” as the mood, using a bright tangerine orange that you couldn’t miss. Selecting musician Rico Nasty and Skateboarder Jenn Soto, with their unique stories and personalities, brought this mood to life to help kick off the program.

In April, we selected the mood “Elevated,” paired with an earthy olive green color, teaming up with the Rap duo Earthgang as our artist and supporting an unofficial cannabis day called “420.” June was Pride month so we went with mood “Empowered.” Nearly every month has a tieback to something social or seasonal, which helps our conversation feel more natural and timely to our fan base.

On top of this we wanted to stay in a realm of positivity and encouragement with our moods. Fans have been very vocal in how they feel about the mood of the month, and it’s been a great conversation starter. We’ve also heard some great feedback and praise from our partnered musicians, athletes, and social influencers, too. Everyone has been pretty excited about being a part of the program so far.

Q: You’ve been able to grow your social media following by 50% — very impressive! What are your top tips for other brands looking to do the same? And how directly has social growth translated into revenue growth?

Yes, we are delighted to see the growth. It is a testament to the connection and engagement our fans are having with the 12 Moods campaign. People have acclimated to a 24-hour news cycle and expect the same from their social content. Having a variety of content is a must. Once things feel stale or predictable, your fans disengage, and their eyes glaze over.

We blend music, board sports, and a limited edition drop, along with new product model releases, contests, and more. Everyday it’s something different. We’ve built a model of curiosity and urgency. People have learned that even if they aren’t feeling the color or the musical artist for the month – we have new drop in 30 days, so they stick around in anticipation of what is to come.

Excitingly, we have sold out every month of the limited edition 12 Moods products and have enjoyed an additional lift to our extended product line and inline models. We utilize a two-pronged strategy we call “content to commerce.” This has aligned brand and marketing actions with ecommerce more closely, converting our social growth directly to increased revenue.

A lot of people think quantity is the name of the game when it comes to retargeting, and in some cases, it is, but we have taken a more thoughtful approach and stretched our dollars by taking this a step further. Keeping a laser focus on our aspirational target consumer, we share stories that matter and resonate with them, leading to engaging actions which builds a more qualified retargeting audience for us. Who we partner with and what content we develop helps broaden our cultural currency and relevance, which is the special sauce of the Skullcandy brand.