How Poppin Formed A Brand That Could Rival Any Billion Dollar Company
Meredith Zenkel

Even if a has company has raised billions of dollars, it may still lack a brand as strong as Poppin’s.

Its vibrant aesthetic and clever copy has garnered the attention of countless consumers and businesses, allowing Poppin to grow at an exponential rate.

Meredith Zenkel, the Sr. Director of Poppin’s Brand Marketing and Communications is one of the brain’s behind many of the company’s tactful efforts. While Zenkel asserts that “staying the course” is fundamental to startup success, she claims not being “afraid to evolve” is just as vital.

Poppin’s brand reflects a near perfect ‘fun and functional’ narrative. How does Poppin’s social presence perpetuate this and build upon it?

In general, with everything we do, we try to balance functional products that people need with a voice and personality that people want to hear. That’s kind of our secret sauce: keeping the posts sort of light in nature, in terms of copy and imagery, but also implementing showing how practical our products are.

We also try to balance our social between posts that are more appealing to consumers and posts that are more appealing to businesses. Over the years, we’ve learned what people respond to and have really honed in our photography and the way we position our products. We’ve discovered our consumer customers love white desktops where everything looks neat and clean, whereas our business customers are more interested in learning about new furniture pieces that have a specific solution - whether for lounge areas, collaboration zones, or quickly growing offices. So for both we just try to keep the social full of that happy, refreshing Poppin voice with what we always hope to be beautiful, inspiring images that reflect our personality.

Which social outlets does Poppin mostly deeply engage with?

I would say Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin are probably our four main channels. Twitter and Linkedin tend to be more B2B for us, whereas Facebook and Instagram is where we speak to our consumer base. Regardless of the platform though, we really try to mix up the content between the channels.

What about utilizing some of the more “new kids on the block” ie Snapchat? Instagram stories? Etc?

We are dabbling a bit in Instagram stories with a variety of content. We tested quite a bit early on, taking a lot of photos inside of our office and showing what our team does at events behind-the-scenes.. We learned really quickly, however, that nobody wants to see us - the employees. That’s not what get likes. People come to our Instagram to see pictures of beautiful products.

In general, I think Snapchat skews a bit young for us which is why we haven't really gone there. Pinterest, however, is a place we need to start investing more time in since furniture is a big thing that gets discovered on Pinterest.

What sort of content marketing does Poppin employ that helps establish the company “voice”?

The original Poppin marketing focus even before the whole content craze, was keeping the voice consistent at every touch point. For example, when you get a box from Poppin there’s bubble wrap cushions that say “meet me in the supply closet.” We’ve always been about funny, clever things that immediately add to the experience of receiving your product.

For us, making the customer smile at every touch point has always been a major goal and that’s what we try to do with our more focused content marketing. We work to keep the Poppin personality infused in everything that we do while showing customers that we take our product and services seriously. And that’s what we hope comes across in our content. We have one copywriter, who has a very, very deep understanding of the brand and who we’re appealing to so that’s obviously a big help in staying on-message as we grow.

What key partnerships, on the marketing side, does Poppin make use of to expand visibility?

The beauty of our brand is that we can play in a number of different spaces so our partnerships range from segment to segment, and industry to industry. For instance, we’re just wrapping up a B2B sweepstakes with MiniBar Delivery, and Boxed. Companies like these, that are also trying to shake up their particular industry and change the way people approach things, are ideal partners for us because they resonate with our customers--a lot of whom are also startups.

We also did a B2B sweepstakes with Managed by Q, who provides office services. It was a huge hit because both of our companies provide services to smaller companies that are looking for simple and easy solutions. Some of the B2C partners we’ve worked with include Moo, Mouth, Frends, Raden, Jus by Julie, Spring, Framebridge and many more. We’re lucky to have collaborated with so many other disruptive brands.

Are there particular face to face marketing efforts that are done to reach the target demographic?

We do a ton of events in our New York City showroom, which opened in the spring of 2015. We find the thing that resonates most with everybody is coming into our office, not because our office is the most beautiful office in the world, but because everyone says the vibe in there is one they’d want to emulate. That’s what we're really trying to share and spread. Getting people to come to our showroom is one of the most important things we’re doing right now because when they show up for an event, they end up sitting on the couches chatting with everyone, having a glass of wine and not wanting to leave. We’ve actually had to politely tell people it’s time to leave. It’s just not normal for those kind of networking events; normally you're in an out. I think that people are able to get really comfortable here really quickly which is an amazing thing.

Has the target demographic shifted since Poppin’s inception and how have various marketing strategies correlated with this shift?

It’s shifted quite a bit. When we launched in 2012, we launched as a consumer-only company. The idea was this concept of consumerization of the enterprise, sort of like what Apple does. You never see an Apple ad targeted specifically at a business, they’re always targeted at individuals. But slowly people start saying, “I have this great Mac at home, why do I have this crappy computer at work?” So that was the idea: to make individual people fall in love with our product in hopes they’d bring it into their businesses.

That’s what we were kind of gunning for, but ultimately we saw so much demand from businesses so early on that we were like, “we need to be able to service these people better”. We built a B2B team and kind of shifted our demographic to have both the consumer channel and a B2B channel. Simultaneously, we expanded into wholesale, so people can find us in Staples and the Container Store and a slew of others. But a lot changes when you go from being just an e-commerce business to being a product sold in stores. We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments on our website and packaging to evolve as our presence did.

What general advice could you offer early stage startup founders looking to establish a firm/recognizable and other consistent brand the way Poppin has done so successfully?

I think it’s really about staying the course, and believing in your brand. If you think your brand is something people will fall in love with, if you really love it, if you think there’s a white space where people really need it, there is. Early on, like most startups, we had a lot of ups and downs, but we stayed the course and weren't afraid to evolve. Stay true to the things that make your company your company, but don’t be scared of change. Everyone has to change.