The $15,000 purple hoodie mistake

How we accidentally turned an accident into a brand campaign

Welcome to The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, a newsletter where we dive into all the marketing and growth campaigns and strategies we’re trying at Commsor. You’ll learn what we did that worked, but more importantly you’ll learn what didn’t work.

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👀 At a glance

  • We meant to make 30 hoodies for our team, and ended up with 300. Whoops.

  • They sat around for a year before we decided to get rid of them

  • We started sending them to colleagues, friends, and accidentally created a “cool kids club” on LinkedIn

  • Over 200 posts have been made in the last 4 months about the purple hoodies

  • People regularly DM us offering to pay up to $200 to get a hoodie

  • Total cost? $15,000

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💡 The idea

The hoodies were less idea, and more mistake.

We wanted to make 30 or so to give to our team, but we ended up with 300.


And then we didn’t realize we’d gotten 300 instead of 30. They sat with our fulfillment partner for nearly a year before they reached out and told us they were shutting down and wanted to know where to send our hoodies.

Double whoops.

So now we’re sitting around with 300 hoodies and not sure what to do with them. Oh yeah and did you notice that the brontosaurus on the hoodie isn’t the same one as our logo?

Triple whoops.

That’s when Katrine asked if she could send a few to some people who’d been helpful to our team.

👷‍♂️ The execution

Of course I said yes, we were trying to figure out how to get rid of them anyways so we could stop paying to store them.

A few weeks later, without us asking her to, Ashley made a post with a photo of the hoodie we’d sent her.

The purple hoodie photo seen round the world (ok ok not the world, just our bubble on LinkedIn)

And wow, did people like it. 30 people commented on the post about how awesome it was, asking how to get one themselves.

We were still trying to get rid of them, so I started DMing those people and offering to send them a hoodie. Literally please, take my hoodies, I do not want to keep paying to store them.

And then the hoodies took on a life of their own.

Those who started receiving them after commenting on Ashley’s post also started posting photos with the hoodies. Suddenly there was a purple dino invasion happening in people’s LinkedIn feeds.

📈 The outcome

Total cost - $15,000 including production, shipping, storage.

We were in the middle of pivoting Commsor right as all these hoodie posts started hitting people’s feeds. A big part of the pivot was a change in the persona we wanted to sell to. We’d spent the last 3 years building brand awareness and equity with one type of buyer, but now we were starting back from zero with a different type.

The hoodies were accidental, but ended up being the perfect accelerated way to get our new ICP to take notice of us.

To date there have been over 200 unprompted LinkedIn posts showing off our hoodies, countless comments, even posts dedicated to just asking for a hoodie in the best way possible.

Shoutout Cat for the greatest post asking for a hoodie ever.

I still get daily DMs asking how to get a hoodie, even offering to buy one. Just last week someone offered $200 for one!

In a lot of ways, the purple hoodies were our reintroduction to the world.

🌟 Why it worked

Could we have spent the $15k on ads instead?

Sure. And according to one CMO I spoke to, we should have. Oof, talk about being a bad dinosaur.

But ads stop working once you stop shoveling money into them and they don’t build connections or create true fans. The hoodies were absolutely a better spend of money. (plus we’d already spent the money accidentally so it didn’t even matter).

Three reasons why I think the hoodies worked so well:

  • They’re super high quality, in a unique color that stands out, and they don’t look like startup merch.

  • We didn’t tell people how to get them. There was an element of secrecy and surprise to suddenly being told you were getting a hoodie. This video from Rayna sums that up best.

  • There was zero ask or expectation tied to the hoodies. We weren’t trading them for a demo, we weren’t asking people to post. It was truly authentic and organic.

At the end of the day, the hoodies represented a feeling of being part of something. And ultimately that should be the end goal of every brand campaign - make your people feel like they’re part of something beyond just being customers or potential customers.

Honestly if we had planned on the hoodies working out the way they had, they probably wouldn’t have. Sometimes you just have to have fun, grab life by the horns and seize on opportunities when they present themselves.

💜 Missed out on a purple hoodie? 💜

Don’t worry! Share this newsletter with a marketing or founder friend who you think would appreciate these behind the scenes stories of growing Commsor and you’ll be entered to win one of the last rare purple dino hoodies!

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Have a weird marketing idea you think we should try? Maybe an idea you pitched your team and they decided no way? We want to hear it (and maybe give it a go). Just hit reply and share!