Building a Community-Led Brand — Interview with Allan Perrottet, Co-Founder of T-Bô Menswear

Mar 29, 2022 | Podcast

The repeat purchase rates of most direct-to-consumer brands is abysmal. According to Allan Perrottet, “The average repeat order rate for DTC brands is 11% over an entire lifetime. At T-Bô we have a 30% repeat order rate within 90 days!”

The secret to T-Bô’s success is co-creation. T-Bô is the first community-led menswear brand. It has a community of over 400,000 men creating the most comfortable and functional clothing they want to wear and buy.

Allan Perrottet comes on the Sticky Branding podcast to share T-Bô’s story. He gives loads of marketing and advertising tips to grow your brand.

Allan Perrottet is the co-founder and CTO of T-Bô Menswear. Allan is a Swiss native that grew up in Gumefens, in the French-speaking part. A mutual friend connected Allan with Roy Bernheim in 2017, and the two set out on a journey to transform the fashion industry. Allan brings together his expertise in technology, digital marketing, and fashion to grow T-Bô into an iconic brand.

In This Episode:

  • Allan Perrottet says, direct-to-consumer brands are very reliant on paid media. It’s too expensive and unsustainable. T-Bô chose to grow its business with community.
  • The power of co-creation for product development, sales, and customer engagement.
  • How to give your customers and prospects the ability to provide feedback on your products.
  • How to use community to grow your brand and create loyal customers that come back again and again.
  • The importance of taking time to understand your customer, and how to use data to scale your business.

– [Narrator 1] Brand X, brand Y, brand Z. Not one sticks. Watch it again in slow motion.

– [Narrator 2] Welcome to “The Sticky Branding Podcast”. In this show, we are unpacking how companies grow sticky brands. Hi, my name is Jeremy Miller. I am the Founder of Sticky Branding and host of this podcast. And in today’s episode, I am so excited to introduce a visionary entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of TBo Clothing, Allan Perrottet. Allan, welcome to the show.

– Thank you, Jeremy, for having me. Very excited to be here.

– Well, me too. So tell me a bit about TBo. Who are you guys and what do you do?

– Yeah, so TBo is the first community-led men’s wear brand. So we enable our community to co-create new product with the help of our software. So that’s how we are now.

– Okay, so you’re saying some really interesting and big things here. So let’s just unpack this a little bit. What does it mean to be a community-led brand? And why are you the first? You’re spiking all these questions right in the game.

– Yeah, so what it mean is that every product that we have are created, developed, tested with the community. So we will not start a new product if the community say, “No, we don’t want it.” So we wanna make sure, you know, like it’s demon-driven and it’s not… We don’t wanna create something that nobody wants, right? Like no company wanna do that, right? Because it doesn’t make sense. And when you work closely with your community, you can really make sure that everything you’re doing, you know, is like something they want.

– And so what is the kind of core clothing or products that you’re co-creating with your community?

– Yeah, so we started with underwear. And that’s where we were able to really find people at the beginning. Like they were, really wanna… You know, like there is actually a problem in the underwear category. Like either you have the very cheap underwear or you have like super expensive underwear. But you don’t really get like a very high-quality product that are, you know, good material, and a good cut with, you know, good product. And that’s where we got in.

– So you started out in men’s underwear and identified that there was a problem, that there was really cheap, really expensive, but that comfortable everyday underwear, as you’ve called it, was a hole in the market. How did you see this? Like, I’m just curious if your origin story. How did you get into this business? Why did you form TBo and why underwear of all things?

– Yeah, so three and a half years ago, I met Roy Burnham, my co-founder, and we were like, “Okay, we really wanna do something together. We wanna go online first.” And we want to have a product that everyone wear, or almost everyone, something that is very scalable. And we find out like, okay, online, so a product is lightweight, everyone wear underwear. And we also realized when we asked, you know, question to people that, actually, they are not happy with what they found on the market.

– And so-

– You saw there was a hole in the… As a hole in the market then.

– Yeah, so what we’ve seen is that we started, you know, discussing with people on forum, on social media, and then we collected email address to really, you know, say, “Okay, what do you need? What’s wrong, or what’s not good with the underwear that you find on the market?” And we send like a survey, 25. Most of them were open questions. We sent that to a bunch of people. And then we were like, “Okay, let’s see what happen.” And within 24 hours, we got 40% response rate, which is quite high, like, very high, I would say. And we’re like, “Okay, I think we are on something.” And then from there, we remade it like the DNA of the brand to really include in, everything we do, we include the community, the customers.

– So the community-led really is baked into your origin that starting out with a survey of what are you looking for in men’s underwear is the foundation of this co-creation that you are doing?

– Yeah, exactly, so we set it like that. And because Roy or me, we don’t have a background, you know, in that product. So we’re like, “Okay, we need to ask,” because, you know, people know what they like and what they really know is what they don’t like. So it’s also very easy to get feedback. And we noticed like one wanna say it. You know, they really ask you question about your underwear, but when you do, everyone wanna talk about it. And so that’s why we’re like, “Okay, well, if we get a feedback and we produce the underwear and they buy it, I mean, you know, it’s a no-brainer it works.

– It sounds so logical and simple. Ask someone what they want. They know what they like and they don’t like. They tell you and you make the product for it. Is that the way other fashion and clothing brands are approaching it or? You mentioned that start that TBo is the pioneer in this. So-

– Yeah. So we really do what nobody is doing right now in the markets, because they always have their designer. And it’s like, “I’m the designer. I know what you want and buy it.” And obviously, it doesn’t work because 60% of the garment produced for the USA are not sold in finishing the landmark. So I mean, stiffly not efficient and it doesn’t work.

– And that’s sustainable.

– So it has worked so far in a way, because they had enough margin. But we don’t believe that’s the future, especially that people are getting, you know, more conscious about waste. They don’t wanna just buy thing that doesn’t last, don’t last. So it’s not a sustainable business model how it works so far.

– But it’s just the way we’ve known it. And so it’s a brilliant example of just being a challenger and seeing an opportunity and looking at the system. Now, what I know of you, you have branded this concept as direct-by-consumer. What does that mean to you? What is a direct-by-consumer brand?

– So we realized that most direct-to-consumer brand have a problem. It’s like an industry problem, is that they are very reliant on paid media, social media, search media. And the problem is that every year, it’s getting more expensive, and they have a very low repeat purchase. So what we decided to do is like, “Okay, how can we use the community to power the community?” Because every brand says they have a community. But how do they use it? Do they even like… Is that just like, “Oh, we post something on social media and the like it.” Is that a community? For me, it’s not a community. It’s really living with the community. So we couldn’t find any like, you know, platform that we could really use on our website. So we built our own community software where the community can really hang there and you know, tell us exactly what they want. They can chat with other people of the community. And with that, you really have a place where the community can exchange, can say, “Okay, that’s good, that’s not good. We need to do that, that’s what we want.” And with that, you are very less reliant on paid media on advertising, because they will come to your website, not only to buy product, but to tell you what they want, to exchange with other people of the community.

– So you’re saying some just remarkable things, Allan, there. And let’s unpack them, ’cause there’s a couple of pieces I wanna hit on in just what you’ve talked about. The first one is, for everyone listening, visit I’ll put the link in the show notes as well. And what you’ll see in the menu system is an area for participation, for community engagement and see exactly the software that Allan’s talking about, where you can see the current products that are being discussed, the ideas that are being upvoted and shared on, and also be able to participate in the co-creation that we’re talking about here. You can actually see it live on the web today. And it’s the Community button at the bottom, right, Allan? Or what is it called right now?

– Yeah, that’s exactly like that. Like in the menu, you click on Community, and then you can see what we’re doing there.

– Amazing, the other thing that you’re speaking to, and actually, before we go there, you think about this. TBo is not just a clothing brand. It’s a software company, a technology company that happens to be selling clothing. And for many entrepreneurs, these are two disconnected worlds that you have successfully merged together. How do you cross that line between technology and apparel, traditional old school industries versus new school industries? What do you find that, for you and Roy, what’s it like transversing that type rope?

– Yeah, so I mean, for us, it was very like normal to do it, because it’s like, “Okay, we need to do it.” If we really want to leave, you know, direct-by-consumer, we need something that can enable it. And we look at any type of software we could find. And we tried it like, “Okay, no, that doesn’t work for us. That’s not what we want.” Then we’re like, “Okay, look, if you cannot find what we want, then you need to build it yourself.”

– Amazing.

– And it was like very easy. And then we’re like, “Okay, well, we’ll do it.” And we see on the way, you know, how it works. And we’re really lucky that, you know, people really received that like in a very good way and they’re really participating. And we were like, “Okay, “well, that’s perfect. Let’s continue developing the software.”

– And to take it just to the results, they are truly remarkable. I’ll share a stat that you prepared with me ahead of time, which is in the direct-to-consumer apparel sector, the average repeat order rate is 11% over the lifetime value of a customer. TBo, in contrast, has a repeat order rate of 36% in 120 days. That’s mind-melty. Like you are having an average customer buy again and again every 120 days. Is that because of the engagement you have in the community?

– So we believe it’s because like, you know, when people, they feel like part of something, they’re also more ready, you know, to spend more money. And that’s where, like, we really believe that the direct-by-consumer model makes sense on different aspects. One, you don’t create something they don’t want, but also, you make your customer way more loyal. And that’s why we think we have such a high repeat purchase rate within the 120 days.

– And then at least the other point that you brought up, which is paid media. So does this repeat order rate help drive your costs down?

– Yeah, because we basically only need to acquire customers using paid media, but when we have them as a customer, we don’t spend any money on, you know, to make them come back. We got our community channel where we can chat with them. We can communicate with them, and that’s it. So we own that channel. And we will never lose that. As if you add that on, like, let’s say, on the social media, if they decide to change the rules, and then suddenly tomorrow, you can only reach 1% of the people who follow your brand, it’s like, okay, game over. As here, they are on our website, we can control that, its own media. So we don’t have a risk there. So that’s why, yes, we need to acquire customer from all the places. We have to get traffic. But as soon as we get them, then we don’t have to spend more.

– Right, so just changing gears for a moment ’cause I’m sure many of the listeners would love to hear this. You are an expert in paid media and digital marketing. What are you seeing shifting in the platforms today, as we’re recording this in July of 2021? The digital landscape is changing. The iOS and Apple platform is putting in new rules in terms of tracking. How are you seeing the paid media landscape changing for direct-to-consumer brands or really any brands right now?

– So yeah, with the update with privacy, which is good, right? That we respect the privacy of people, is that it’s more complicated for marketers to really see the performance of their campaign. So that’s why we think it’s more and more important, you know, to build your own media. So you have like, you know, email, SMS, all the channel where we can chat directly to your customer are more and more valuable. And that’s why, you know, most brand, they also invest like in email marketing, in SMS marketing, maybe push notification and something that we have and most brand don’t have is a community marketing. And if you cannot, if you don’t know exactly, you know, because of everything that’s happening. You know, Google wanna read off the cookies. Apple was starting with… If they opt out, you cannot track them anymore. You’re gonna have to come with the also email marketing where you don’t see any open rate or click-through rate or nothing, you get nothing out of it. So you really need to work on creating value for your customer. And as soon as you can, you know, get customer, you wanna make sure that you have like independent way of talking to them, and building your emails, building your SMSs, building your community is more and more important.

– Right, but you’re also speaking to just my language, and what I love is you’re actually… This is the core principles of what it means to have and to grow a sticky brand. How do you get your customers to know you, like you and trust you so that they choose you first, that they come back, they participate. And it’s in the relationship that really does grow a sticky brand that the playing field is being changed for brands and advertisers and marketers, where we can’t simply rely on the push and being placed in the path of search and using data to manipulate a sale. We actually have to have that connection now. And what you’re saying is that that trend is likely going to continue, that the relationship and connection to a brand is probably more important than ever before.

– Yeah, I think in the next 12 to 24 months, it’s gonna be more important to get a very close relationship with your customer. So you will see a lot of brands starting reward programs. In our case, we are building something called a contribution reward program where you want your customer to do the marketing for you. And basically, for everything they contribute to brand, they can earn money. So we think that’s the next way of doing, you know, a loyalty program to really use your customers as you’re advertising platform.

– It’s really brilliant, Allan, ’cause like again, it’s another example where TBo is reframing the common conception. So in a consumer-facing brand, we have been using loyalty rewards programs for decades, and they’re well-established. We’re used to going to the store and getting points and then taking those points based on our purchases to get stuff, whether that’s travel or gifts or discounts, or even cashback now. But these slight pivots that you’re making are just so innovated. I just wanted to bring that forward to everyone listening. It’s a loyalty contribution program. So rather than rewarding for purchasing, you’re rewarding for participating. And that participation is the behavior that you’re looking for that creates the voting and the engagement on the product. So you’re creating the products you want that drives your sustainability down. And then at the same time, you are creating the loyalty that people come back again and again, like I’m becoming your evangelist here. But it gets me all fired up. You’ve got something really exciting.

– Yeah, I think is maybe for a lot of brands, like, “Yeah, what is that? I don’t know.” But I think that’s really the way to go because the efficiency of paid media is going lower. And like a lot of people, since COVID, the world pandemic, a lot of budget was shift to online. So there is even more competition than ever before. So now having a very strong relationship with the customer is really like the key of success.

– So we’ve covered a lot of ground. Let’s just take a moment just to look forward a little bit. When you look at the next 12, 24, 36 months, what excites you the most for the category in this space you’re creating around direct-by-consumer and community-led?

– Yeah, so in the problem, we have a lot going on. We’ve seen like so many people telling us, “Yeah, we would like to have this, this, this. We really love the fabric. Can we have, you know, the same fabric, but for more like chill pants, for Launch pants, for t-shirts? So we see like a lot of demand on the other product to become really like a real men’s wear brand. So we have a lot of product in the pipeline. But on the software side, we also have a lot of new features that we’re really excited about. So I cannot tell so much now, but everything we’re building is really to drive, you know, the customer to come back to really exchange with people, to have a strong community. And that’s everything we do every day, is that really to make that happen. And we’re really lucky that, you know, our customer, they really come on that platform. They tell us, like direct feedback. I mean, you have to be open to that, right? Because you know, sometimes it can happen that the feedback, it’s not so nice for you, but that’s when you really learn something. And you really need to be, you know, open to that. Because, you know, when sometimes someone says, you know, “That doesn’t work for me, or you know, it’s not what I want,” then you’re like, “Okay, okay, I understand. But like, okay, how can I use that to make it better for everyone,” right? So you really have to be open to feedback when you wanted to take that direction of direct-by-consumer.

– Oh, you’re raising a really great point. It’s that humbleness that to receive that feedback, when you’ve spent all this time and effort creating a product or a brand or something that you feel so passionate about, and then somebody doesn’t like it, it feels like daggers in your heart. But to be community-led, you’ve got to embrace that discord.

– Yeah, exactly, I mean, you know, you have to accept that, and if you don’t accept that, then it’s probably not for you. But if you accept that and you can really, you know, you get a lot of information, a lot of data that you can then use and see, you know, why that’s working. And because people really, you know… What people don’t like is that when you ask them, you know, “Tell me what you like, or give me a feedback,” then you’re like, “Okay,” you take the feedback and you just throw it away. Like, “Okay, cool, thank you.” But if people feel that, you know, like they can give a feedback and then you use the feedback, you use that information to make things better, then people really feel connected to the brand.

– Remarkable, remarkable, that’s so much great advice and insights in here. I wanna take a moment. I call this a bit of a shameless plug, but it’s really not meant that way. I’ve been a part of working with the TBo brand now for a couple of years. And part of the reason I can share the stories and get all animated like I am today, is because I have been along with the ride and the journey, but I’m very… I would really appreciate if you could share with the listeners what has it been like for you and Roy to work with me in Sticky Branding?

– So what we really like about working with you, Jeremy and the whole Sticky Branding concept is that we like to look at numbers and to look at, okay, we test something and we see how people react to that. And you know, it’s really like A/B test based on data and how people react with a very nice methodology, a process. And so we really liked that because it makes sense to us, compared to other branding agency who are just like, “Yeah, okay, you need to change your logos.” Okay, I can change my logo, I can do everything. But like, based on what? You know, like, based on what? Just because you think you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. And it’s like, we really liked that approach of sticking branding is that, “Okay, we need simple clarity.” That’s very important, and we think it’s working, which is well. And we’re like all, you know, okay, we go there, that’s a phase one, and on phase two, and we go step-by-step, progressively. And we really liked that approach.

– Amazing, and for everyone listening, simple clarity is the ability to describe your brand in 10 words or less. And how do you get someone to understand who you are, what you do, and who you serve? And you can see just in the clarity of how you’re speaking, Allan, like you are very hyper-aware of your brand and the messaging you’re bringing forward. Last question for you as we just get to the close to the end of the year. You’ve been pioneering a business, growing this through one of the most challenging economic climates that we’ve ever faced with a pandemic. My curiosity and a great place to close today is what is your best advice to any other business owners or entrepreneurs out there?

– So based on what we believe is that, you know, you need to serve your customer. And you really need to understand who they are, what they want, what they believe in. And when you really take time to understand your customers, then you can scale your business.

– Right.

– But before that, it’s very difficult. So you have to accept that people might tell you something that hurts your feeling, and you have to accept that. And if you accept that, everything gonna be easier.

– Amazing, that was a great place to conclude. Allan, thank you so much for participating today. Where can people find you and TBo?

– So they can find TBo, and they can find me on LinkedIn, Allan Parrottet, or they can also find my business partner and co-founder, Roy Burnham on LinkedIn. And that’s all, if you really wanna, you can also join the community directly on, and you can find us there.

– Amazing.

– And if you wanna participate and incorporate a new product, you know where to find us.

– We’ll put all the links in the show notes. Be sure to go and check out the community and join it. It’s a ton of fun. Allan, thank you so much. And thank you everyone for listening today to “The Sticky Branding Podcast”. Be sure to subscribe to wherever you get your podcasts. We’re also up on YouTube if you wanna watch the videos. And visit us for more ideas, best practices, and services on how you can grow your business into a sticky brand.

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