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Maude: Building a brand challenging the stigma surrounding sexual wellness
Maude are reimagining the sexual wellness industry that has largely been dictated by a handful of incumbents and global sigma for the past 100 years. Maude are actively creating their own DTC playbook, going against the grain of paid media and hyper growth, and building a brand and community that will disrupt the heart of an industry.
When asked about how she is driving traffic to Maude, Eva’s first answer is not the usual Facebook ads that are synonymous with modern DTC brands, but rather she explains how they've focused on building and fostering relationships with writers from relevant publications to kick-start their brand. Eva started building these relationships with media outlets a year prior to the launch of Maude (before any product was created). Although paid media is still part of her strategy, PR gives Maude something that ads could never, credibility. When The NY Times writes a piece on Maude, it gives the company a third-party validation that is usually only available to much more mature companies.
A full year before Maude even had a product, Eva was building relationships with the key PR members that could eventually cover Maude’s story, connect to their target audience, and ultimately spread the word about their mission. They’ve actively fostered a word-of-mouth and PR strategy vs the traditional dependency on paid media that is all too common for younger DTC brands. However, from day 1, Maude crafted their story in a market and industry that was ripe for disruption and a new entrant - not all stories have the same natural fit and gain traction in PR and word of mouth like they did. The story of sexual wellness being a more imitate and more conscious affair, and challenging an overzealous male dominated industry was always a story that was demanding to be told. This focus on PR vs paid acquisition as the early pillars of the Maude brand may have been slower in immediate feedback, but brought an element of weight and credibility that many young brands simply don’t have.
That’s not to say Maude’s model isn’t replicable. Key points for Eva evolved around seeing journalists as more than just key holders to her target market, and more how she could act as an affiliate and understand their incentives to write certain pieces. For example, Eva focused on previous pieces written by target journalists and extracted elements that could align with different aspects of Maude to then pitch them. After all, journalists don’t want to hear yet another bland pitch for a piece that communicates you don’t understand their writing, their motivations, and their audience.
As a natural progression from their top of funnel PR and content strategy, Maude place a lot of emphasis on continuing that education, content and community through every step of their customer journey. All the content Maude creates has a clear purchase. They educate about sexual topics that have previously been covered with the shadow of stigma, uncover the strange nuances of relationships, and drip feed their best tips and tricks around intimacy and our human biology. Apart from distributing their storytelling through PR outlets, Maude also write through their Maudern publication. Alongside their owned publication space, Maude also contribute to a thriving community of young DTC challenger brands on the Staycation (Originally an IRL location to introduce their audience to Maude on a more personal level, Staycation evolved into a website designed to emulate the organic environment of your home that now counts the best and brightest community-focused brands in NYC).
When a customer purchases for the first time from Maude, they clearly view this as really just a single step in their entire customer journey - that will (hopefully…) evolve into a lifetime of connection and education. Their strategy and focus on content and community overrides their desire for cheap growth and depreciation of their brand image. Taking on an age-old stagnant industry requires more than just a good product and paid media growth. Maude’s foundational pillars of education, community and relationships will enable them to connect with their audience in ways their competitors don’t even understand yet.