What you can learn from Pit Viper: Know your brand, know your fans
There’s something incredibly refreshing about a brand that knows itself. Not making a be-everything-to-everyone run at the masses, these brands have a rock-solid idea of what they are and why they exist as well as who makes up their customer base.
One such brand is Pit Viper, a Salt Lake City, Utah,-based maker of bold sunglasses for those who “demand respect and authority.” Designed with retro inspiration, Pit Vipers include large frames, mirrored lens and a generous amount of neon. Pit Viper’s web and social presence follows that aesthetic along with a heavy dose of humor, double meanings and straight-up crudeness.
“Chuck (Mumford) and I started this based on our personalities and what we find funny,” said co-founder Chris Garcin in an email. “At the beginning, this was easy. We didn't have much of an audience so we went with what made us laugh. Over time, we learned that not taking ourselves too seriously resonated with our customer and that has been as a fundamental concept for our brand. Sure, we get an occasional email from a mom who is outraged that we have the word ‘fuck’ right on our homepage — we lost her as a customer, and I'm okay with that.
“I like to think we come from a place of inclusiveness. Everyone is welcome to join the Pit Viper party, but maybe our brash humor and sexual innuendos aren't for you. That's fine, you aren't our market. If you think of sunglasses brands as genres, there are a lot of dramas and thrillers out there. We're the comedy.”
For example, Pit Viper:
Writes cheeky product descriptions such as “The 1993s (frames) are back and better than ever. Demand Respect and Authority™. In the courtroom. In the bedroom. In the bathroom. In your mugshot”
Offers “email@example.com” as the sample email when you sign up for the mailing list
Sells dad hats and polos embroidered with “F*** Golf” if you’re one of the folks who “gag when you smell a fresh cut lawn?”
Offers paint-splattered clip-on-ties with names like “The Quarterly Report”
Even a boring Google Form set up to receive user generated content includes language like “By checking this box I hereby agree to all legal mumbo jumbo that allows Pit Viper to post/share this content onto their website or social media platforms.” Job postings include additional commentary like Product Design Engineer (Nerd) and IT Professional (Lead Printer Fixer)
On social media, Pit Viper takes shots at the competition, makes irreverent observations and organizes shots of males and females wearing the glasses with #pitviperbabes.
I first stumbled upon a Pit Viper ad on Instagram and eventually bought myself a respect-demanding (and obnoxious?) pair called “The Exec” to wear while running and biking.
Pit Viper uses packaging that includes more on-brand boldness, including a box that will leave you on the losing end of the circle game once it’s unfolded (smack!). Also, included is a sheet of stickers with frames that can Pit Viperize any boring ol’ photo.
Some takeaways from the Pit Viper approach:
Commit to a brand voice
A Garcin said, Pit Viper’s style is not for everyone and a brand must dive deep into any research on its audience to understand their sensibilities. Catering to an adventurous mix of snowboarders, cyclists, anglers and party animals, Pit Viper has decided that harsh language and bawdy statements won’t turn away potential customers — and will endear fans further to the brand. Pit Viper’s style is well-defined, conversational and present everywhere from social media to the bottom navigation menu of the website.
Make it easy for people to give you content
User generated content is an excellent way to ease the burden of content creation and shift the focus from promoting the brand to celebrating fans. Pit Viper uses both print (packaging) and digital (social media, online submission forms) means to invite customers to show off their new shades. On Instagram, the hashtags that net Pit Viper those pics, such as #PitViper and #PitViperPups, are listed in the bio.
“Regularly posting and tagging our own followers’ content has created a huge snowball effect for us,” said Garcin. “People see themselves or friends get posted, they comment, others are inspired, they go out and get an even better photo, send it to us and the cycle repeats. We are endlessly grateful that we have such awesome fans that want to go out and get photos of themselves flying fighter jets, back-flipping monoskis, stair gapping scooters, wheelie-ing pit bikes with a child in their lap, riding horses, jumping out of planes, jumping riding lawnmowers, fishing and otherwise just looking too cool for school. The technical detail for how we get the photos in our hands is ancillary, the photos themselves are invaluable.”
Empower fans to celebrate the brand
Pit Viper understands that a sales funnel should end with a focus on advocacy, turning paying customers into cheerleaders for the brand. The aforementioned focus on user generated content and savvy packaging accomplishes this, so does the consistent brand voice. Pit Viper also has an ambassador program to enlist Pit Viper Agents in promoting the product. Of course the submission form stays on-brand; a sample question: Can you defend yourself with nunchucks? Are you a Ballerina or ballerino? Speak Punjabi? Tell us about you skills:
🗯 Know of any other incredibly self-assured brands that have mastered fan engagement? Let me know in the comments below.