Duck Head: Relaunching a dormant brand and reviving their story for a modern audience.

About Our Partner

Started in 1865 in Nashville by two brothers, George and Joe O’Bryan, the Duck Head brand has since lived through three major wars and survived to tell the tale. The O’Bryan Brothers had a simple idea: Use surplus U.S. Army tents left over from the Civil War to make pants. This heavy canvas material was known as “duck.” George and Joe, both Civil War veterans and avid outdoorsmen, liked the name of the fabric so much that they chose it to represent their company. In the late 1970’s the mallard logo was applied to a bright yellow tag on the back of the pants. The product took off and Duck Head Chinos became a new wardrobe staple. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Duck Head Chinos were a standard in Southern fashion.

Today, Duck Head is owned by Lanier Apparel, a division of Oxford Industries and an international apparel design, sourcing, and marketing company based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Their portfolio features owned lifestyle brands, Tommy Bahama, Lilly Pulitzer, and Southern Tide. The new Duck Head is future-facing, drawing strength, growth, and inspiration from its deep roots in history but has adapted to fit the modern lifestyle of its customers. Duck Head is more than a clothing label. It’s a mindset informed by heritage, a lifestyle seasoned by story.

Project Details

  • Client On-site Project Kickoff
  • Shopify Plus
  • Brand Voice Guide
  • Responsive Design
  • Customer Persona & Audience Research
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Design Style Guide
  • Brand Voice Guide
  • Storybrand Style Guide
  • Pre-Launch Marketing
  • Post-Launch Marketing

Project Story

Lanier Clothes, a division of Oxford Industries, came to Gauge wanting to bring life back to brand that had been dormant for almost 5 years. Traditionally, Lanier Clothes has been a B2B company, but in 2017 they launched 4 B2C (retail) websites (including Duck Head). When they bought the brand they inherited a good amount of social media followers and brand recognition from when the brand was popular in the 80s and 90s. But they needed a completely new eCommerce website and to start growing an email list. The overall project mission was to launch the new Duck Head brand on the Shopify Plus platform and to use strategic marketing campaigns to acquire new customers and engage old Duck Head customers across all digital channels. During our on-site and project kick-off, our teams established a few project goals:

  1. Position the Duck Head brand to become the Levi’s of chinos (i.e,  the best chino brand in the world),
  2. Relaunch the brand with enthusiasm and class by creating effective marketing campaigns through email, social media, and pay-per-click, communicate the story of the Duck Head brand, its quality, and its heritage
  3. Build and launch an outstanding eCommerce website on the Shopify Plus platform, capture the attention of past Duck Head customers, advocates, and fans and engage them through interesting and compelling content to create loyal followers of the new Duck Head.

 

Research, Planning, & Brand Guidelines

At Gauge we believe the foundation for any great idea is research. So in order to develop effective, tailored marketing campaigns that would reach out and grab Duck Head’s target audience, our Director of Client Strategy and Creative Team took the time to really understand Duck Head’s unique personality and the individuals in their target demographic. Our Content Strategist and Designers worked with the existing brand guidelines previously created by the Duck Head team and we expanded upon them to better help their team manage their product. But before we dove into the brand guidelines our team started with some crucial customer persona and audience research as well as a competitive analysis.

Defining customer personas helped us answer the question “Who is the ideal new Duck Head customer?” We considered the substantial brand history, future goals, industry data, and more to identify two distinctive personas to target, and created an in-depth description for each. Next we identified Duck Head’s main competitors and took a hard look at their business. By understanding their niche market, we were able to paint a more detailed picture of your their sales potential and create realistic goals for the future. Together we picked a handful of brands that Duck Head could expect to compete with and researched things like gross annual revenue, YOY annual growth, years in business, Google search volume, and social engagement. We did this using tools like Google Search, Internet Retailer and Moz.com. At the end of this research we felt we had everything we needed to start working on developing their existing brand book.

Our first step in accomplishing this goal was through the addition of a Brand Voice Guide. Through this we clearly stated the language and tone that after our research we felt best suited the Duck Head brand and the image their team wanted to present to viewers and customers. Not only was it created to help the Duck Head team but it was a good reference for both our teams throughout the entire project when creating content, to ensure the brand’s message and personality come through clearly and consistently.

The second way we developed the existing brand book was through a Design Style Guide. We worked closely with the Duck Head team to refine the visual standards of the new Duck Head and document them with a thorough, easy to use style guide. This tool outlined simple and practical standards for our designers to follow when creating the visual collateral. It detailed what visual elements to use and how to use each appropriately, including: Brand colors, correct typefaces, sizes, weights, imagery, like photos and other media, and logo standards.

Lastly, we also included the Duck Head StoryBrand framework. Because story is a universal language that crosses cultural, generational, and linguistic barriers, we’re big fans of the StoryBrand Framework. This marketing framework is a seven-part “pattern” for understanding and communicating a brand’s story, and it was a simple way to clarify some of the most important aspects of the brand.

 

Social Media Launch

We decided that in order to gain some hype around the return of Duck Head and the new website that we would start posting regularly to social media in May, around five months before the planned launch of the website. The posts got a lot of interaction, mostly positive but even some negative. This was a good way judge the current perception of the brand by consumers since it had been dormant for a considerable amount of time and gave us some insight when it came to planning all following social posts.  

   Duck Head Social Post

 

Hat Giveaway Campaign

Duck Head needed a way to organically grow their email list before the launch of the new website in order to promote their products. When Oxford Industries purchased the brand they inherited some leftover products from the previous owners which included 2,800 vintage style hats. We sat down with their team and threw around a bunch of ideas of how we could use these hats to create excitement for the relaunch of the brand and grow their email list.

We decided to launch a giveaway where participants would be given a Duck Head Throwback Hat,  for signing up for the mailing list. The campaign began with teasers and sneak peeks on all of their existing social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and we designed and built a custom landing page to be the face of DuckHead.com for when the contest went live.

The hat campaign officially launched through another round of social media posts and the Facebook post was boosted to expand its reach beyond Duck Head’s current followers on that channel. To say the campaign was a success was an understatement. All the hats were claimed within 18 hours and even after viewers were notified that the campaign was over, the email addresses kept rolling in. The boosted Facebook social post also got a ton of interaction with a total of  199  likes, 83 shares, and 39 comments.

 Duck Head Hat Giveaway

 

Shopify

We decided the store would be best powered and hosted by Shopify. We designed a custom responsive theme for this project so the aesthetic and styling could be tailored to the Duck Head brand. While we designed the site we kept our research in mind and made sure to ask, “who is the target audience and what are their interests, passions, and inspirations?” One of the challenges for the build was creating swatches functionality. This currently isn’t a stock Shopify feature, and while there are a handful of apps that can accomplish it, we wanted a better method. The Duck Head swatches are dynamically generated based on each products photography for a given color. We also created an effective work-around for the Shopify 100 variant limit which created an easy to browse catalog and front-end. And lastly, as with all of our Shopify builds, the homepage is completely modular based on sections we built for the theme. This means it can be easily customized so they can quickly change the entire homepage in the future.

 

Building a Store with Staggered Product Releases

The Duck Head team knew from the beginning that their main focus was going to be Chinos, but they also had plans to release other products shortly after the website launch. However the intent was to launch their new website with just Chinos and Chino shorts available for purchase. This was something the Gauge team had never worked with before, most of our partners come to us with hundreds if not thousands of existing products,  so we spent some time brainstorming how we could showcase all of the product releases on the website. Our solution was to go ahead and build out all of the category and product detail pages for the items they knew they planned to release. Then, instead of a price next to these items we listed the date they would become available and then included an email sign-up form where the viewer could “choose to be notified when the product becomes available.” This way, even if purchases and a profit weren’t able to be made on these products, Duck Head was still actively acquiring email addresses.

The brand posed an interesting challenge for us. Their main product, The Chino, is a very visual and experiential product. It is a product to be felt, worn, seen, and inspected. The challenge was to create a website that could show this off in a way that would still facilitate quick, easy, and efficient transactions as the Duck Head team released new products. We designed a product page that shows off the product in its best light. Large images, and lots of them, help a customer to visualize the product while product details allow the customer to discover the unique details of every Duck Head product.

We designed the collection pages to be more interactive with video headers to draw a customer into the Duck Head story. This video was pulled from a photo shoot done by the Duck Head team and matched many of the photos in use on social media and throughout the rest of the website. Similarly, we designed the homepage to rely heavily on large imagery, lost of imagery, and video. Additionally, the entire site uses animation to create a sense of realism and depth to enhance the experience of shopping on the site.

"Gauge brings a holistic approach. Technically they’re very strong. Platform, architecture, interaction. They’re very strong. But they don't let that overshadow the marketing piece or the brand message or even the ability to do the transaction."

- Greg Love, VP at Duck Head

Key Results

Reimagining this iconic brand, taking a pulse of the current audience, and reviving this product line were the big objectives of this project. Building an easy to use and stylish Shopify Plus store put them on an excellent foundation allowed us to modernize the brand and put it back in the hands of the people who grew up with Duck Head.

The Duck Head team has been very happy with the Shopify Plus platform and it allowed them to build quickly and with less overhead than other platforms. Lanier wanted to treat Duck Head as a startup brand and Shopify allowed them to make the right sized platform investment by keeping the initial build simple and focused, launching on time and on budget, and ensuring that post-launch technical support was inexpensive.