Innovator Interviews: etúHOME's VP of Marketing Jasmine Atherton Talks Brand Building, Shifting to Digital & the Importance of Communities
Brand Innovators caught up with Jasmine Atherton, VP of Marketing at etúHOME, from her home in Atlanta to discuss storytelling, brand building and the importance of communities.
When Jasmine Atherton joined European home and kitchen brand etúHOME as VP of Marketing in February 2020, she only had a few weeks in the office before the world began to shut down.
etúHOME is rooted in the idea of modern sustainability and elevating anyones everyday life and Atherton was hired to help build consumer facing brand awareness, as the retailer was going more digital.
“The timing of everything is such an interesting one for the brand because we knew that we wanted to shift and go more direct-to-consumer. We knew that we wanted to build the online business and grow from an ecommerce standpoint but I think we didn’t quite realize how quickly we would have to do that because of everything that was happening,” says Atherton.
The company had to backtrack on the plans they had made during Atherton’s first month, and “really push the pedal and accelerate” what they had wanted to do over the course of an entire year. “We pumped it out within two months,” she recounts.
This includes overhauling the company’s website and pivoting their focus from the retail store to ecommerce. “We have our flagship store here in Atlanta, so with those doors shuttered, we needed to find other ways to connect with our community and our potential customers in different ways online,” says Atherton. “Luckily we could do that remotely and still grow from that standpoint.”
The company doubled down on Instagram and building relationships with influencers, designers and their community base. They started a series called “At Home with etúHOME,” which included various recipe series and ideas for making the most of life at home during lockdown.
“It was aptly named ‘At Home with etúHOME’ because we were all at home,” says Atherton. “We provided different ways people could stay sane at home.”
Prior to joining etúHOME, Atherton has run social media for brands including Delta Air Lines and Airbnb. Brand Innovators caught up with Atherton from her home in Atlanta to discuss storytelling, brand building and the importance of communities. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell me about the etúHOME brand and how you have been doing to help tell this story?
We create products and experiences that are very much rooted in the European way of living, so that is taking time out of your day to enjoy lunch, pausing to make time for friends and family and doing that over wine and food. And we do it in a sustainable way in that all the products that we create are made from reclaimed materials, so whether that be sustainably sourced wood or reclaimed wood or recycled glass, everything is made by hand. Everything we make is touched by an artisan's hand, created one piece at a time, versus off a factory line. We think that this really speaks to the storied approach on how these products have been made for centuries in Europe. We value that and how artisans have been passing down the techniques for generations.
It’s funny because “Elevating the Everyday” has been our tagline since around 2017. That was so relevant during our 2020 at home when you couldn’t go out to eat. You couldn’t entertain. You weren’t able to have all your friends and family over. ‘Ok, how can I make my dinner at home with my husband a little bit more exciting? How can I make happy hour with just your family feel a little bit more interesting?’ We were able to navigate that in a compelling way and bring value. It was so important for us to not just be part of the noise, but to bring value. You can’t just sell people things, you have to provide value. Once you provide value, whether through products or content, that is when you get people’s attention and once you have people’s attention, that’s when you can drive the brand forward.
The home category has had a big spike over the last year as people spent more time at home. How are you pivoting now that things are reopening and people are going out more?
It has proven to be a great year for our store. We just also launched our second store in Budapest, so we are continuing to grow from a retail standpoint. We have plans to continue down that path. What is interesting is that we are going back to doing in-person events in our store and we see our stores as an anchor point for the community for events and classes. Some current community favorites are our how to build a charcuterie board classes and simple floral arrangement tutorials. It goes back to that idea of being useful and providing value, finding different ways where we can do that in person on a regular basis.
In addition, we all come home. A lot of people are continuing to work from home. And yes, we might eat out more and yes we are all going to be traveling more and hopefully creating memories and experiences compared to last year but at the end of that trip, you are coming home. We are lucky that we have that anchor point and people are never going to stop wanting to change their space or bring a little bit of levity even if it is in simple things like having a pretty flower spread out or finding that one new kitchen product that is going to bring you joy.
Who is your target audience and how are you creating content to reach them
We have come to understand our customer over the years and what we have found is that it is an interesting hybrid between someone who loves to entertain and someone who loves to be a host. Some of our top customers love to create rich and meaningful memories and experiences through the art of food and through the art of entertaining.
It is not necessarily someone who is a really good cook. It is not necessarily someone who knows their way around the kitchen because you don’t necessarily have to be a good host or to entertain. The content that we try to create is tailored towards the art of entertaining, doing it in a European way. We cater to an American audience but there is an appetite to learn something new about the European way of living.
We actually brought one of the first charcuterie boards to the United States in the early 2000s, this is before it became one of the most trending things that it has become. It is so fun to see people embracing it more and more. I always reference back to the Google trends to see the increase in keywords people are searching. If you type in charcuterie board you see that no one was really Googling it back in the day, but you can see over the years it goes up and up and over the last two years it is a straight line up, it is like a hockey stick. It is really cool to be able to stand on our own as an expert within the space and really bring that product in its most authentic European way to this audience of entertainers and hosts and designers.
How do you work with influencers?
Building long term relationships with influencers, designers and content creators is important to me. We don't want to be in the space of one-off posts but rather go deep with fewer people. I always want to be sure that there is a dual benefit and that we bring value to them as well. We've even brought some of our partners into the product process by launching capsule collections. Going deep and doing so in a meaningful way is my mantra with influencer marketing.
We definitely don't want to be in that space of influencers just posting our products, but doing it in a meaningful way. Doing it with a set group of people that we can work with over time.I find that going really deep with fewer influencers to be very powerful. On a wider scale, a lot of our designers are our customers on a wholesale basis.
Can you talk about how your experience with Delta and Airbnb and other brands help you in your current role?
I went from travel into home, so it is like two ends of the spectrum -one is retail, one is travel and with Airbnb, it is a marketplace. I think that my experience in social has really enabled my ability to focus on building communities. Yes the content plays into it and yes the social tactics are translatable, those learnings go anywhere. But from a social standpoint, bringing that community perspective and really thinking about anyone who uses our products and any designer who points to us is a part of our community. Thinking about our customer from that standpoint as opposed to just a number on our revenue reports really enables us to strengthen the relationship with them, keep them close to the brand, ensure that they are a brand advocate, get them to talk and share about our brand. Thinking of the community members megaphone as opposed to a number on a revenue report helps to grow the brand in the right direction.
As you look at the second half of 2021 what are you thinking about for the brand?
We launched a new Registry ahead of this year’s wedding season and are excited to make gift giving easier. It’s something our community has been asking for for years. It’s exciting to think that etúHOME is going to play a part in couples’ big day. It’s such a rich territory for us as kitchen products are some of the most registered items across all wedding registries. I love the marketing my team developed for it as well — “Elevate Your Registry.” Perfect!
Another one is longer form storytelling. There is such a rich history and process that goes into making our products and we haven't necessarily done enough of that longer form storytelling and I am itching to do that. I would like to go to Europe and do a video content series on our artisans where people actually get to see someone who is making our best selling products and seeing the process happen. I think that helps to underscore sustainability and how literally everything is made one by one and completely unique, no two products are the same. The marketing industry at large over the last 10 years has adopted short form content tailored for Instagram and TikTok. It’s something to continue to do, but I don’t want to lose the art of storytelling.
The third thing that we are focusing on is the holiday season. Q4 is an important time of year so prepping for Black Friday, home gift guides and everything that goes with the gift giving season.