Getting his start at then entry-level startup Campless, which then became StockX, Matt Luber quickly became the go-to guy for everything marketing - despite his very specific job role. In such a small environment, it's bound to happen. But it was exactly the training Matt needed to become the well-rounded marketer he is today.
Tune into this episode of Out of the Box with our host Dan Feldstein, Director of US Marketing and ironSource, and guest Matt Luber, brand builder and former marketing executive at StockX, an online marketplace and clothing reseller, primarily of sneakers. Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below:
Everyone does everything
5:23 Matt: “I was working with the founders of StockX on what was the predecessor of StockX. For those that know, it was called Campless. Campless became StockX and we brought along that brand with it. The idea of the brand of StockX was always rooted in that feeling of the stock market and being transparent with our data, but also the authentication was a big thing that we established upfront. Not only are you trusting the data but you are also trusting that we’re always going to get you the authentic goods and StockX has your back no matter what. That’s what we grew from initially and that obviously changed over time but that’s where we started.
7:17 Matt: “It kind of all happened at once and then, as we grew, we kind of started to specialize… it evolved just doing everything. Anyone that’s ever been in a super early-stage startup understands that, yeah, my title was director of marketing, but my title could have been, ‘janitor,’ because I did everything. You just kind of keep going and keep doing and eventually, you say, ‘I really need help. I need a specialist to help me with performance marketing, for example, or content creation, or social, or whatever aspect of marketing that needed the most help at that moment.’ Performance marketing was one of those things that we quickly identified that we needed to get a talented person in here to do this full time… In terms of looking at the metrics, buyers, or sellers, that was something that probably happened later on as we launched and started to really track the user data in terms of what people were doing and how they were using the site.”
The bridge to growth
10:05 Matt: “Those guys that were doing performance marketing were great at that, but they were not sneaker people, and that’s where I evolved a little bit over time at StockX. I became the category lead, so to speak, where it was never an official title, but I was always the default person to ask like, ‘what’s the latest release?’ or ‘what’s going on with Kanye?’ What should we be talking about, so that when we were putting out the performance marketing ads, they were authentic to the users and authentic to the people that were seeing them, and not just some random sneaker in the ad because it was what google images said it should be?"
The brand is always there
11:48 Matt: “From an early standpoint, we were very careful with the user experience in terms of the layout of things, the flow for buyers and sellers, and the communication that those folks were getting all along the way… The brand was always there in terms of the name we were trying to make for ourselves and differentiate ourselves from any other competitors in the marketplace at the time.
The user experience, itself, hasn’t changed a lot since the early days, but we did do a number of rounds of user surveys and interviews to fine-tune some of the aspects of the user flow or the buy and sell dashboards that are available on the app and on the web.”
Going from digital to physical
14:02 Matt: “For those that haven’t experienced the StockX store, it evolved from a place of serving the customers, specifically sellers, in a way that made the most sense for them, specifically, in NYC … We’ve done a couple of pop-up locations for seller drop offs in different cities around different activations. In NYC, with that audience there, the idea was around making a community and letting sellers just come in and drop off their item as opposed to having to go get a shipping box, get it taped up, take it to the UPS store. The other part of it is that there’s a high density of customers in NYC for StockX. It’s one of the sneaker meccas of the world and to serve that customer better, it only ends up benefiting everyone.
In terms of the actual experience, at first it was really simple. It was just a desk with someone at the cash register accepting the item, scanning it in, and saying ‘Thank you very much. We’ll authenticate it and send you on your way.’ Over time, we wanted to add more there because people were standing in line. Then, it became a product showcase where we would have exclusive sneakers on display or, sometimes, fake sneakers on display that people could look at and admire how good fakes are getting…The look, feel, and design of the space carries through from the app and from the web experience. Even the fonts on the signage, are the same fonts that you’ll see on the website.”
16:56 Matt: “As a business, there’s obviously going to be some sort of bottom line to that NYC drop-off location in terms of, now there’s extra expenses to having a store and having that extra rent. Early on, it was more of, ‘we need to be there on the ground to serve the customer and we will figure everything else out later.’
Very quickly, that evolved into, ‘how are we going to track the success of this store?’ We started tracking foot traffic through the store, the number of drop-offs per day, drop-offs per customer, and then the usual operations metrics, in terms of how many boxes were in and out of the store on a daily basis. To be fair, I had nothing to do with this. This was all another team and this was their day to day job and this was all they did. I was there for more moral support and making sure that they had what they needed.”
Just do it
19:03 Matt: “If you have an idea, you need to go execute it in some way. Build an MVP or build an alpha of an app or of a website and see how people react to it and start to get the word out. If you want to be a blogger or an influencer, go and do it and try it and see what it’s like. I was really lucky in my experience with StockX. I got brought along from Campless and was given the opportunity to join StockX at a really early stage, and now looking back it, I probably wouldn’t have chosen that path for myself organically if it was presented to me outside of StockX.
Also, agreeing to the best idea in the room, regardless of who came up with it, and quickly admitting that maybe your idea wasn’t the best. In an early-stage start-up, there’s only probably a dozen of us and we did everything and everyone was involved in every decision early on. Even down to picking the name, ‘StockX,’ that took us weeks to come up with. Ultimately, I think it was one of the engineers who came up with it or some other random person who wasn’t in marketing but, guess what, it was the best name and we went with it.
Admit defeat quickly, learn from those mistakes, and just move forward and not let your ego get too bruised by it. You’ll live another day."
21:52 Matt: “Ignoring the macroeconomic and political climate we’re in right now, that’s the biggest change between when StockX started and you and I speaking together, so, there’s that. But more tactically, some of the platforms that exist today didn’t exist five years ago. Like TikTok didn’t exist. I’m this side of 35, almost 40, and I still don’t understand how TikTok works and I probably should get on it. There’s always going to be a new platform, or a new trend, or a new thing that people need to adjust to. And then the other thing that’s kind of evolved, in a weird way, is influencer marketing. I know it’s another buzzword that makes people cringe but it works and if it didn’t work it wouldn’t exist. StockX evolved with that over time in terms of how we engaged with influencers either on an always-on basis, or for events, or for promotions and campaigns. It’s a reality of marketing and people would do well to embrace it and learn it and figure out a good way to incorporate it into their mix.”
23:54 Matt: “Something that has always been a struggle for me is finding the time to educate myself and stay current. I actually have a 9-month-old baby boy in the house too, so that means I have even less time … I’m on all the usual kinds of marketing and advertising sites and seeing what other folks are publishing in terms of new campaigns or new directions or where accounts are going in terms of agencies signing big accounts.
My go-to in terms of daily news streams is that I have Twitter up on my desktop at all times and I’m just watching the feed go by in terms of the people that I follow. Lately, in terms of just keeping tabs in the business world is LinkedIn. I know a lot of people think LinkedIn is just for getting new jobs, but I would recommend that people look into that too. Start to follow those companies that you like or that you are customers of. Follow the Gary Vaynerchuks of the world and see what’s going on and what those people are talking about. That’s really where the business conversations are happening and it’s almost turned into a business Twitter.”
What you need to succeed
26:48 Matt: “I have, for better or for worse, stayed dangerous in the brand side and the growth side of marketing. Like I mentioned earlier, I gave away the performance side of StockX’s marketing early on because I realized I wasn’t as good at it as I needed to be. But, I can still get into the Facebook ads platform and build ads or Instagram or google search or whatever, and get it done. That has helped me tremendously over time because I’m not pigeonholing myself into one particular skill set.
I can talk-the-talk with very technical marketers but I can also be in the room with CMOs and CEOs and understand the bigger picture. But, that’s come with time. It’s not something where you’re just like, ‘I want to be a well-rounded marketer on day one.’ Over the course of my career, some opportunities have presented themselves in terms of where I was focusing my time and the type of industries I joined. I think it’s brought to a place where I consider myself being able to be comfortable in either type of conversation or discussion.”
What is the most out of the box marketing you’ve ever done?
28:35 Matt: “The most out of the box marketing that we’ve ever done at StockX is actually about a box. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship in the 2015-2016 season and, for those that don’t know, Dan Gilbert, one of the majority owners of the Cavs, is also one of the co-founders of StockX. There’s a friendly relationship between the two organizations.
When the Cavs won, Dan immediately made it known that he was going to rip up the hardwood floor of the arena and use that for memorabilia. StockX said, 'why don’t we take the hardwood floor and make it into sneaker boxes?' So, we did but what we did with it was the more interesting thing in terms of sneaker releases.
We worked with Nike, with I believe permission from Lebron, to release on StockX, a limited run of his first signature sneaker. So, Nike was retro-ing his Lebron 1s and we were the first place where the sneaker was being sold anywhere in the world…Essentially, the way we sold the sneakers was in a product IPO format.”