Yvonne Low, former CMO of OCBC Bank's group marketing, global consumer financial services, is now the proud owner of Band of Sisters, a company that specialises in stylish and functional resistance bands. Having worked in the corporate sector for 25 years, Low (pictured) had always wished for time to take a break from corporate life and spend time with her family.
However, she took the plunge to start her own entrepreneurial journey into the fitness space, after meeting two inspirational mothers much like herself, who were also entrepreneurs.
Low first became an ACE certified personal trainer, and not before long she decided to start a company in the same field, specifically for women. As part of her brand research, she looked into various types of fitness videos and different types of fitness equipment that she could build her company around – before eventually settling on resistance bands.
While it is common to see ads about gyms and fitness classes in general, ads for resistance bands specifically are rarely seen. Also, bigger brands such as Decathlon or Royal Sporting House, for example, would be one of the first few places consumers flock to when they wish to buy anything fitness-related. Low shares what makes Band of Sisters stand out her journey from agency life to brand side and finally to becoming a brand owner.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: The fitness category is pretty cluttered. For example, companies such as Decathlon are one of the first few places consumers would think of when they want to buy resistance bands. How are you standing out?
Low: I would say that my approach is a little bit different. I'm not just a shop. I believe in educating people about the importance of strength training, and women in general about strength training. I think about the points about the why - why you're doing it, what you need to do and how you going to do it.
At Band of Sisters we believe in educating, enabling and empowering. On the education front, I will produce content on the importance of strength training, and glute activation. That is one key thing right now especially since many are working from home and everyone's sitting down often. Therefore, the biggest part of the biggest muscle in your body, it's not even activated. Hence, the "why" behind me launching Band of Sisters.
The enabling part would be about ensuring that users have the tools to work out with. There are band workouts on our website that educate people on how to use the band. These are 12-minute to 15-minute workouts that will help you become more consistent in using the bands.
I'm definitely not going to be able to fight a goliath such as Decathlon, but at the same time, my target audience is pretty niche. My intent is to educate people on this category, on the importance of strength training and how this tool itself is so simple, so affordable and so accessible, and also matches their personality based on the design.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What are some marketing initiatives you have implemented so far?
Low: I launched on 1 November last year so as a brand, we're very new. It's about driving the top funnel of marketing, which is about the brand and what the product and brand offers. You don't know what you don't know until you find out.
Unless consumers know who you are, what you offer, and how it benefits them, you could have a super good product, but still be a best-kept secret.
I would think that my marketing at this point in time focuses a lot on driving awareness of the business itself, what my offering is, and how it helps consumers in their whole fitness routine. It has been a lot of word of mouth with a network of friends and family.
Understanding the story behind Band of Sisters is pretty important for me because it's not just an e-shop. It is a brand that believes in empowering women and getting more women to do strength training. We also have had some influencer friends who were kind enough to give some shout outs with our followers, with some Instagram Stories. Another friend just did a blog about resistance bands. And later on, we're going to do a bit more affiliate marketing with relevant fitness groups. We have definitely started paid social such as Facebook, Instagram marketing, SEO, and SEM.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: You moved from the agency scene to become a marketer, and now you are a brand owner. What are some challenges you face as a brand owner and what aspects do you enjoy?
Low: The challenge would definitely be the one-man operation. Because you have so many ideas, you have so many things you want to do, but you only have so much time in a day, I would say that would be the key challenge for me.
As for the resources, part of it is that it depends on what kind of set-up you want. If I'm looking to really scale really quickly, then obviously I'll need to hire more people. But at this point in time, my ambition is not that far yet; I'm still starting out. I would say the challenge is wanting to do a lot but not necessarily everything at one time.
In the past, you could just have this big idea, the strategy and then get everyone to do different functions. Do what you need them to do, from the digital marketing side to CRM to retargeting, to content creation. But now, it’s asking myself how do I sequence it? I think that's the challenge when you have too many things you want to do.
But I think the beauty of running your own business is that you are accountable. You're solely accountable for the results you get.
Unlike in an organisation, you can put in 110% but there are just so many stakeholders you need to manage. And it’s not every time when you put in 110% or even 200%, that you get the results you want. There are just so many parties involved in the decision making, and that's where the complexity comes in.
There are pros and cons I would say, but maybe I'm at a stage in my life where I want to simplify things. The beauty of having your own business is when you decide, “Okay, I'm not going to, like, push so hard today, I'm going to leave it to the next day, you can do it,” or “I have family commitments and everything, I need to reprioritise, you could do it.”
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What were some of the lessons you learned as a marketer, and in the adland, that you applied to your current role as a brand owner?
Low: I would think two key things. One is about strategies, about sacrificing - you can't be all things to all people. When I first started, I was looking at all the fitness categories: the home workouts, what are fitness equipment and everything I could tap into when there is such a big range.
Then I thought to myself, how am I going to market all of this? And what exactly is my brand purpose? And what exactly am I looking at in terms of my target audience? I would say that, as David Ogilvy said, strategy is sacrifice. It's not about adding more and more stuff. It's about taking away stuff and focusing on what's that single powerful thought or idea that you want to bring to your consumers in your target audience, I think that is pretty key. In all my years of advertising and marketing, I think that is always the most difficult.
When it comes to the corporate world, you want everything. Throw in the kitchen sink, you know, and hopefully everyone gets it. So here I would say sacrifice and focus.
The other thing is sequencing. One of the things I've learned now that I'm a one-man operation, it's about sequencing things. I can't do everything. I have lots of advice, a lot of friends who have told me what I could do, what I should do, how I should do it, And I appreciate all that. But I'm not here for the short term, it's not a 100-metre dash; I'm here for the long run – so I have time to build it.
I think the other thing is about investing in the marketing funnel of awareness. Awareness goes beyond just “Hey, you know, this is Band of Sisters.” It's about the content, the education, the engagement, and the fulfilment - the whole experience of the customer journey. What I've learned and am putting into practice is looking at that whole funnel.