María Luisa Mendiola’s business, New York-based MIGA Swimwear, offers inclusive fashion technology – from pull strings on zip fasteners to in-pockets for stoma bags. After a year-long development process, the public reaction to MIGA’s soft launch proved that the messaging would be difficult to refine and social media censorship meant that her marketing strategy was no longer viable.
Prepare to work around problems. ‘We’re not a “disabled brand” but we amplify disabled stories. We use social media, the MIGA blog, influencer marketing, front-of-site copywriting – with TikTok proving most effective. We planned to share these on Facebook, but service terms block content that mentions conditions and illnesses. So, we share this messaging on our packaging. Each product comes in a canvas bag printed with a customer’s personal swimwear confidence story.’
Soft launch first. ‘Soft launching gave us valuable feedback. Customers said products were too expensive, so we discounted them by 40%. So many people told us they wanted to see other colors, too. We aim to sell 60% of our current inventory so we can bring back the styles that sold well in the different colors people requested.’
Outsource skills. ‘I hired a creative agency because the messaging was outside of my wheelhouse. I had tried to improve our messaging myself and it didn’t reach the right people. We were getting discriminatory comments on our advertising and able-bodied people saying that we were excluding them. The agency helped me to refine my audience and reach the people that I needed to.’
Over-rely on paid social marketing. ‘More than 30% of our marketing budget was spent on Facebook and Instagram, and we can’t use it. We can’t retarget audiences because our website (and messaging) uses medical terms. Instead, we use influencers. Some are disabled, showing the accessibility. Some are able-bodied, representing the sustainability and fashion aspects of MIGA. We also used influencers who were new moms, a demographic we wanted to focus on.’
Rush the process. ‘I made mistakes during our first launch. I thought we could offer inclusive sizing straight away, but the production process is so different for manufacturing clothing above an XL. I know now that developing a plus-size range requires even more research and preparation. I won’t offer all sizes until I can feel 100% about all of them.'
Focus on one USP. ‘I thought accessibility and practicality would be our USP. Working with the creative agency, we found other, more effective focal points. We started leading with other value propositions like how our fabrics have embedded SPF 50, that we manufacture in the US or the fact our pieces are designed for women by women. This has helped us to get around Facebook’s restrictions and widened our reach.’
This article was first published in Courier issue 42, August/September 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.