FIVE MINUTES WITH KRISTY CHONG
Modibodi has been groundbreaking in its representation of women, its approach to brand positioning and tone of voice, and its leadership style. CEO and founder of Modibodi Kristy Chong mentions the unmentionable
Did your career in communications prepare you for the challenge of running your own business?
My background in PR and communications helped with the 2013 launch of Modibodi in many ways.
Starting a business doesn’t come without 100% persistence, it's really important to be self-motivated and learn how to do your own marketing and social media from the beginning. While it can be stressful and exhausting some days, it is all worth it, and my earlier career in communications really set me on the right foot.
The key is to think big and act big from the start, an idea that should be reflected in the branding and brand values. Second, push the boundaries, you are likely to get rejected or fail at something, maybe once or twice, or possibly a lot more – take a day to recoup and then keep on trying!
Why does Modibodi’s positioning centre around sustainability and body positivity? How does that help the brand as it grows and faces competitors?
Modibodi was founded as a need, I was a full-time mum of a two year-old and five month-old living in US. I was training for a marathon and had been experiencing occasional light bladder leaks along with my period returning.
The available solutions were ugly, inconvenient, uncomfortable and a hazard to our environment: disposable hygiene products. I just felt we deserved something better.
I wanted to develop a brand that would benefit women and ultimately everybody, offer people freedom, along with the chance to help the environment. Modibodi was born out of the necessity to reinvent women’s underwear and offer a sustainable alternative to managing leaks.
Modibodi strives to be inclusive of all bodies and all leaks, be it periods, pee, perspiration, or pregnancy. Since we’re not just creating products, but solutions for problems faced by millions of people globally, we create emotional connections with them, which in turn leads to strong brand loyalty and continuous growth.
What can female entrepreneurs learn from a success like Modibodi? Do you think women are at a disadvantage when it comes to leading startups and gaining capital?
Being a female in the tech sector certainly has its challenges. The tech and business sectors are notoriously male dominated, with figures showing that 98% of VC funding goes towards male founded products. Starting out was hard, especially as we were creating a whole new product category around unmentionables.
However, as a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights, this only ignited my passion and further motivated me to bring Modibodi to fruition. I hope that our success, and continued growth globally can help empower and inspire other female leaders who might have a business idea but are too afraid to take the plunge and bring it to life.
From a communications perspective, what has fuelled your success?
From my previous experience working in comms, I knew very early on that marketing and namely a comprehensive social and PR strategy is something we want to heavily invest in.
Given the personal nature of our products, and the poignant real-life stories of our customers around the world, social media alongside PR coverage are the perfect platforms to raise brand awareness, and further fuel our growth.
We work with a range of key opinion leaders and influencers who love and advocate for Modibodi. It is important that the people who represent our brand truly understand our product and genuinely believe in the positive impact we are trying to make as a brand and a business. We are now in a fortunate position that we are approached more than we are actively approaching people to represent our brands and share their stories, and we have developed a framework we follow when selecting influencers to work with globally.
As Modibodi explores new products and lines, what do you have to consider to ensure the brand’s identity is not diluted?
From the beginning, I was repeatedly told we would need super glamorous models to make ‘unmentionable’ topics (menstruation and incontinence) mentionable in a public setting. I refused to believe this was the only way we could have a presence in the market and from day one we have sourced customers or everyday women from diverse backgrounds to help model and sell our products, and we ever photoshop them. This is part of our brand essence that we carry throughout our entire communications strategy and allow people to see the real, authentic Modibodi voice.
It’s also important that we have a social impact side to the business, therefore, a percentage of our sales go to programs that empower women – we want to celebrate our success as a business but ensure we’re a business with real heart that gives back – it’s not just about having a feel-good marketing campaign or driving sales.
We are part of the Sustainable Period Project and support many other organisations globally. Plus, Modibodi’s Give a Pair campaign encourages support from our customers which then facilitates more Modibodi underwear donations to vulnerable and disadvantaged women across the globe.
As the original brand in a new product category, what is the best strategic approach to brand positioning?
It’s important to believe in your vision and message, and for it to come from an authentic place rather than being a business strategy whose sole aim is to make money. You also need to really understand your target audience to deliver the right product at the right time in the right channel and being a predominantly online business allows us to really understand our customers wants and needs. I also believe it’s important that the team you have working with you, internal and external, believe in the brand, business and mission and support your brand essence.