Expanding Into International Markets: What’s Involved?

Martie Kuzzy is the Growth Marketing Director at NEIWAI, a DTC brand selling underwear, loungewear, and activewear. As a seasoned marketer, she was a Performance Marketing Manager and the Director of Growth Marketing at Andie, where she executed multichannel customer acquisition and pioneered emerging marketing channels. Martie is also a registered yoga teacher.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Martie Kuzzy talks about NEIWAI and her role at the brand
  • Martie’s unlikely journey in marketing
  • How NEIWAI overcomes market uncertainties 
  • Defining your core customer by building personas 
  • Offline events and partnerships: NEIWAI’s market expansion efforts
  • Sales data considerations for 2024

In this episode…

If you’re considering expanding into new markets, you must reposition your brand to attract new customers. So what’s involved in this process, and how can you develop new brand recognition?

Creative marketer Martie Kuzzy is spearheading an undergarment brand’s expansion into the US through partnerships, events, and brand-building campaigns. She maintains that your brand identity should be unique to each market to reflect diverse customer bases. When defining your target customer for a new market, build an ideal persona based on your highest-selling product before introducing that consumer to similar products, building trust and brand loyalty. You can then analyze sales data to refine your targeting approach.

In this episode of Ecom Experiences, join Samir Balwani as he welcomes Martie Kuzzy, the Growth Marketing Director at NEIWAI, who shares how she’s leading her brand into new markets. Martie talks about her journey into marketing, how NEIWAI overcomes market uncertainties, and the brand’s marketing efforts for 2024.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:00

Hey welcome to another episode of Ecom Experiences a podcast where e-commerce marketing leaders who want to grow and scale their brands faster. Join us as we interview some of the smartest brand founders and marketing leaders in the industry. Explore the lessons they learned discover the keys to their success, discuss what excites them most about the future.

Samir Balwani 0:28

Hi, it's Samir Balwani. Here hosted Ecom Experiences where we talked to brand founders and marketing leaders about their experiences growing their brands. This episode is brought to you by QRY QRY is a paid media agency that helps brands balanced brand awareness and performance marketing to drive performance, predictable and profitable growth. To learn more about how we can help you visit, weareqry.com. I'm really excited about our guest today. I've known her for quite a while and have always had amazing conversations with her. So today I have Martie Kuzzy, the growth marketing director at NEIWAI here. And I just I know this combo is going to be great, Martie, thank you for coming.

Martie Kuzzy 1:09

Yeah. Thanks for having me, Samir. Glad to be here.

Samir Balwani 1:13

So let's start with the easy questions. Tell me more about you know, the brand that you work for your role and what you do. Yes,

Martie Kuzzy 1:23

so I work for NEIWAI director of growth marketing. And they why is a premium clothing brand. So we offer beautiful and functional designs specifically made for comfort. Our our line is bras and underwear. We also have lounge activewear maternity, and so it's primarily focused for women, but we're expanding into the men's realm as well. And we'll continue that expansion. What's really cool is we our products span across generations. So you know, the teenager was looking for a training bra up to the grandmas who are looking for cool, comfortable sweaters and things like that. So it it showcases our products and our audience really showcase the need for the need. That comfort is essential. So that's awesome for everyone. Yeah. And we and as our brand started in Shanghai about 12 years ago. And ne y actually means inside outside. So it's a concept that when you put something on your skin that you feel good in, and it's made well, and it's you know, ethically sourced, things like that, like, you feel better internally and you're able to live your life with more ease. So, yeah, that's a wise Oh, yeah, I've been here for about a year and a half. And yeah, continually expanding.

Samir Balwani 2:47

So tell us tell us about your role. What what do you do it? Yes.

Martie Kuzzy 2:51

So my core focus is to drive growth and NEIWAI. So we launched in the States about three years ago. And so I'm really working on that US expansion and trying to grow efficiently and make it more of a household name.

Samir Balwani 3:11

That's awesome. I know that you've had a really amazing history getting too new. I also so tell us, how did you get into marketing? And tell me more about the journey?

Martie Kuzzy 3:23

Oh, my goodness, that's a great question. So I actually so I studied art, and I was in athletics in college, and, you know, did a variety of things worked in health care, etc. And then finally was like, I gotta get into a realm that's more creative. And I was, I was like, more of the storytelling piece of it. So I was working at a, I had a friend of a friend asked if I could help, I was in my early 20s. And they asked if I could help cater, like their, their daughter's graduation party. And I went to, I did, and the dad, we like, started, we started talking, and I was in Minneapolis at the time, and I was, you know, looking to want to ultimately move to New York, and I started shooting the shit with him. And he was like, the president at a digital marketing agency. And I was like, Well, that sounds fun. It sounds creative. It sounds strategic, all these things. And long story short, I like got some interviews, like met with their team, and Oh, that's awesome. So that's how I started in the digital marketing world. And

Samir Balwani 4:35

I think everything starts where the relationship right, everything starts with a relationship. Things are so relational.

Martie Kuzzy 4:41

That's exactly yeah. So I started there, and I actually was hired to be on their creative team. And then my first day, they were like, just kidding. We're gonna put you on the media team. I was like, okay, you know, I was like, early 20s. I was like, grateful to have a job and I'm Anyway, so the story goes from there. So I really learned everything agency side, we had, like 40 people in the agency, and it was just, you know, on nights, but really awesome. Anyway, so after that, and then after a couple years being an agency side and moved to New York, and we worked for an agency here, you know, planted

Samir Balwani 5:20

your dream come true, Martie, right.

Martie Kuzzy 5:22

Dream come true. I need to remember that. So yeah, so that I worked like with HBO and like bigger brands, and then made the switch into direct to consumer and working brand side. And then after being there for a couple bit for a little while I was with Andy, Andy swim, I then sort of consulting. And after a bit of that, I was like, Oh, I miss the environment of a team. And so landed in a why, and then I have been here for the last year and a half. That's been great. It's

Samir Balwani 5:54

amazing. I love that that's such I love this story of how you started into the agency world. Got a chance to see it from that end, came over to the brand side, and we're like, yeah, no, I'm gonna stay brand side. This is this is where the fun is.

Martie Kuzzy 6:07

Totally. And it's fun to have both perspectives. And I think it's really important as well. And I think no matter where, where you are, you're always kind of drinking from a firehose, which is also fun,

Samir Balwani 6:20

I think. Yeah, it's interesting. I think that perspective is really important. It kind of is similar to actually my, my history. So I started agency side. And then I went brand side when I worked at American Express. And now back agency side. And I think you're exactly right, like knowing what the other person is thinking and like, having empathy for the things that they are dealing with. It's hard when you just don't even know what they're dealing with. So I think that is I think being agency side probably makes you a better manager of agencies, because you understand what is happening on

Martie Kuzzy 6:55

that end? Yeah, I believe so. Definitely. Perspective. Oh,

Samir Balwani 7:01

I love it. Um, so as we look back at the brand, so, you know, 23 was a interesting year for a lot of people, we're going into 24, which is more uncertainty, as people look ahead. So tell me, what are the challenges that you're dealing with? Tell me about the challenges you're dealing with, and just kind of what you're thinking about how you're gonna overcome them?

Martie Kuzzy 7:25

Yeah, so yes, a lot has happened in the last year. I think the main focus for this year is really developing. Branding and like a brand identity, that's us specific. So you know, there's been for years like such a push on performance, marketing, and make things efficient and like, and now that there's so much more competition and market, there's a need to stand out from a brand side. And with NEIWAI, we were really lucky because having, you know, almost 10 years of the brand being in China and like known and loved. When we launched in the States, we already had a really large customer base here. Yeah. And so things took off. But as we're trying to grow, we want to distinguish NEIWAI has a brand in the States, which is part of NEIWAI in China, but its own entity, because, you know, the US of course has its own identities. So yeah, so working to blend kind of East and West. Yeah, so we're working on that branding piece this year. And so people new to the brand can help can understand what we do and what we stand for and, and get on board.

Samir Balwani 8:53

That's really cool. Because, you know, when you were telling us about the brand, it sounds like the brand actually has a great story and a lot of vision around it. And like a true reason to exist. And so I can imagine that trying to translate that, from you know, something that works for the Chinese consumer into something that works for the US consumer is relevant to them, and differentiated against a competitive set, because it is a competitive market that you are in. And that can be really difficult at times and a really unique challenge. However, I guess, how are you going along to do that? You know, where do you start on a project of that magnitude?

Martie Kuzzy 9:41

That's a great question. We're deep in it right now. So we've got you know, it's a blend and I think actually this is, this is probably one of my favorite parts of the job is like orchestrating, like, it's almost like building a puzzle. There's a lot of different pieces and And there's a lot of different ways to put it together as well. So the way that I'm choosing to put it together is by working with our headquarters team to help develop like an outline, and then bringing it stateside and getting perspective from some of the agencies we work with. We work with a really awesome performance creative marketing agency. And they help bring a lot of that US translation to make it most relevant to the US consumer. So yeah, blending those aspects, and then over time working to make all our assets, messaging, etc, like cohesive across the board.

Samir Balwani 10:44

Yeah, I think that that is, I think that translation is really important. And then really understanding your audience set. You know, early on when we spoke, you said NEIWAI really works with all of the audiences, like a lot of very broad group of customers, and so curious about where you're starting and saying, Okay, this is our like, core customer, and then expanding out how do you even define who a core customer is? What does that what does that look like? For you?

Martie Kuzzy 11:12

Yeah, it's, we've started building out personas. And it started with like, Okay, so our most popular line is our barely zero line. And it's like incredibly comfortable bras and underwear. One of our staple products is actually a one size bra. And it looks just like a training bra. But it's like simple, sleek, it's a great t shirt, bra. The price point is lower than a lot of our other products. Really wonderful construction, and people just love it. And that's a really great gateway product for us. And so we've, that definitely is cross generational, but the majority of we've started with, like that biggest. We started looking at personas focused on like, who is the consumer that's buying that product? And how then do we introduce them to all these other products that we have, once they know and love and trust, like the products that we deliver? They can hopefully try other things like our active wear, which in my opinion, is the absolute best. Our active wear is incredible. So yeah, so trying to get people to go along that path and try different products. That's

Samir Balwani 12:28

really interesting. So it's almost like using a single product to actually prove out the values that the brand itself brings and using products as proof points. And that's awesome. Are there any so I know brand is a big one. And that I think that your QRY been all about brand marketing for quite a while and then shouting from the rooftops that performance marketing does plateau at a certain point. And you do need to integrate in brand. And so it's comforting to hear that that you're feeling the same way. And that we're on the right path from that perspective. I'm curious outside of kind of scaling through brand, what else are you looking at? In 24? Are there new channels that you're excited about or things like that?

Martie Kuzzy 13:20

Yeah. Call offline a channel. That would be it that we feel really excited about. We are leaning into partnerships this year, we've got a really big one coming up. And we're we're developing a collection for it and feel really excited about that. Last year, we launched, I think, last year, we launched a store in New York, we now have a store in Soho. It's our first US location. And for reference, like in China, we have over 250 stores. So the brand is really has a significant presence there. With the store here, we're hoping to do more like offline events supporting it. And then as we like launch more partnerships. You know, we did a partnership earlier this year with solid core, you know, people kind of came to a class and we gave them all a set, one of our activewear sets and it's a great opportunity for community and bonding, as well as introducing our product to them. So we're hoping to do more things like that. And, but the thing I feel most excited about is tapping into the community offline. With this partnership, we're hoping to with this like larger partnership that's launching later this year, we hope to support that heavily in New York, you know, out of home and things like that. But I think there's so much competition online and like just continually like people are becoming more numb to what they're seeing. And so I I think having that blend of offline and online is really valuable during this time. Whereas I would not have said that a couple years ago. So it's cool to see that transition. And I feel excited about it. Also, like tick tock, of course, of course, always, you know, tick tock shop, like, what's really neat is in China, we stay really close to the people that work at headquarters for Nightline, and they're doing some really revolutionary stuff on tick tock, and just all these different platforms. And so it's neat. And with AI, of course, and so it's been cool to tap into that, like live streaming,

Samir Balwani 15:40

I was just gonna say, like live shopping list. I know it's huge in China, it's going to me, it's starting to get big here already. And it's it is a huge opportunity also.

Martie Kuzzy 15:49

Yeah, I think there's a lot of ways where like, Asia is leading the path on some of these things. And it's fun to be able to have a direct connection with, you know, the head headquarters, I say headquarters, I can't think of the best word for that. But with our brand over in China, they're doing some cool things we can learn from and test here. So it's really

Samir Balwani 16:14

interesting, you talked about offline and excited you are for it. And it almost reminds me of like, our early conversation in this podcast, actually, where everything is relational. And it's that like, one on one contact for a brand as they build their core customer base, right? Like you build those brand ambassadors by doing events like this who fuel word of mouth that helped build the brand when you have a brand story. And so it's kind of interesting to see, that comes full circle. I'm curious, when you do your offline events, and its partnerships like that. Are you also using it for content? Is that kind of part of the puzzle piece of you know, it's for social on time for paid ads? All of the above?

Martie Kuzzy 16:55

Yes, definitely. There's a lot of benefits with the offline activities. And one is definitely content. And it's been fun, because you know, this last time we had, it's like, people came that we had met before at events that we had had last year, you know, we had a bull sale at Shopify in Soho last year, and, and a wellness weekend. And so you start to just, like, continue these relationships with people. And then, and it was fun to see people knew each other at the event. And, yeah,

Samir Balwani 17:28

that's what you hope for, right? It's let's literally word of mouth as people go, and they bring their friends to these events and kind of fuel that growth. So that is really exciting to hear. I'm curious about how, as you kind of look ahead into 24? How are you thinking about your data and the data you collect for your site? And sales data? And how are you making sure the dollars you're spending are actually being effective

Martie Kuzzy 17:58

and efficient? Oh, we're looking at more of the touch points, you know, like, at what point in the funnel? Like, which channel is driving? Like, the most efficient results at certain parts of the funnel? And how do we once again, build that puzzle, like orchestrate all the pieces to work best together? Um, that is definitely a work in progress. But I think it's happening across each channel, you know, so our affiliate platform, we're, we just transitioned to a new, we've transitioned to impact. And so we're able to see get better tracking. And so that can help inform us it was previously it was a black box, you know, and so we're just trying to get more visibility, and of course, nothing's perfect. And so it's like, okay, how do you gather all of the data and then string it together into a way that helps you learn and optimize your channels?

Samir Balwani 19:08

Funny, it's like triangulation versus like, very clear direction, and you're like, Okay, well, I have these three points. And this means that they're this way or not. And so yeah, I the more we talk to brand owners and on even on our end, it's there's no perfect answer to that question. And so it's just always an opportunity to see how people are thinking about it. And yeah, I think directional said has been that it's kind of like yeah,

Martie Kuzzy 19:41

got the back. Totally. And what's cool about bringing the brand side is that you have the brand's best interests at hand. It's different than being agency side, which you will in most cases, you should have the brand's best interests at hand. But, but in both cases, your storytelling you know, so the data tells a story when Your brand side, it's easier to be like, oh shit that did not perform as well as we thought it would have. So therefore, you can shine a brighter light on things that didn't work. Whereas agency side, you know, you're, you're also trying to promote yourself to the brand. And so there's a little bit more, there can be more of a fluffiness. That happens. And so what I appreciate about you and our conversations always smear as the transportation or the the transparency, transparency. Thank you. Yeah, credit, the transparency within conversations, I think that's so important. And that happens a bit more naturally, like in brand, but can definitely also happen

Samir Balwani 20:42

from agency. Yeah, it's interesting, what's one of the things that we are really it's part of our core values on the agency side, it's, I'd rather tell you bad news and tell you how we're going to fix it, then tell you good news, and you find the bad news. And so that's always, I mean, you know, from our perspective, the best agency brand, relationships, our relationships, and it's, you know, having a very clear line of communication, having trust and transparency across each other. And it's, it is really hard. And I think one of the things that I will say that is important that I think more I wish more brand managers and brand people in house people would do is upfront. In the kickoff, when you bring on an agency, you do a kickoff call, the agency tells you hey, this is how we work. This is what we do this how what you can expect from us. Very rarely does the brand do the same thing. And I think that there is a element of ownership on the brand that I would love to see from more brand owners of, Hey, guys, here's what we do internal, this is what we do. This is what my boss wants. For me, this is what I expect. And this is what our plan is if a mistake happens, mistakes will happen. The question is, do you know what's going to happen when you're how you're going to manage the mistake. And I think that's important because it level sets, it sets the agency on a path where they feel that they can bring mistakes to you versus feeling like they're always working for their job. And so, yeah, I agree a lot of agencies are very bad at it. And they do create this sense of, can I actually like trust that data? Is that like real? Why is this missing? Why are we not looking at that data? So you never kind of want to be in that situation? And for us being a pure media agency, right? Like, I never want our clients to ever wonder if the recommendation we made to them by something they should trust or not. Right. And so trust is paramount. In the work that we do we manage a lot of our clients money, in some cases, 20% of their top line revenue more in other cases, and we want to make sure that they feel very confident in those dollars. So to your point, Martie, transparency and clarity are key for that.

Martie Kuzzy 23:05

Definitely. Which once again, it's just like that relationship, like relationships are so important. Yeah, you build that trust.

Samir Balwani 23:13

So I got one last question for you to bring this home. Great. What advice would you give a new marketing director in their first 90 days?

Martie Kuzzy 23:29

Well, top of mind now is transparency like,

Samir Balwani 23:33

your agency as well.

Martie Kuzzy 23:38

Remember being, you know, back in the day, like accidentally spending like, your half a month budget and like a night, you know, when you're you know, I think like transparency, like, is really important. Like, don't be afraid to make mistakes. But test, just constantly test and be open to new ideas, like continually hear what other people have to say, especially early on in a process to give more perspective. And then you can like it's more fun to work as a team when you're sharing ideas and get other people's perspective. And then you can run as a whole in the same direction. So once again, that transparency and collaboration. So be open to it. Yeah, be

Samir Balwani 24:28

open to it. I think openness and understanding is probably the best advice that somebody could get and just almost hidden there was don't have an ego, which I think is another

Martie Kuzzy 24:43

that's so important. Yeah. Yeah.

Samir Balwani 24:46

Martie, thank you so much for joining us today. This was an awesome conversation. I as always have had so much fun. If someone wants to find you online. Where can they go to learn more about you?

Martie Kuzzy 24:56

Yeah, LinkedIn, Martie Kuzzy. You can sculpt your NEIWAI, um, you know my Instagram Martie Kuzzy game handles across the board. So yeah, yeah, feel free to reach out any questions. Yeah, we'll

Samir Balwani 25:10

put. I'll put links to it in the show notes. But thanks, Martie for being here. Really appreciate it.

Martie Kuzzy 25:16

Yeah. Thanks so much, Samir.

Outro 25:23

Thanks for joining us. If you liked it, remember to subscribe so you'll be notified of new episodes. And if you know someone who would enjoy the show, don't forget to share and leave a review. It all helps us impact more brands. If you're looking to improve your paid media go to weareqry.com and schedule a consultation. We're always happy to chat. See you for the next one.

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