EP4: How to Win the PR Game and Reinvent an Industry with Michael Markesbery of Oros
This week on The Commerce Lab, Allen interviews Michael Markesbery, co-founder and CEO of the innovative Oros Apparel. They discuss how Oros got started, what PR can do for a growing brand, and how to develop a product from scratch.
Michael has a very unique story. As a pre-med student at Miami of Ohio, Michael got wind of NASA’s Aerogel technology, which is the material they put in space rovers and equipment for insulation in space. As a lover of the outdoors, Michael got tired of having to wear a ton of layers to keep warm and began to research how Aerogel might be utilized to make lighter, more efficient activewear for winter weather. He pitched it to his classmate, Rithvik, and they got to work. Several years, some technology-tweaking, and a $320,000 Kickstarter campaign later, Oros was born.
As 22-year old students, Michael and Rithvik had to get creative to bring attention to their brand and scale the business on limited resources. To date, both men have appeared in Outside Magazine, Runner’s World, and Forbes’ 30 under 30.
As Allan points out, this is outstanding press for a young brand, and Michael goes into more detail on his PR strategy. Michael notes that PR was a top priority for the company and that PR is not only important, but it can be pretty much free. Michael credits Tim Ferris’s “How to Raise $100,000 in 10 days” as an inspiration. This strategy entails finding other similar brands to yours and then tracking down their PR to make a list of outlets (and thereby contributors) who are likely to be interested in what you do. From there, it’s about connecting to these people and drawing them to your brand. It’s tried and true, and Michael and Rithvik continue to use it year after year.
“Oros happens to be aspirational largely in part due of our innovation. And so what that means is that we need to be heavily focused not just on marketing, but on innovation. Fortunately, those two go hand in hand.”
Michael discusses his role as CEO and how he looks at the organization and operations of the company he runs. Oros is unique because of how truly original the product is, and Michael focuses on the innovation of the product, which supports the ethos and the vision of the company. He speaks about the virtues of venture backing given the nature of the company and how it helps in scaling.
Michael talks about the dynamic of working with a co-founder, and the importance of each partner working within their strengths. Michael speaks about the culture of the team he works with, and the 20% of decisions made that propel the business forward – particularly the creation of an advisory board full of experienced mentors and the importance of good time management.
Some Topics we talk about in this episode:
- Introduction – 0:00
- The Oros Story – 3:15
- The Marketing Process – 6:45
- How PR Factors In/PR Strategy – 8:42
- Preserving Innovation – 14:25
- Venture Funding – 16:50
- The 80/20 Decisions – 20:00
- Oros Advisory Board – 20:30
- Time and Stress Management – 23:50
- Wrap-up and Takeaways – 30:00