Oak + Oar uses brand loyalty and customer relationships to drive sales

ChristinaWild    November 25, 2017

It’s clear that social media’s impact on any business is critical to its success. Gone are the days when corporations and companies, both big and small, could successfully operate without a LinkedIn profile or Facebook account. Now, having no social media presence can be detrimental to a business’s lead generation tactics, customer service and brand awareness.

In order to fully understand social media marketing’s effects on a business, let’s take a look at Jacquelyn Smith’s five basic steps to selling with social media as described in her article in Forbes magazine.

Five basic steps to selling with social media

Let’s break down these five steps and use Chris Watchorn, owner of Oak + Oar, a Winnipeg-based clothing line, as our guide. First, a bit about Oak + Oar:

Oak + Oar is an original lifestyle brand cultivated from authentic cabin and Canadian culture. It focuses almost exclusively on men’s apparel and  creates, designs and manufactures a range of products synonymous with the camaraderie of weekends at the lake and days spent navigating life’s both expected and unexpected journeys. Until recently, Oak + Oar clothing and accessories were only available online on the company’s website. Currently the clothier also operates a stand alone retail space that offers the full range of the Oak + Oar clothing line along with some exclusive products. This retail space is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Step 1: Determine the best way to connect with prospects

Before creating the Oak + Oar line, Watchorn owned a blog that focused on all things Canadiana and his beloved city of Winnipeg. “The Oak + Oar brand takes after [Winnipeg’s] simplicity and resilience, especially against the cold winters and and into the warm summers.These are the anchors to our ethics, values and design.”

Watchorn’s blog became successful fast, and he quickly realized that his blog, which profiled Canadian up and comers and cabin life, could become something more. From this, the Oak + Oar brand was born.

In her article, Smith writes, “Social media is a smart selling tool only if your clients and prospects are using social media. It’s a huge waste of your time if your clients are spending their time elsewhere.” Watchorn realized that his soon-to-be prospects were following his blog closely, and that this online medium would be a great place to start gaining customers.

Step 2: Join a community and create a persona

Smith quotes Jennifer Fong, a direct sales social media expert, in her article: “It starts by spending some time with the tool you plan to use. Build up a personal account, have conversations and become acquainted with the norms and expectations of the community.”

Watchorn understood that the same followers that read his blog daily, were also avid Instagram users. So, he turned his sights there. The Oak + Oar Instagram account displays beautiful photos of laid-back looks modeled by Watchorn’s real friends and customers. The vibe is always relaxed and always on brand, making it an extension of both his line and his blog. “I would say there are two main channels to our content. The first is conveying our ‘Made in Canada’ product story through well-curated content that features our product in an organic manner (out in the real world). The other would be the sharing of customer photos that maintain a high level of execution and feature the Oak + Oar brand in an attempt to build community and have people feel a direct link to the Oak + Oar story.”

Step 3: Connect

Watchorn has become a master of making connections in his city of Winnipeg. He has successfully collaborated with all three of Winnipeg’s major sports teams (The Blue Bombers of the CFL, the Goldeyes, a minor pro baseball team, and most recently the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL) and his hats, sweaters and shirts have appeared on TSN. Smith writes that it’s important to “Friend, follow or connect with individuals with profiles that match your clients’.” Watchorn understood that many of his followers and potential customers were Winnipegers and avid sports fans, so it was only natural to connect and collaborate with quarterbacks and right wingers that his prospects would know.

Additionally, Watchorn ensures that Oak + Oar is represented at various local markets throughout Winnipeg and amongst Social Clubs, like this one. Watchorn understands the importance of aligning his brand with other similar entrepreneurial ventures in his city, and the results have been highly successful.

Step 4: Build relationships

Watchorn says. “I would say that our focus, first and foremost, is to build relationships and foster personal connections with our followers.” He goes onto explain that, while using social media as a tool to understand what potential customers are looking for is important, his focus is always trying to find ways to connect with people personally. “At the end of the day, this connection is the only thing that separates us from the other bazillion clothing brands out there.”

Here’s an example: My husband, his best friend (also a Winnipeg native) and I are walking down a busy Toronto street one day a few summers ago. Up ahead, we notice someone walking his dog with an Oak + Oar hat on. It’s a hockey player who currently plays hockey in Winnipeg but is living in Toronto now. Though we’ve never met this person, there’s an instant connection between us and him. I snap a photo of the three of them, send it to Watchorn and he posts it on Instagram (bottom right). What Watchorn has inevitably created is a brand that is all about relationships and emotional connections between the brand and the people who wear it.

Step 5: Engage in a conversation

Watchorn continues to use his blog as a way to converse and engage with customers. The Oak + Oar Journal’s purpose “is to share authentic, behind the scenes stories and to give a glimpse at our creation process so people feel like they get a look at the inner workings of Oak + Oar – a peek behind the curtain,” Watchorn explains. Sharing valuable content that customers want to read about is key to increasing the visibility of your brand and inevitably drawing in new leads, Fong explains in Smith’s article.

Watchorn is constantly in the community, repping his brand, but also showcasing local Winnipeg talent and people to watch. He uses Instagram as a way to share his brand with his followers, but also converse back and forth with both current and potential customers.

Lessons for Others

It’s easy to get wrapped up in using social media as a tool for lead generation only. There’s millions and millions of people on social media, so it’s reasonable to understand why companies focus their efforts there.

But what Watchorn has demonstrated is that fostering relationships and encouraging brand loyalty is a key component to lead generation. While his company may never be for the masses, he’s ok with that: “We have always tried to make product and content that we enjoy. We always like to focus on us, the brand and our people, first.” From this, he is adamant that his sales will grow organically and his customers will be people like him, who value integrity, loyalty and all things Made in Canada.

Organization: Oak + Oar
Industry: Online Retail
Name of Organization Contact: Chris Watchorn, Owner

Authored by: Christina Wild

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Smith, Jacquelyn (2014). How To Use Social Media to Make Sales. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved November 25, 2017 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2014/01/10/how-to-use-social-media-to-make-sales-2014/#2d1cd33b7a5d

Oak + Oar homepage. Retrieved November 25, 2017 from http://oakandoar.com/

Oak + Oar Instagram. Retrieved November 25, 2017 from https://www.instagram.com/oakandoar/