Mambo online-only brand offering aims for fans new and old

Australian apparel business Caprice launches its second direct-to-consumer offering with Mambo Surf De Luxe, a premium product line that takes advantage of the iconic Aussie brand's pop-culture roots

A premium version of Mambo harking back to the iconic brand’s artistic and cultural grassroots and aimed at fans new and old is the second direct-to-consumer offering from Australian family-owned business, Caprice.

Mambo Surf De Luxe is a premium offering designed to sit distinctively to the existing Mambo Australia product set currently sold through Big W. The ecommerce-only product range features new as well as heritage artwork from original Mambo artists, Reg Mombassa and Dave Mckay, alongside fresh talent like Melbourne artist, Chloe Kovska.

The 140 initial SKUs are being offered in six different product capsules initially and include unisex clothing styles as well as limited-edition loud shirts. Mambo Surf De Luxe is also being driven with a commitment to sustainability and uses certified sustainable fabrics with eco-friendly tags such as Certified Organically Grown Cotton, EcoVero or Repreve, in the majority of the range.

Caprice digital and ecommerce manager, Sally Cordukes, said the premium offering goes back the art, surf culture, larrikin humour and music themes that dominated Mambo’s approach in the 1980s and 1990s, embracing a less conservative pop-culture edge than its Big W counterpart.

“Mambo’s long 38-year history and longstanding reputation in Australia is as a pioneering surf art brand, changing how we did surf wear and art and investing at a grassroots level with artists and the music community,” she told CMO. “There is such a big following of people who love the old stuff and who loved the shirts, Reg Mombassa, the farting dog. There are so many iconic pieces we felt would make the perfect play to do a premium ecommerce offering.”  

Cordukes said the Surf De Luxe ecommerce approach is pitched both at Gen Z and millennials as well as older fans that loved Mambo as it was and leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Caprice acquired the Mambo brand about six years ago.

Credit: Mambo Surf De Luxe

“There is this huge community in Australia as well as globally who love Mambo. Those that remember 2000 Olympics and Mambo when it was very popular back then – the dads and parents that loved Mambo for its vintage prints and loved the political statements it used to make as a brand,” Cordukes said. “What we have also noticed in the past two years is people in the older demographic are shopping online, on Facebook, reselling products and are email followers, constantly looking for old and original artists and prints.”

The Mambo De Luxe site went live in February 2022 and follows the launch of Caprice’s first ecommerce launch for its Dri-Glo homewares range last September.

Cordukes said one of the big lessons from its first foray into direct-to-consumer was the need for clear segmentation of products from B2B offerings. Mambo Australia will continue to be the brand in the B2B space and with Big W.

“We needed Mambo Surf De Luxe to be distinctly different to Mambo Australia. That’s everything, not only fabric and fits, but the artworks we use. We have segmented as much as possible to have that nostalgic, premium offering for the website,” she said.  

A launch campaign for Mambo Surf De Luxe using industry creators was another critical way of exhibiting the brand’s modern pop-culture links. Instead of a traditional fashion photographer, for example, the team used well-renowned music photographer, Maclay Heriot, for its ecommerce shoot.

“We recruited music artists, DJs and people from local brands as models to get the grassroots community involved,” Cordukes said. “We also brought back Dave Mckay and Reg Mombassa, two of the most famous artists, so we have that mix of new and old. Our creative director, Nathan Sheahan, did a collection as well as female artist, Chloe Kovska, who’s local to Melbourne. We called it new and old generations; we tried to bring both together so we had mini capsules of artists we could present to the public.”

In addition, Mambo Surf De Luxe is working to support grassroots communities through internal policies and ongoing initiatives such as I-Change, which supports Australian initiatives such as Clean The Sea, Restore The Reef & Empower with Literacy.

The campaign launch for Mambo Surf De Luxe was done in two phases. The first was the ecommerce product shoot, which also supplied behind-the-scenes content and video footage which is being reused across social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Google and TikTok. That’s in addition to the campaign story the brand is trying to tell around a ‘dog day afternoon’, showcasing consumers going from beach to the pub and live music in order to highlight the more lifestyle aspects of the brand.

“The campaign has a more youthful nature but we tried to showcase all the products integrated together,” Cordukes said. Paid media plays across Google, Facebook and Instagram, along with TikTok shortly, are aimed at addressing that younger generation.

Early learnings

Six weeks in, Cordukes said the team is building a better understanding in order to set solid benchmarks for what for what it should be hitting in terms of conversion rates as well as revenue.

“We’re setting KPIs month by month at the moment but trying to have at least a 50 per cent increase month-on-month and get the conversions up,” she explained. “We’re in the early stages of getting brand awareness from a paid perspective and waiting for rest of media to pick up. The conversion rates have been lower than industry average as we started to build high volume. As we move further down the funnel on retargeting and get a tighter view on our demographics of audience and what strategy we should build out on each platform, we’re hoping to drive up conversion rates based on that.”

So far, the biggest sellers have been XL and XXL sizes, reflective of the Mambo collector and older fan base, Cordukes said.

“We’ve definitely seen a large proportion of who is buying has been older, nostalgic customer and are looking for sizing more suitable to them,” she said.  

With ecommerce still a relatively new business model for Caprice, Cordukes expected the team to scale and grow as its builds volume.

“With Dri-Glo and now Mambo Surf De Luxe, we now see how customers engage with a product, review online, return, the feedback and engaging on social platforms. It’s the whole lifecycle,” she continued.

“We will need dedicated customer service, to rethink and refine our warehouse and 3PL strategy to keep up with volumes, returns and how to scale that as we grow. As ecommerce is a relatively new venture for our business, we are trying to figure out the sweet spot and where we can push to have sustainable growth.”  

Brand segmentation is super important through it all. “The biggest learning so far is having the distinction between Mambo Australia and Mambo Surf De Luxe products and what we offer and being able to access customers that are a Surf De Luxe as opposed to Mambo Australia customer,” Cordukes said.

“Our B2B offering with Big W is such a huge part of our business, the two need to grow separately but under the same hat.”  

Cordukes noted the very dedicated Mambo fans and collectors still out there who are heavily invested in the brand and looking to validate its authentic credentials as one of the most interesting things she’s experienced since launching the premium brand offering.

“They have been the most vocal about product development, the product itself, they have dedicated groups on Facebook, and some have even contacted the original artists about the legitimacy of the brand. It’s been a learning process,” she said. “It’s such a green brand and service we are offering in bringing back this Surf De Luxe brand itself. But there’s such a fan base that’s so dedicated and on the nose about everyone to do with Mambo. We have been under the microscope with a few people.”

As the brand moves forward, the team will look to hone down to smaller, tighter capsules while retaining at least one fresh mini capsule every month.

“We work directly with the artists and we hope to even develop new Mambo artists alongside the originals in future, and not just bring back the heritage artwork,” Cordukes added.

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