Brands on the Rise is a regular Ad Age feature spotlighting the marketing and business tactics of successful challenger brands. Read other installments here.
Visitors to the beach or pool this summer will be hard-pressed not to find someone wearing the “Sidestroke,” a one-shouldered, color-block offering from swimsuit brand Summersalt. The well-known product, listed as “Best-selling” on the direct-to-consumer brand’s website, has been a must-have for many millennial women in recent years as Summersalt has exploded in popularity, emerging as a fierce rival to DTC competitors and mainstream brands such as Athleta.
“Summersalt has a very identifiable style,” said Kristen Classi-Zummo, director and apparel industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group. “It stands out—you can spot it if someone is wearing it.”
That distinction has certainly worked to the brand’s advantage. But other strategies are also helping Summersalt turn the tide in the $5.2 billion swimwear category, including a marketing message rooted in inclusivity, selective partnerships with popular influencers such as The Home Edit duo, sustainable fabrics and size-helpful messaging.
The five-year-old St. Louis-based brand, which sells primarily through its own e-commerce site, has amassed $26 million in venture capital funding and now sells in some 140 countries.
Below, details on Summersalt's origin story, its marketing strategy and what lies ahead.