Case Study: how Psockadelic went from a passion project to a brand

A few years back, Brian "Slash" Hansen and some friends had an idea to start a psychedelic deli called Psychedeli, complete with sandwiches that had stoner-themed names, and a pool table.

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Figgy and Slash. Photo: Psockadelic

While the idea was a hit among Hansen and friends, the costs for starting a deli were not.

Not one to be deterred, the pro skater kept on with the idea, eventually coming up with the name Psockadelic. From there, friends Justin “Figgy” Figueroa, Nate Elders, and Lannie Rhoades became involved. Something resembling a just-for-fun side project began to take shape.

Soon enough, the concept evolved, and the crew was launching its first product — socks — in October 2014.

Founded on skateboarding and music, Psockadelic remains a grassroots passion project among friends who clearly enjoy working on rad ideas together. Nearly everyone involved has separate full-time commitments, meaning the brand has almost purely been run in “down time” from Elders’ garage. This has translated into authentic marketing and true creative freedom when it comes to product creation.

Despite its somewhat casual strategy, Psockadelic has been growing steadily since its inception nearly three years ago. The brand has more than doubled its retail accounts, and amassed a hefty Instagram following of nearly half a million.

Elders and Rhoades discuss the inner workings, and how they have shifted from a small start-up to something more.

What do the day to day operations look like for Psockadelic?

Nate Elders: Every aspect of this business is freelance. Spencer Ramsey is our art director. He designs and manages the product, ads, catalogs and banners. He is our guy. He is going places. Lannie Rhoades manages the social platforms, films, edits video content and looks after team guys. Steve Clare is on the streets selling and managing reps, Brad Alband manages national accounts, Happy Hour warehouses the product and all things to do with pick, pack, ship, receiving, AR and CS.

Bryan Bastidas oversees the general brand direction, shoots pictures, and works with artists on collaborations. Brian Hansen and Figgy are always involved and giving feedback on what they would like to see from the brand. Chandra Elders is the glue that keeps Psock together. There are a million little things that fall under no one’s immediate description and she handles all of it. Plus she is my wife and she rules. My focus is on finance and keeping the van out of impound…

It is a monster of a "side project," trying to manage it all while my main focus is at my full time job at Brixton. We find ourselves constantly surprised by Psock's success. Whatever keeps the success coming is happening organically, and I believe you can see that loose, carefree message translated through the voice of the brand.

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The Doughnut Psock

Lannie Rhoades:  It works so well because we have such a big group of friends that are not just into skateboarding, but music as well. A lot of people have really liked the product and given us positive feedback.

They're always giving us ideas as we're out at the bars, or at shows saying ‘we want a sock like that,’ and we take it back to our meetings. We throw it out like "What about this…" or "what about that…" Outside of what everyone is good at, we also have these wacky ideas that we rifle off at each other; some are dumb, but others are like, "Good, let's do that!" We are all having fun together doing this. At the end of the day, having a full top drawer of ideas that make you smile and laugh is just the best.

The brand has released a few standouts, like the glow in the dark sock and now the DIY tie dye. What has been the inspiration behind some of these?

NE: The DIY tie-dye will be out for summer. That's essentially what the brand initiatives are; make rad and unique product inspired by our friends. Our customer is moving fast so there is a constant need to connect with them. Psockadelic is not rolling out expensive collaborations or license deals.

The characters behind this brand are the fuel that keep Psock lit. The skateboarders, bands, artists, and brands that we work with are involved because they want to be. We are also bringing unique products to market – DIY tie dye kits, scented socks that smell like the design, glow in the dark socks, sweat suits, plus more to come. These exciting stories engage the customer.

LR: We all find time to get us through monetarily. But in the end, this is always the fun thing to work on. When I make a video, I don't ask anyone to make a video, I just throw it out there that I'm going to make a video for it and then do it.

When I have free time, I'm like, “sick, I get to work on Psockadelic! I get to go to a meeting with these guys, get hammered, and bounce ideas around.” It's a passion project that is becoming more than a passion project.

You guys expanded pretty fast with T-shirts, accessories, and now you even have slides. How's that going for you? 

NE:  Sometimes the ideas don't translate to being knitted on a sock. A T-shirt, hat, or mug might make more sense.

LR: Slash didn't really want to jump into clothes too fast, but we were all excited about it and proud of what we had been doing as a brand. Personally, I wanted a shirt to wear to show that I'm a part of this;  I wanted to rep the brand more than just the socks.

NE: The face of this brand is a fun crew of dudes. If they have an idea that they are excited about, we do our best to make it happen.

LR: When we first talked about the slippers, we were like "Let's make a Lebowski rip off to this song."

NE: Sometimes these crazy ideas spawn product that might not always be best sellers, but sometimes the risks surprise us…

As a brand, you are willing to take that risk.

NE: We are always down to try and make it work. No matter how “out there” it might be.

LR:  [In regards to the liquor store edit] I was just on the road with Colin [Provost] and everyone would come up to us and was like “who was that? That video was awesome.” That video took five seconds at the liquor store to make. Mainly, we thought it was a funny idea, and we wanted to put a rap song to something for once.

NE: Our collaborations have three parts – our brand, another brand, and a team guy or maybe two—like with Emerica x Figgy and Herman. We have a Toy Machine collaboration with Provost and Leabres for summer 17. Fall 17 we are collaborating with OJ  x Figgy and Hard Luck inspired by Baca for holiday 17.

The brand continues to stay focused on skateboarding while pulling influences from music and art. For the dudes who own and run this brand, it's what they know.

With all this great internal growth, where are you at now with retail doors, compared to where you started?

NE: Out the gates, we had 200 doors in the U.S. Now we have global trademarks, we are in nine different countries, and I think our total door count is 550.

Are you primarily brick & mortar or is online starting to make up a larger piece of your business?

NE: My background is in sales. My expertise is going into retail, creating a compelling product story, putting in a section, merchandising it, and getting the people behind the counter excited about it so it sells. At the end of the day it comes down to what we know best, which is retail. So, we really rely on our retail partners.

LR: I think it's really exciting to see how our marketing is working;  It's so easy to just go and see how our customer is reacting immediately.

It's a really good test ground for new product.

LR: Totally! We just post a quick image of something we all come up with on our social to see if people dig it, and then hopefully, that translates to actual retail.

NE: We don't have much money so we have not been able to buy displays for the shops. That makes it difficult for a retailer to display the entire range of product that we make. Our catalogs are a beautiful thing but no kid ever sees that, unfortunately. It's rad that a kid can go online and see all of our product.

How important has the team’s random ideas been for marketing the brand?

LR: Well, to go back to the beginning, when we had all just invested into this, I didn’t want us to try to be anything in particular –  just to do what we think is cool.

I always reference Baker, Baker 2G and how they have such a consistent vibe but that it doesn't seem like they are ever doing the same thing. I think that's because they stay true to what they dig, and what they want to do at that very moment. It translates into great marketing, in my opinion.

It’s important to let the kids be a part of it or feel that they are a part of it. It is something they can represent. You rep Psockadelic, you are part of a big gang that's all homies. If Colin says "Whatever happened to that footage? I like this song right now, can you make an edit?" Ten minutes later, the video is made and out on our social media platforms.

Has this marketing strategy helped with the sales and reception of the brand?

NE: There is always a backstory to a design. Sometimes we get stuck in our own world and that backstory is unknown and the product fails. Sometimes it's larger than we thought and it takes off. My job is to make sure we win more often then lose. [Laughs] Sometimes we tweak an idea just enough to ensure it has a chance to sell.

There is a formula and we continue to work to figure it out. When money is tight, things take longer. But we are going to keep doing what we know.