Are You Cool Enough to Use These Apps?

The average person sees 5,000 ads per day. Every company, new and old, wants to grab our attention and introduce us to their product or service. Consumers have an unbelievable amount of options, from shoe stores to airlines to restaurants. But, how do we choose between all of the alternatives? Do we choose the brand that we have seen the most on our NewsFeed over the brand your friend has been raving about? Some startups are betting on the latter. They have introduced exclusivity as a tool to drive business demand. How can restricting access to potential customers possibly allow for a product or service to be successful? I’d like to answer this question by introducing you to three startups that are employing this model.


High-end sportswear startup, Wone, was launched this past spring by Kristin Hildebrand. The first collection that Wone released featured leggings for $320 and a sports bra for $150. This collection has completely sold out, and Hildebrand told Fast Company that she estimates to sell 15,000 garments by the end of 2018. The most impressive part of this new brand is that Wone invests $0 into marketing. As of right now, the company relies solely on word of mouth to promote their products. When the first collection was released, Hildebrand informed all her friends and family and gave samples to a few influencers in the fitness world. Wone does not even use social media as a source to reach consumers. People who hear about Wone must apply to access the products, and the owner says that she personally googles all applicants. She described this as a more hands-on approach to personalized marketing that other companies use, not an invasion of privacy. Through this process, Hildebrand gets to know customers on a personal level and can adjust her product to their feedback. Eventually, Hildebrand wants to open up the website to more customers, but strives to maintain the close connection with customers. But while she’s launching her product in the meantime, she can control demand and therefore satisfy the vendors. The members of Wone have strong brand loyalty because of the personal connection to Wone employees and easy channels of access. Wone has found great success in the startup world thus far through its exclusivity approach to acquiring customers.

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Like Wone, InList has an approval process for their app, which allows members to browse nightlife, entertainment and charitable experiences. These events are very exclusive and handpicked by industry experts. The app features events available in 45 cities worldwide, from New York City to Dubai to Sydney. InList lives by the saying “our connections are your connections” and seeks to take the guesswork out of partying. Members are attracted to this service because they have 24/7 access to a live representative through the app and a nightlife ambassador at your destination, with whom you can connect. This impeccable client service allows InList to have a loyal customer base, solid relationships with early adopters and constant feedback. Additionally, these passionate InList members become the best salespeople for the app. The application process adds an element of high social status, which many users desire. Hence, the exclusivity of InList breeds enthusiastic members who provide open and honest feedback.

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The League

Launched in 2015, the League is an exclusive, members-only dating app aimed at working professionals. The League approves its members based on Facebook and LinkedIn data. Applicants are added to the waitlist pending approval (unless you pay $349 for a year membership). Additionally, applicants that are referred to the League by members are expedited through the process, and the app measures everyone’s “Referral Quality,” which is based on the popularity of the people you have referred. Although the app is free, users have the option to become a League member (for more matches, read receipts, etc.) or to buy extra daily matches individually. Additionally, members can upgrade ot be League Owners, who enjoy expedited entry, daily stats, read receipts, Groups and VIP passes. By vetting all of the people joining the app, the League looks to provide a positive experience for all its members. Many members become free brand ambassadors for the League through their friend recommendations.

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Final Thoughts

When I came across the Wone brand, I was surprised that it found so much success in its first few months without a focus on marketing. However, the exclusivity of the products and the direct contact with consumers builds stronger brand loyalty than all-inclusive products. Wone, along with these other exclusive startups, seeks to create an unwavering customer base, who will continually support the business.

Many customers like the high social status that comes along with the expensive products or services. The League markets itself as an app for someone with high standards for their partner’s educational and career accomplishments. Therefore, the League provides additional filters for users. Critics have called this model very “elitist,” and the app was even accused of racism three years ago for requiring users to disclose their race. CEO Amanda Bradford rebutted that the “ethnicity data” is used to help the site become more diverse and inclusive. Overall, these companies must make careful decisions regarding their vetting process.

These three startups are examples of exclusivity across three different industries. They rely on a strong customer base of repeat-purchasers for their success. I am excited to follow these companies, as they grow larger, and see if they continue their same member restrictions!


9 thoughts on “Are You Cool Enough to Use These Apps?

  1. Hey Kerri,

    I can totally see the appeal of an exclusive brand, as high end designers have survived off status for years. However, I’m shocked that technology platforms are using this same model! It’s interesting to see how people are emulating the structure of exclusive clubs and services online. There has always been a disconnect between how people act and who they are in real life versus the internet, and it seems as though these brands are aiming to close that gap and truly connect with their customers. I’d love to see whether other industries will join in on this trend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this great blog post! It is extremely interesting when companies can promote their brand in a personalized manner, rather than the general marketing schemes. With strong customer loyalty and improving products, Wone is able to keep its close connection with clients. I wonder how this company and other startups can maintain these personalized connections when the company expands nationally and globally. League has a pretty cool – but different – concept by looking at LinkedIn information, but I am curious to find out if this data is previewed on the user’s dating profile.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To answer your question, I can pretty confidently say no, I am not cool enough to use any of these apps. Although these apps have much higher standards for use than just being a college student, they definitely remind me of Facebook’s origins as a website for just Harvard students, then all college students, and then pretty much all of humanity. I’ll be interested to see if the people behind these apps have similar plans to use their success in exclusivity to scale up to a much wider audience. Great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is really interesting to see how exclusivity does the marketing by itself. It is similar to Tesla that spends almost nothing on marketing and still has more orders than what they can produce. I feel like apps such as InList and the League provide something closer to a “friendly recommendation” which people are more likely to trust. They are able to do so because of their selective admission.


  5. I feel like the League is an app I look down upon only because I don’t think I’m qualified to get in. If I was in it I would most likely be an elitist about it.

    It’s interesting to see how these apps will use AI to automatically determine who can join their programs, as human vetting isn’t very sustainable in the long run. The best combination for this will probably still be a combination of human and AI vetting.


  6. Great post! I never knew that companies like The League and Wone executed an exclusivity business model such as this, however, you can definitely see that the model does work to some degree. It is very similar to the car buying/leasing process I believe. People who buy a Mercedes, for example, could have purchased a Ford or another car brand that offers very nice features and amenities, however, by driving a Mercedes, this projects a symbol of high status. This high status is what drives sales, not a better dashboard display or a nicer cut of leather for the seats. It will be interesting to see if this model will continue to drive sales like it does for the automotive industry. I also really enjoyed David’s point in his relation to Facebook. I wonder if apps like Wone will ever expand their target customer range beyond what it is now. Very excited to see how these companies grow, thank you again for sharing.

    – Nick


  7. Hmm these are interesting apps…about the first app, I wonder what the cost of purely using word of mouth marketing and network effects might be though. I feel as though if celebrities or influencers purchase the product, it could definitely catch onto the viral “hype” although I’m not sure if that translates directly into sales. Brands like Kylie Cosmetics or Fenty Beauty essentially have no marketing team because they use the influence of their brand image to sell their products. League also seems like an interesting idea for a dating app but at what cost are you losing if you’re focused on a more niche space such as working professionals and what aspect of culture does that promote? What does it mean to be a working “professional”?


  8. Cool post, Kerri! As I can see from the great discussion above, this kind of strategy inspires a lot of different opinions. Not sure if I would ever use one of these apps- part of what I love about tech in general is how it is helping make more things available to more people. I rather see it be used for inclusivity than exclusivity.


  9. Interesting post, Kerri! Exclusivity and influencer marketing have been prominent, recent trends across a variety of industries. In terms of exclusivity, stores have begun to emphasize membership programs as a way to get special perks, and other retailers have begun to release products on a very limited basis. For example, Nike and Adidas, as well as hype clothing brands like Supreme and Off-White, release new products at publicized times with a supply below the demand in order to jack up prices and generate public hysteria. In addition, these same companies have started to focus on influencer marketing to promote new products. Influencers receive soon-to-be-released products for free and post about them on social media, generating popularity and excitement among the general public at a low cost to the companies.


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