Going global · 5 min read

How domestic lifestyle brand, Permanent Vacation added international routes.

If you have your sights set on international expansion, finding your audience: buyers, partners, collaborators, and more is key to your success. Here’s the Permanent Vacation approach of going global.

Are you thinking of expanding your brand to new territories? As someone who’s done it, I wanted to write about my experience and include the strategies that worked for me, as well as the challenges I faced in the hopes it’ll help you on your journey. Keep in mind that success is not often found in just the execution of these strategies, but in the quality and ability to be consistent in the execution. Simply put, it's not what you’re doing, it’s how you do it.

I originally conceptualized Permanent Vacation as a lifestyle brand in 2016. At that time, the idea of selling products internationally was a very distant thought. My initial focus was to simply create products for my friends and family, but then it grew from there: Toronto, then abroad.

 

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Sometimes they Choose You

 I hired a friend to run social media ads after building a website and Instagram account for the brand. It took weeks of tweaking our approach to get traction, but with each iteration, we began to find and secure our brand identity through the content we were creating. At the time, our target area was Toronto and surrounding cities. Months later, we started running campaigns in every state across the US one by one.

Our budget was small, but it was enough to get interesting insights. We noticed there were particular cities that took to the brand. Brooklyn and Los Angeles responded best, so we decided to focus on those markets. Sometimes a demographic will choose you – and it’s not always an obvious market. For example, through social media advertising A/B testing, we discovered Permanent Vacation performed and sold well in Australia – a valuable insight we did not expect.

 

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Find Partners on the Ground

It's extremely important to stay strong to the vision of your brand. The ongoing work is to keep an eye on what’s happening in the world. Try to watch for the cultural movements and market shifts to find ways to engage, and to infuse those influences of what you love into your brand as you look to expand into new markets.

If you’re looking to enter a new region, one of the best ways to connect is through strategic partnerships. For us, it often started with a DM over Instagram. Permanent Vacation is connected with content creators and reps in many cities abroad, who are both online and offline ambassadors for the brand. It’s been a great way for us to keep eyes on and ears to the streets.

Our in-house community manager has also been vital to Permanent Vacation’s success. Maintaining a collaborative and positive relationship with ambassadors is a job in itself. Sending new products out and working with creators to get content, as well as their feedback, is an extremely valuable part of our process.

One of the ways we’ve been building brand awareness in other regions is through collaborations. In 2020 we collaborated with a couple who moved to Panama from Toronto and built a boutique hotel for tourists called Catalina’s Hideaway. Together, we decided to give away a free hotel stay and a care package full of Permanent Vacation clothing.

Last year, we teamed up with Vancouver-based, DJ Felix Cartal. We created a limited clothing drop of hand-dyed hoodies and t-shirts to celebrate the release of his upcoming album, Expensive Sounds For Nice People. These are a few of the many collaborations we’ve done to help grow our brand presence internationally.

We love collaborating with musicians and entrepreneurs especially because they embody the ethos and lifestyle of what Permanent Vacation stands for. We are very discerning with the collaborations we do — it’s never just for the sake of creating brand awareness. Picking the right collaborations cannot be emphasized enough. Always be thinking about what is on-brand for you and your community.

Now that Permanent Vacation has a foothold in new regions, our next course of action will be to travel and experience those regions more and more for ourselves. Planning and executing pop-up shops is a great way to connect and maintain relationships in new markets. It’s also the best way to learn and appreciate the language and culture of that particular demographic. It’s also important to have a great relationship with your shipping company as you grow globally. Learning and navigating through shipping, duties and taxes will be valuable as you look to expand your operations.

 

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Intellectual Property

Once you have good momentum with your brand growth, it might be worth trademarking in new regions that you’re looking to enter. Although Permanent Vacation became a registered trademark in Canada a couple of years after inception, we did not anticipate the challenges of trademarking outside the Canadian border. As we entered new markets, we found similar trademarks registered — some legitimate and some that were likely trademark trolls. Securing intellectual property abroad has been challenging and expensive, but we are winning battles and slowly securing the necessary markets as we expand. I highly recommend you discuss this topic with your lawyer and advise you to learn as much as possible when you set your sights on going global.

Although the internet has opened up new markets which are now only a click away, the reality is that this has also paved the way for enormous competition. I truly believe the success in growing a brand on a global scale is that there are no shortcuts with respect to the time and effort it takes. Testing new markets, making adjustments, building meaningful relationships with customers and brand ambassadors on the ground, and protecting your intellectual property is a great start.

 

About the author

Alex Cronin is the founder of Permanent Vacation Inc. He was born in a small country called the Republic of Moldova and came to Canada as a refugee at the age of 6. He spent 7 years as a songwriter and then another 10 years in sales before creating Permanent Vacation. Alex is a visionary with a plan to build a global lifestyle brand to represent those who share the same values.

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