Jennifer Kubes is the creative force behind House of Kubes – a fashion and lifestyle blog based in Oklahoma City. She has worked with a number of brands including Macy’s, The Container Store, Target, Old Navy, Google, James Avery and Almay to name a few. She is also a wife, mother-of-three, wardrobe stylist, social media manager and all-around busy bee. You can follow her at @jenkubes on Instagram.
AM: What is your background and how did you get started in the world of fashion blogging and influencing?
JEN: I’ve loved fashion from a very young age, and I started working in retail when I was 16. I have a degree in apparel merchandising from Oklahoma State University. While I was in college, I changed my major twice, first to advertising and then back to apparel merchandising two years later. When I graduated, I left my retail job to work at an advertising agency. Oh, the irony.
When Instagram was born, I started sharing photos of my outfits every morning and everything really seemed to just take off from there. It wasn’t until I had gained about 1,000 followers in a very short period of time that I realized maybe I should do something more. I started a blog shortly thereafter in the fall of 2011. I continued to post my outfits and offer fashion advice and my following continued to grow. When I moved to Dallas in 2012, I started getting contacted by brands and local businesses; it’s just progressed from there.
In 2017, I rebranded my fashion blog “What Would Jen Wear,” to become a lifestyle blog. “House of Kubes” gave me the opportunity to speak to much more than fashion. I’m truly amazed at how this whole blogging world has evolved in such a short amount of time. I think it’s also a little comical – but very rewarding – that I’m now doing something that combines both apparel merchandising and advertising. I never would’ve imagined that I’d be where I am today when I started my Instagram account, but man, I am so grateful that this is what I get to do for a living while I’m a young mother.
AM: As a person who is an influencer BUT is also an audience for brands, what draws your attention to brands? What are some examples of brands that lost you?
JEN: Given my background and experience in both fashion and advertising, my attention is always drawn to the products themselves (form and function, essentially) and how well the brands market themselves. How active are they on social media? Are they dipping their toe into influencer marketing? What does their website look like? What about their logo? If they’ve been around for say, 25 years, have they refreshed their logo? That may sound silly, but that kind of stuff sends such a big message to me. If the brand is out there trying new things and staying invested in the changing landscape of the marketing world, I’m intrigued.
So many people use social media these days when they have issues with brands. Let’s say their order arrived damaged or they haven’t received a shipping update, trust me, you will hear about it on social media. If a brand doesn’t have a team in place to manage these social accounts (and manage them well) it can have a massive impact. If I see a brand is unresponsive or if they don’t have the right people in place, what makes me think they’ll help me if my order is wrong? I’d rather take my business elsewhere.
I’ve seen some very popular retail and interior brands struggle with this over the last year and to be honest, it’s deterred me from shopping at their stores. Nordstrom and FedEx are two companies that I believe handle this really well.
AM: Snapchat has already started doing direct sales in their app from big brands. Recently, Instagram rolled out the same. How are lifestyle posts different from a traditional in-feed social media ad?
JEN: The biggest difference is I am the person in the photo with the product, not a model. Over the last eight years, I’ve attracted a loyal following and simultaneously gained their trust. My followers know that if I’m working with a specific brand, it’s a brand I approve of and would actually recommend. An in-feed social media ad may get more views/impressions, but my lifestyle post will convert sales and potential lifelong customers because there is trust associated with it from the start.
AM: How do you keep and maintain your personal brand while partnering with key players in the fashion or lifestyle industries?
JEN: Upholding my personal brand is one of THE most important things to me. If I worked with a brand to promote a product I didn’t agree with or a fashion label that was poorly made, that reflects negatively on me because I’m the one who promoted it. Then, I lose the trust of the following I’ve worked so hard to build and maintain.
I’m incredibly selective with brands I work with for that very reason. Also, while a lot of offers come through my inbox, I also spend a lot of time reaching out to brands that I love and support for partnerships as well.
I also think it’s important to find a balance between sharing sponsored posts and your own personal life, whether that’s your kids, your vacation or even what outfit you’re wearing at any given time. If someone’s Instagram feed becomes full of ads, the connection is lost.
AM: Before a brand starts looking into partnering with you, what should they consider?
JEN: This really depends on what the brand’s end goal is, but I think the most important things to consider are photography, creativity and messaging (i.e., my ability to effectively talk about and sell your product). My blog and my Instagram, among my other social accounts, are like a virtual resume that can give the brand a glimpse of what I can produce for them. With that said, though, I love to push myself to be more creative with each collaboration, so I’m constantly producing new and engaging content. Keeping my audience inspired and engaged is the ultimate goal.
Personally speaking, creating content for brands is a dream for me. This is a dream job. It combines everything I love: writing, photography and styling. I think if you can find an influencer who truly has a passion for what they’re doing, for telling a story with your product and not just trying to make money, the end result will be that much better.