As we continue to open source the best advice and insights from our recent AI summit, our focus shifts to our case study panel. The first to speak was Edzard van der Wyck, Founder and CEO of Sheep Inc., a brand which has already revolutionised the fashion industry, and is now rewriting the rules of content creation with the help of Generative AI.

Sheep Inc. – The Founder of a New Frontier for Fashion

Founded in 2019 by Edzard van der Wyck and Michael Wessely, Sheep Inc. embarked on a mission to transform the world of fashion. “The fashion industry is hugely damaging to the environment”, Edzard clarified. “It’s responsible for a vast amount of carbon impacts worldwide, and pollution in general.”

To confront the industry’s substantial carbon footprint, the pair settled on a clear vision: “Our goal was to build a fashion business for tomorrow, to challenge the traditional model and do it differently,” Edzard stated. Ultimately, they wanted to find a way to prove that fashion could exist in harmony with the environment.

Edzard van der Wyck

Edzard van der Wyck‘s CV Highlights //

2019-Present // CEO & Co-Founder – Sheep Inc.

2017-2019 // CEO & Founder – Wycked Ventures Limited

2014-2017 // Creative Director & Co-Founder – Heist Studios

They decided to use Merino wool as their primary material because of its biodegradable properties and suitability for knitwear, but that presented an inherent environmental challenge: sheep, as methane-producing animals, contribute significantly to the climate crisis. To address this, Edzard’s team collaborated exclusively with farms practising regenerative farming, capable of sequestering more CO2 than they emit.

This strategy effectively transformed the wool – a potentially high-emission material – into a carbon-negative resource. “Each cubic kilogram of wool that we source has a minus 14-kilogram carbon dioxide equivalent impact at the farm stage,” Edzard explained. But their journey didn’t stop at sourcing. Through a “myopic focus”, the team analysed their supply chain to identify the most sustainable suppliers at every stage. This comprehensive approach ultimately led to the creation of the fashion world’s very first carbon-negative supply chain, and successfully established a new frontier in sustainable fashion.

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Innovative Marketing Through AI

Sheep Inc.’s innovative attitude has not stopped with their commitment to sustainable fashion, however, because the same entrepreneurial spirit that drove their reimagined supply chain has also fuelled their approach to marketing.

“We were unsure of how to articulate the brand in a way that would live up to the ambitious creative vision we had”, Edzard admitted. “And the real issue for a business of our relatively small scale is that, if you have a marketing budget that you need to deploy for content, it’s always a big gamble.”

Deploying content as a smaller brand is such a leap of faith because of the risk involved. Photoshoots are vastly expensive and there’s never any guarantee that you’ll like what they produce. If they don’t render the results you want, you’re left with a tonne of material you can’t use and a sizeable hole in your wallet.

But as Edzard pondered this issue over a beer in Vietnam, his friend offered an answer. “He started showing me what Midjourney could do and I thought it was amazing”, he recalled. “Instantly, I started thinking about how we could incorporate it into the business.”

Midjourney is a generative AI tool that can produce a wide variety of images from written prompts that a user provides. You might, for example, say that you want a picture of an impressively bearded man, stood at the foot of a snowy mountain. After it receives the prompts, Midjourney will generate 4 images for you, that you can then download, refine, or discard altogether. By repeating this process, you can generate something very close to the image in your head, or even find something better.

A few months after Edzard’s discovery, Sheep Inc developed a way to fuse the images generated via Midjourney with real, physical photography. It’s a process that allows the business to showcase real products to customers in any way it likes, at a fraction of the cost.

You might then question the quality of these images. Are they really that good? Can’t consumers tell the models and settings aren’t real? Well, you can answer those questions, yourself; every image included in this article is taken from Sheep Inc’s website, and every one has been created via this process. Pretty remarkable, right?

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The Result

The integration of generative AI into Sheep Inc.’s marketing strategy has had a significant impact on the business as a whole. Here are three major improvements Edzard and his team have been able to achieve since they began using Midjourney:

number 1

Reduced Cost

Perhaps the most immediate improvement Sheep Inc.’s AI-driven approach has fostered is the vast reduction in marketing spend. “The whole process only costs about £85 per image”, Edzard shared, which starkly contrasts with the exorbitant costs typically associated with traditional fashion marketing photoshoots. This allows Sheep Inc. to invest the money it saves into other areas of the business, like their staff or their supply chain, for instance.

number 2

Increased Efficiency

The efficiency Midjourney provides Sheep Inc. is also hugely beneficial. “With traditional photoshoots, you have to think about them, you have to budget them, you have to plan them”, Edzard explained. “They take a lot of time, but with Midjourney, we can create an image from scratch in about a week to a week and a half.” This agility is particularly advantageous for smaller brands, like Sheep Inc., because it enables them to keep pace with larger competitors and even beat them to the punch when responding to sudden shifts in the market.

number 3

Tripled ROAS

The most impressive upshot of Sheep Inc’s AI integration, however, has undoubtedly been how much their new imagery has resonated with customers. “I was a bit worried about how people would respond, whether there might be an aversion to AI-generated imagery”, Edzard admitted. “But actually, performance has been phenomenal and our ROAS has tripled.” From this, it is clear that Sheep Inc’s evolved imagery has struck a chord with consumers, successfully marrying the brand’s ethos of sustainability with visually captivating content.

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Sheep Inc.’s journey with AI in marketing serves as a shining example of the transformative power it can exert in reshaping traditional business practices. By turning to AI, Edzard and his team have not only solved the problem of a limited marketing budget, but have also elevated their brand presence in the same breath. This case study is a blueprint of success that so many smaller businesses can follow, and we’d like to thank Edzard for sharing it with us and our community.

If you would like to know more about how generative AI can improve your business, sign up to All Together today for up to 5 hours of pro bono mentoring from a leading CEO, every year.