November 11, 2013, 9:56 AM

A brigade of buyers

Ranger Up is an e-commerce site launched by two Army Ranger veterans.

Lead Photo

Military veterans Tom Amenta (left) and Nick Palmisciano co-founded RangerUp.com in 2006 in Durham, N.C.

I may look calm, but in my head I’ve killed you 3 times.

That’s one phrase unabashedly strewn across a T-shirt for sale on RangerUp.com, an e-retail site launched by U.S. Army Ranger veterans Nick Palmisciano and Tom Amenta in 2006.

Yes, Ranger Up’s military-style T-shirts and patriotic gear cater to consumers who are “unapologetically American,” as the e-retailer puts it in describing a section of its e-commerce site.

Ranger Up smartly uses that patriotic, pro-military passion as a catalyst to engage consumers in social media and create a loyal customer base. And the strategy is producing solid growth, albeit off a small base. The retailer, No. 962 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Second 500 Guide, grew sales 42.9% from $1.4 million in 2011 to $2.0 million in 2012. Ranger Up also will appear in the 2014 edition of the Social Media 500, which ranks e-retailers by their sales driven by social network activity.

Ranger Up’s YouTube channel, which features a slew of military workout videos, has more than 4 million views and nearly 15,000 subscribers. Its blog, the Rhino Den, is refreshed frequently with a Hero of the Week and, conversely, a Douche of the Week. It also features Warrior Poetry—personal works from soldiers and veterans—and military-themed news and features. The blog is on track to rack up 2.5 million views this year, Ranger Up says.

A trip to Facebook unveils an eager fan base more than 200,000 strong. Its Facebook fans frequently engage with the retailer’s fan page, for example, offering thoughts on new T-shirt designs. Palmisciano, Ranger Up’s CEO, says he writes nearly every post and reads every fan comment. “It’s hard to hear something you created stinks but it’s a lot easier to hear it and get over it then it is to print $20,000 worth of a design and stare at it on the racks for a year,” he says.

Ranger Up is far from declaring a social media victory. It has big plans for the coming year. “We have over 100 YouTube videos and will add 30 to 40 more in 2014,” Palmisciano says. It also plans to hire more writers for its blog and release its first animated DVD from its YouTube military cartoon hit “The Damn Few.” “In 2011, 20% of our marketing budget went to social media and content generation,” Palmisciano says. “In 2014, 90% will.”

Ranger Up is clearly still on active social media duty.

 

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