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DTC 21: 📦Mission is possible
May 21, 2023
Content Tag
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Welcome to the BFCM hangover edition of the DTC Newsletter. While it’s been a successful week for the Pilothouse / DTC team, we’re definitely treating ourselves right and taking steps to avoid burnout.


👋 New here? Welcome! Here are a few other brands who’ve joined DTC in the last week: Ketoned Bodies, Nebullam, Nuki, Mindset Matcha, and others.


(If a good friend forwarded this to you, be sure to head here to subscribe)


Here’s what we’re serving up this week:


📦 The nuts and bolts of Tru Earth’s environmentally-aligned hypergrowth

📦 Exploring why sustainability could be the key to your brand’s success with Generation Z audiences

📦 The growing pains and learnings from building the DTC content ‘machine’

📦 How to use Amazon Reviews to fuel your marketing approach

📦 Peleton sketches out what it means to be part of the new content-lead brand generation 


Ever wonder what running fast-scaling ad campaigns could look like in the future? Stay ‘til the end to discover the dream ads manager rig that agencies will definitely want to get their hot paws on 🐾



Podcast Insights

Mission Marketing for Hypergrowth With Tru Earth's Ryan McKenzie

Today on the pod, we have Ryan McKenzie, co-founder of eco-friendly laundry strip brand Tru Earth, Canada’s 2nd fastest growing startup. 


Tru Earth is a digitally native DTC superstar and an example of positive disruption leading to viral success. Ryan’s first ads worked, and he hasn’t looked back with two-year revenue growth of 8408% from $0 to a current run rate of over $30 million. How did they get there? 


Let’s chop it up. 


Define your mission and filter everything through it 


Ryan, a father to three, began experiencing anxiety over the climate crisis and the world his children were inheriting. He was further galvanized to action after watching a YouTube unboxing video with his kids. Noticing the obscene amount of plastic used in the products, Ryan started looking to curb the plastic problem. Enter Tru Earth’s plastic-free laundry strip. 


A family friend had invested in a laundry detergent patent. Ryan and his partner were impressed by the product’s efficacy and environmental impact, making plastic laundry jugs superfluous. 


Tru Earth is a digitally native brand, meaning they started with a product, a store, and some Facebook Ads. They had the goal of selling 150 products in their first month. 1500 strips in their first month later with a solid ROAS on the first purchase - they knew they were on to something. 


Through their hypergrowth of the past two years, the environmental mission has stayed at the core of Tru Earth and Ryan’s motivation. 


They’ve eliminated 2 million jugs from landfills, they’ve donated over 3.5 million loads of laundry detergent to people in need. 


We’ve highlighted the incredible power that mission can give to a brand before. To succeed, you need a mission greater than making money. When you’re scaling, stressed, and overwhelmed, your purpose will ground you and justify your hard work.


If you filter your marketing through your mission, people will naturally gravitate to your brand if they align. It works with customers, ambassadors, influencers, PR, as well as hiring and retaining employees. 


🧠 To Do: Define your mission and put it in a frame above your desk. 


Think of retail as a partner 


Tru Earth’s sales are about 65% DTC and 0 to 15% Amazon with the rest coming from retail. What have they learned as a digitally native brand moving into retail? 


  • Don’t expect immediate success when moving into retail - especially if you’re creating a new vertical. You have to get the word out, create awareness, and drive people to stores - treat them like a partner, not a channel. 
  • Think regional - retail works where your brand already has good penetration. 


Build an organic, authentic influencer network


  • Compensate with Product - Tru Earth has a formidable army of approximately 500 brand ambassadors activated for product launches or sales and compensated with gift cards to Tru Earth. Why? Ryan wants ambassadors who are genuinely excited and incentivized by the product and the mission. 


  • Everyday people make an impact - When a non-influencer posts about a product on Facebook to their 300 friends and family  - it can have a significant sales impact. They have way more comments and are way more likely to convert a pal to a sale. 


  • Harnessing Organic Reviews - Tru Earth has a relationship with a unicorn influencer who did an unpaid, organic review of their product that gained traction. Tru Earth pushed traffic to that review, and eventually, the reviewer/influencer became a wholesaler for the product. When Tru Earth pushes the review content, customers purchase through either the affiliate or through Tru Earth - a win win for both parties. 


Get good at delegation 


Being able to systemize your work, teach someone else how to do it, and delegate that labor is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Teaching people how to do something is an incredible skill set that people don’t get taught enough. 


After meeting Ryan and trying their product, DTC is a Tru believer. 

If you do laundry but hate big plastic bottles, we highly recommend you give it a try! and save 10% with promo code 📦trudtc 📦


Listen to the full pod or watch it here for insight on structuring your ambassador program, negotiating massive growth, and why everything breaks even when you’re winning. 


Want to join the next podcast to ask YOUR questions to other podcast guests live? Well - that’s something we save exclusively for our DTC+ members. Sign up here.


How to align with a generation that has ~$300B in purchasing power? Here’s an idea...


After our interview with Ryan at Tru Earth, we thought we’d take a look around to see what the rest of the environmentally-conscious DTC landscape looks like.

The takeaway? Sustainability and eco-consciousness are a great play for a DTC brand. 


There’s a growing population of conscious consumers who reflect their ideals in their power of purchase. They want to be sure the companies they’re spending money with are working to improve their community and the environment - they want to feel good about their purchase. 


According to Hana Ben-Shabat, the founder of Gen Z Planet, Gen Zers have close to $300 billion in direct purchasing power, and 60% of Gen Zers said that a brand being environmentally friendly was important to them. Not only do they value sustainability, they expect it.  


It’s a no-brainer; sustainable practices and eco-conscious values are good for the environment, good for your customer, and good for you. 


In a Retail Dive article on DTC Brands to watch, Andrew Lipsman, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, argues that a successful brand needs to be built around the consumer and foster a sense of community. He says, “Most strong DTC brands are built on unique customer insight. So it’s not just that I can buy some good through online channels, it’s that I understand something about the modern consumer and I’m going to build my brand around that.” 


As Ryan has proved with Tru Earth, building a brand around an environmental mission is an impactful way to connect with your customers and ground your brand with a mission and sense of purpose. 


Where to start?


  • It’s in the name - The best products are named to reflect what they do or how they make you feel. Tru Earth is an excellent example of this. Tru Earth is the product mission in its name. 
  • Sustainable Packaging - a major trend in the field, DTC companies have been adopting greener packaging, to the extent that most buyers assume sustainable packaging as the norm. If this isn’t yet part of your packaging strategy, take a read of tips for eco-friendly packaging.
  • Eco-clout - If your brand is committed to sustainability, don’t be coy about it - let people know you’re walking the walk. Consumers are demanding sustainable values and looking to eco-conscious brands to support - let them know they can feel good shopping with you. TIP: work with eco-affiliates to ensure your messaging on sustainability is effective and up to date. 


Looking for inspiration? Here’s a 2019 People article highlighting eco-friendly brands. Take a look at how these brands position themselves within the eco-friendly space. 



🔑 Key Learnings Along The Path to a Business Fuelled by Content


This week on the All Killer No Filler Podcast, Kyle and Eric give a transparent look ‘under-the-hood’ of how they’re building the DTC content engine. 


And it ain’t all pretty.

If you’re in the trenches creating content to grow your DTC brand -- this one's for you. 


Here’s are a few takeaways from our experience so far: 


⚙️ Build a content machine


When it comes to content, Michael Seltzer of Social Media Examiner hits the nail on the head: “It’s hard work. I’m not going to lie. Anyone who tells you that it’s really easy to build a content business is not telling you the truth. You have to accept the fact that this is going to be gruelling, difficult, time-consuming, and laborious work. But if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty, and are willing to constantly analyze what you’re doing and scrap what doesn’t work and continue what does work, and keep at it, you can be very, very successful.”


Continually creating content is a grind - we know. Kyle and Eric were always in what they call a ‘fugue state’ (aka tethered to their keyboards like Walt was tethered to that lab in Breaking Bad 🧪) while producing content they felt the DTC space would find useful.  


Now, four-ish months later, they’re getting closer to their ideal “content machine” and a more painless content creation process that is systemized, scheduled, and a little more hands-off. A virtuous cycle, if you will. 


Once you set your content template, you find new writers to contribute to the execution.


You have to commit to a routine of consistent output. As Roger Figuerido said on the pod, marketing is about sustained pressure over time. We sustain our pressure via a steady stream of reliable content: our newsletter and podcast. 


💰 Content is a product


Sometimes it’s easy to slip into the mindset that content is just words or videos or whatever medium you’re using. But content at its best should be a very tangible transfer of value.


(Content at its worst can be an infuriating waste of time)


It’s helpful to have a ‘product development’ hat on as you’re creating content. That means that you should look at the content you create like it’s a tool and an asset -- someone can take it and put it to use immediately to improve their condition.


❓What’s in a name? 


Well, a lot. Be strategic. Naming something DTC at the beginning of a pandemic that caused high profile and start-up businesses alike to pivot their model to the new DTC norm was an impactful choice. We immediately had high calibre and high profile names join our list because they knew they had to generate a DTC strategy for their business to keep up. 


🗺 Finding your audience


We don’t realllly need to tell you this. But just in case. Don’t underestimate the power of Facebook for finding your audience. 


While we had an initial audience that Eric brought with him from a previous business, the DTC community started with an Instagram carousel ad that showed different reasons to join DTC on each slide: 



This simple carousel prospecting ad, and a healthy breadth of audience testing, has done a lot of the heavy lifting to grow our audience.


🤫 What’s the DTC secret sauce? 


  • Keep it simple - This has been a consistent theme that our most simple strategies consistently deliver. Our landing page, for example, is dead simple - but effective. 
  • Transparency - People want a look under the hood and see how it’s done. We give that behind the scenes peek into ad buying and the DTC world.
  • Build in public - A lot of our stuff isn’t perfect right out of the gate - but we're putting it out there in the spirit of transparency and vulnerability. While we can mine plenty of valuable feedback from our team, ultimately, the only votes that really matter are yours.

Listen to the full pod for our how it started/how it’s going recap, why we love the bizdev community,  and why you should be taking polar bear swims this winter. 


*** LISTEN AT YOUR PERIL: Apologies for the not so great sound quality (read: tragic) - we had some technical issues! But not to worry, we found the culprit, and Eric has new AirPods! 



Amazon Reviews = Copy Gold


If you’re ever experiencing a case of ‘copy block’ for your product, just head over to your Amazon reviews (or even a competitor’s Amazon reviews), and look for the 1-star and 5-star reviews.


  • The 5-star reviews will have language that you can include in your ad copy. 
  • The 1-star reviews will have objections (stuff people hate) that you can overcome in your ad copy.


Here are a couple of other ideas the Pilothouse team had for how you can use Amazon reviews to fuel your creative:





Sponsored Content - #paid


There are few platforms that understand how influencer creators think better than #paid


Why? 


In addition to specializing in connecting brands with influencers that will generate the best conversions, they regularly create mini case studies based off the greatest influencer successes and failures in history.


Check out the learnings they mined from the brand failure of YouTube’s first makeup influencer -- EM Cosmetics


When you need a platform that can take the back-and-forth of working with influencers off your plate, check out #paid.



Things We Loved This Week


🧐 The Future Of Retail: For decades, brands have relied on the power of retail experiences to inspire customers and build brand affinity. Ten months into COVID-19, brands (especially luxury) are desperately attempting to inspire customers digitally. Investor Fredric Court, who has backed brands like Farfetch and Peloton, says, “As people are living their lives digitally and on ever-smaller screens, that need for inspiration isn’t going away. What we are seeing is a new generation of brands that are content-led”. A brand’s ability to build digital experiences through genuine stories is the ultimate test even as the world returns to some normalcy. 


🤖 DTC Workshop: Dec 3-4 we’re running a workshop on setting up Facebook automated rules to save you time and money on your campaigns. In just a few hours, you’ll learn how to:🥇gold coin test, 🏄‍♂️surf, 🚗pump the brakes, 📈scale safely, ✂️trim back, all with automated rules. With recorded campaign cost savings as high as 20% and untold hours freed up from the keyboard, this workshop could be a key element to your holiday and 2021 game plan. 


😱 The Future of Managing Ads: @marketerdylan showed off what buying and managing ads could look like in the future. Go ahead and sign us up for the beta, please! 


🆕  Pharrell & DTC: Superstar Pharrell Williams launched his highly anticipated gender-neutral skincare company Humanrace. The mission: “Empower all people in their pursuit of wellbeing.” The brand’s products include rice powder cleanser, lotus enzyme exfoliator, and humidifying cream - all part of a 3 step daily routine. 


Sustainability standouts: 

  • 50% of the plastic within each product comes from post-consumer recycled plastic. 
  • All products contain a removable inner chamber, which allows for refills. 


Humanrace launched November 25th and is currently sold out of all products - no surprise.  


🎥  Documentary - Crip Camp:  We’re Netflix junkies just like the rest of the world and recently came across this gem called Crip Camp. “A groundbreaking summer camp galvanized a group of teens with disabilities to help build a movement, forging a new path toward greater equality.” It’ll make you laugh, think, and cry. 


📝 Custom Ecommerce Platforms: DTC companies with deep pockets aren’t utilizing tools such as Shopify and BigCommerce, but instead starting to build custom e-commerce platforms in-house. Article, a D2C furniture brand, built proprietary software around their sourcing, purchasing, order management, and checkout process to better serve the company and its customers. The upfront costs and time needed to build such software are massive, but the brand believes it provides a competitive advantage long term. Don’t expect moves like this to become the new normal, but rather something only the top 1% of D2C brands can execute. 


🔧 Tool: It was only a matter of time before artificial intelligence took over our copywriting. Copy.ai, a start-up created by Paul Yacoubian and Chris Lu, utilizes AI to generate copy for social posts, blogs and even contains a feature that produces growth marketing, start-up, and blog ideas. A killer tool, especially for DTC brands. 


🌙 Baboon To The Moon: The bold adventure bag company overhauled its website and socials this past week. “Meet Baboon To The Moon 2.0. An entirely new technicolor world filled with fun and adventure.” We’re big fans of the new look and new products, but have one beef: no more tote bags? How are New Yorkers supposed to get around? 


 🐦 Twitter Tips: @tobydoyhowell shares 12 of his weirdest Twitter hacks from over the years. Number 11 is our favorite! 


🏀 Curry vs Jordan: In an attempt to win over young consumers, Under Armour and Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry is launching the Curry brand. This is a much-needed move for Under Armour, as the brand tries to compete with Nike and the $3.5 billion brand that is Jordan. While Steph is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, can the Curry brand really compete with Jordan, AKA the GOAT? (Yes, MJ is the GOAT) According to Piper Sandler, Under Armour has been Number 1 on a list of “no longer worn” by male teens. A tough hill to climb as Jordan, Nike, Lululemon, and others dominate athleisure.

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