DTC 46: 📦 The Ugly Truth
May 21, 2023
Content Tag

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Last week Facebook released a report confirming the devastation the pandemic has wrought on small businesses.

Facebook surveyed more than 30,000 small business leaders across 27 countries, and nearly a quarter (24%) reported that their businesses were closed. Yikes.

On the bright side, the report added that businesses are expanding their digital offerings. Those who have seen an increase in digital sales are more likely to see an overall sales increase.

If you’re a small business reading this, you’re likely a survivor – a die-hard, John McClane type.

We promise to run over broken glass – week in, week out – to deliver you the customer acquisition tactics you’ll need to thrive and stay alive in the new digital-first world.

Yippie-Ki-Yay DTC’ers, and…

New to the DTC community? Welcome! You’re in good company with fellow newcomers from Kindroot, TikTok, Pasquale’s Peppers, Pique Tea, Remedy Drinks, Vengeful Spirit Hot Sauce, Kingsbury Watches, and Benefit Cosmetics.

If a pal forwarded this to you, subscribe so you never miss another. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

In this edition of the DTC Newsletter, you’ll find:  

📦 Tips for crushing your Amazon video ads.

📦 Learn the top four (easy to fix) mistakes that our Quality Assurance team catches on our ads and pages.

📦 Your invite to an SMS Marketing masterclass with experts from Shopify.

📦 The one question that will send your ad copy through the roof.
📦 A breakdown of our conversation with Ugly Drinks CEO, Hugh Thomas

Stick around to the end for a special offer from minisocial – the answer to your UGC content headaches.


Video Ads are a high-stakes game on Amazon – they’re expensive, but they hold prominent placement in search results.

Sponsored product ads are a great tool that allows you to increase visibility beyond your organic reach. However they don’t offer any ways to differentiate your products from your competitors’, which sit side-by-side with yours.

A great solution to this problem is Sponsored Brand Video Ads. They offer a significant amount of page real estate, while also providing powerful differentiation and scroll-stopping power.  

Who can utilize video ads on Amazon?

🚨 Video ads are only available to Amazon sellers who are brand registered.

If your brand isn't registered yet, complete that process ASAP!

What is the best content for Amazon video ads?

  • Professional videography – Polished content tends to outperform UGC on Amazon.
  • Be concise – You have a maximum of 45 seconds to get a click. Get to the point, capture their attention, and quickly show off your product’s features. You don’t need to use the full 45 seconds that’s okay – in some cases, shorter can be better!
  • Show, don’t tell – A video that shows a product in use is likely to outperform a video explaining the product’s use.
  • The video should be fully comprehensible without sound – Customers without sound shouldn’t miss a thing. Include subtitles.
  • Skip out on the fancy video intro – Consumers will be more likely to lose interest.

Take this video ad from Big Blanket as an example. It’s professionally-shot, showcases the product, and is completely comprehensible without sound.

Keyword and Bidding Strategies

As with any PPC campaign, there are many effective strategies you can employ. Your bidding strategy will depend on your campaign goal.

Typically a video ad will use highly relevant keywords set to phrase and exact match so that you’re not wasting your entire PPC budget on keywords that aren’t likely to convert. However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

The optimal strategy to meet your goal may be different from that of another seller, so you’ll have to strategize accordingly. Keep in mind that since sponsored display video ads only have one placement, they’re more competitive, leading to a higher CPC.

Hungry for more Amazon expertise?

Join our free, three-day, expert-led workshop where we’ll show you how to become insanely profitable in 2021’s fastest-growing marketplace.


Learn how brands use SMS to create revenue-driving experiences in a mobile-first world.

As consumers spend more and more time on their phones, SMS marketing has become an increasingly important channel for brands looking to unlock new revenue opportunities.

Shoppers demand immediacy, personalized experiences, and the convenience of everything at their fingertips — and brands need to deliver.  

Join Shopify’s Steve Hutt and Yotpo's Kim Winter as they share exclusive data and insights about Mobile Consumers, and the experiences SMS marketing creates for them, including:  

  • The rise in mobile commerce.
  • How to create the mobile consumer experiences your customers are craving.
  • Quick wins that make a big impact.
  • Real-life examples of brands adding SMS to maximize success.

Join Yotpo and Shopify on April 21st to learn the exact SMS strategies of brands like Volcom, Vici, Soludos, and Princess Poly.

Steal their ideas – grow your brand.

Save your spot here


Ugly Drinks’ Co-founder and CEO Hugh Thomas set out to build a no-nonsense, authentic brand – and that’s the exact energy he brought when he joined us on DTC Podcast.

You can listen here, or read on for our key takeaways:

🚀 The importance of mission

Ugly was built to expose the truth behind the harmful effects of soda and sugary drinks. "Our revolution is going to be telling the truth. We are going to tell the Ugly truth."

The Ugly team created this mission before crafting any other part of Ugly.

"Quite often I think people start with the can (or product) and work out everything else after. That’s not the way to build a brand of authenticity."

Spreading the Ugly truth expands to other causes including gender inequality and plastic pollution. A portion of sales from Ugly beverages are donated to charitable causes GirlUp and Oceanic Global.

"We’re trying to do more than just be a beverage company that sits here and takes profits."

💰 The pricing strategy

Unlike most DTC drinks, Ugly is priced extremely affordably at $3.99-$4.99 for an 8-pack. This lines up with the Cokes and Pepsi’s of the world.

"We want to democratize Ugly both with branding and the voice but also the price point. Health shouldn’t be expensive."

Hugh knows that if you want customers to make the switch to a healthier product, it starts with price.

"If you’re stood at the shelf and going ‘should I pick sparkling water or soda,’ we want to make that an easy decision."

📣 The Ugly voice

If you’re not familiar with Ugly, they’ve got one of the most unique voices in the drink industry.

"It’s truly authentic and comes from the soul." Ugly doesn’t follow any playbook or rules and it’s a huge part of their success.

When you’re a bold brand, not everyone will like you. In some ways, Ugly was built to be loved or hated and that’s cool with Hugh.

"If people like it, great. If they don’t, then cool. We’d rather have 50 people love it and 50 people hate it than 100 people feel lukewarm about it. The only way to achieve that is being real and authentic."

One way Ugly flexes their unique voice is through the use of meme creatives. This strategy is one that we see great success with, both on the Pilothouse and the DTC Newsletter promotion side of things.

🤩 Limited edition flavors

Ugly is constantly testing flavors with numerous limited-edition drops a year. That’s atypical for the drink category which traditionally sticks with set flavors.

"We’ve borrowed a little bit from sneaker culture and drop culture to create excitement."

By having a direct-to-consumer channel, the brand quickly tests which flavors customers enjoy and which flavors they’re not a fan of.  

If enough people like a certain flavor they’ll bring it back full-time. If it does well enough in DTC, they’ll bring it to retail.

Ugly is exploring drops outside of the beverage space with limited merch and in-person events. Keep an eye out for them. 👀

📱Hugh’s stance on SMS

Ugly only texts customers when it’s absolutely necessary.

"If we’re going to message you, it’s going to be worthwhile. It’s either a new product or a really special offer or something else that’s top secret."

That’s a great rule of thumb to follow. SMS is delicate and should complement other channels. Be careful with how many texts you send.

👀 Ugly’s Facebook Ads strategy

Ugly’s creative utilizes comparisons to the big soda brands like Coke, Mountain Dew, and Fanta.

We asked Hugh how the brand gets away with using their logos and he said,

"We’re David vs Goliath. We are David, in case you’re wondering. Goliath’s not going to like everything we do. If we’re not pushing the boundaries then I don’t think we’re trying hard enough."

A badass response. 😎

🌍 Marketing in the U.S. versus the U.K.

Since Ugly’s in the U.S and U.K, the brand has two of everything. Website, Social Media, Email strategy, etc.

The team coordinates time zones for sending emails and focuses on matching creative and tone for the different markets.

The term "Glocal" or "Globally local" is extremely important to Hugh.

"The best food and beverage understands cultural nuance. It feels the same whether you get off the plane in London or get off the plane in New York."

The best brands in the world understand glocal discipline.

😎 If we gave you 50K for marketing, where would you spend it?

"Infleuncers and in particular TikTok is where we’re feeling the most excitement and where we push the most."

Ugly has grown their TikTok channel significantly over the last three to four months.

In February/March the brand saw a 10K follower increase in just four weeks 😱

Check out the full podcast here, then head to Ugly and use the code "UglyHugh" at checkout for a discount. 😎

Quality Assurance

Expecto Erroneous!

Don’t suffer from these soul-sucking mistakes in your content.

How do you fight them? All you need to do is think happy, error-free thoughts.

I'm Logan, the Quality Assurance Specialist for Pilothouse Digital. Pilothouse is, as you've come to know, a professional and highly-polished agency with a crew of experts behind the curtains of every single ad. Pilothouse was all those things before I showed up, too.

So, what do they need me for?

I'm here to reassure myself and everyone else that two English degrees was worthwhile to tell you how to make your content highly polished. I don't doubt that your team is full of experts in their fields, just like Pilothouse is. I do come bearing a simple and bleak fact: human-made material will have rough spots. No matter what you do. No matter how good you are, there’ll be the odd thing that could’ve used an extra set ofeyeballs.

Before anyone says it: yes, some "mistakes" aren't really mistakes. Ads break rules. Fragments? Those work! And sentences start with and. And you like it that way. You don't want some NERD messing up your stylized content with their nit-picking, right?!

Wrong! Obviously you, or your QA person, will know what to look for. Your ads don't need copyediting class. They need Polish School. 😤

So, the following are either common fixes and adjustments I make to Pilothouse content before it goes public- or client-facing, or are typical issues I see in the wild. Check for these things consistently so that you don't end up like the bargain-bin Hot Wheels with wobbly bits and wiggly paint.

  • Hyphenation. Every agency and brand should have a go-to rule for hyphenation. If you don't, consider making one. If your clients don't, ask them for one (or make them one and you'll get a gold star).

    Are your meticulously-chosen compound modifiers always hyphenated when they precede the noun? What about when a noun and a number form a one-thought modifier? See what I did there? Speaking of numbers,
  • Numbers. Spelled out, or shown as digits? Consistency is key here, so you should create a rule – or follow one that’s appropriate for your content, your voice, your brand, or your audience.

    DTC spells out numbers one to nine, and depicts numbers 10+ with numerals (unless showing data, like 7%, $3B, or the likes).
  • Bullet points. These are SO COMMON in landing pages, email newsletters, presentations, pitch decks, carousel ads, and virtually everything else. And... yup, they're frequently all over the map.

    Some things to keep in mind: if you punctuate one bullet point, punctuate them all; if one bullet starts with an emoji, they all should; all bullets should be evenly spaced (and they should be properly aligned with trust badges, if applicable); bullets should all start with either a capital or lowercase letter, not a mix of both; bullets probably should not use Title Case Because It's Not a Pleasant Format to Read When You're Not Expecting It.
  • Emojis. Common in eCommerce, as you've seen. But these aren't your group chats’ emojis! Advertising is still advertising, and branding is still branding! Consistency is important for image retention, trust, and ease of understanding.

    Make up some rules for your emojis' spacing, how they relate to punctuation, and how frequently you want to use them – ie. for emojis that close a phrase or paragraph: DTC punctuates the phrase, then uses a single space, then places the emoji.

    I also recommend choosing a handful emojis that compliment your brand voice (so that when you're blanking on how to bling-out your text block, you can throw one in). Oh, and Mechanized Strong Arm is officially part of the brand voice for Pilothouse Quality Assurance. 🦾

The above are some areas you may be able to polish, smoothening your ride to unbeatable public perception and heightened client trust.

I'm sure once you start looking you'll find some other areas that could use a coat of lacquer. I know it's tedious to start down this road, so if you have a lackey-budget, that's even better! Hand the checklist off to a trusty minion. Your ads won’t be slacking, lacking, or lackadaisical once your scrappy lackey slaps that lick of lacquer on.

Okay, this wack schtick is already too long. You know what to do: keep your eyes on the DTC newsletter for more QA tips next month!

Tool Spotlight

Need high-quality, fully-licensed UGC?

With minisocial you can produce beautiful, authentic user-generated content featuring your products that are fully licensed to your brand.

DTC brands love working with minisocial as a way to populate their organic social, acquisition channels, website, and beyond while also competing dollar-for-dollar with traditional influencer activations on Instagram and TikTok.

Here’s how some of the fastest-growing DTC brands have thrived thanks to UGC from minisocial campaigns:

Haven’s Kitchen

DTC ready-to-serve sauce brand Haven’s Kitchen uses minisocial to support retail partners with on-demand user-generated content on TikTok and Instagram, support product launches with timely micro-influencer posts, and to supply content for their active organic social presence.


DTC luxury athleisure brand Alala uses minisocial content to promote sales on their acquisition channels, create UGC featuring new products for social proof modules on product pages, support strategic partnerships, and populate their organic presence on Instagram and TikTok.


DTC super-herbs and superfoods brand Sunwink uses minisocial to amplify product launches on Instagram with timely user-generated content, populate organic social with authentic micro-influencer creative, and run ads with fully-licensed photos of real people enjoying their products.

Want to give it a try?

DTC Newsletter readers get 15% off their fist campaign – just mention this ad. Get started by building your campaign brief or schedule a free intro/strategycall.

Frictionless Copy

Answering this one question could send your sales through the roof.


Why do my best prospects need this product or service?

Why would they want it?

How would they see what it can do for them, ultimately providing more value than the money you’re asking for in exchange?

  • Have your prospects made it clear they’re actively seeking a solution to a problem? 
  • Have they told you how this problem is affecting their life?
  • Have they shown that they’re willing to spend money on a solution, perhaps having already purchased products to try solving it?

Apple didn’t ask how can we build a better MP3 player. They asked: what is it people really want from this?

The answer? Music. Any kind of music they desire, at their fingertips, anytime, anywhere.

So rather than focusing on building a better MP3 player, they went to the record companies and secured the rights to make almost every song anyone could imagine available through iTunes.

They knew that the player was just a device. What people really wanted was the access to music. And the iPod was born.

Every innovation Apple has made since its inception was based on why, not what. And that’s worked out pretty well for them, I’d say.

So, start with why and dive in deep.

The best copywriters on earth aren’t successful because they’re the most creative or colorful writers. They’re simply the best detectives.

They dig and dig through research to learn exactly what their prospects want and most importantly…

Why they want it.

We would love to answer any specific copywriting questions you have.

Just go here, and ask away :)

Quick Hits

🥩 The Steak-umm vs. Neil deGrasse Tyson feud that sent Twitter into a frenzy.

🍎 WSJ: P&G worked with China trade group on tech to sidestep Apple privacy rules.

📦 Amazon defeats warehouse union push, RWDSU challenges results.

🥞 IHOP serves sizzling bacon sounds on Clubhouse in new menu item’s rollout.

🛁 Bed Bath & Beyond kicks off new campaign designed to evoke the important role that home plays in people’s lives.

🤳🏻 Study: nearly half of execs expect social marketing budgets to double in the next three years.

🍕 Domino’s, Nuro to begin autonomous pizza deliveries in Houston.

💻 Google’s Secret ‘Project Bernanke’ Revealed in Texas Antitrust Case.

🗣 Reddit joins the slew of apps exploring a Clubhouse-like chat feature.

⚽️ Footballer Kevin De Bruyne uses data analysts to broker £83m Man City contract without agent.

🦋 Jessica Alba’s Honest Company files for IPO.

🏡 Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison said Sunday that a report claiming personal user data had been leaked was "false."

💸 China fines Alibaba record $2.8 billion after monopoly prob

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