By Nik Sharma
After hearing from a few people that the new format of the Workweek email felt too corporate, I HEAR YOU! We switched it back because, well, I’m the least corporate person that could exist. Anyways, I hope you’re feeling relaxed and ready to read this email. Maybe you have an Olipop Vintage Cola in your hand or a glass of Haus New Fashioned — do you!
This past week I was in LA, and that city feels back to normal. I met with some Sharma Brands clients, portfolio companies, and a brand I’m very excited about partnering with soon. This email is going to be a ramble of thoughts, ideas, and things that stood out to me over the last week of being in LA.
(I’m writing this sentence after finishing this email and wow I sound like an annoying travel Instagrammer combined with someone who runs a marketing newsletter. 😂)
What always grabs my attention about LA is how different the billboards are. In New York on a billboard, you see a product, maybe a sentence, and that’s about it. LA overloads their billboards with social proof to the point where it’s impossible to read while driving in a 2 lane street going 45 miles per hour.
On the other hand, there is a Kylie Cosmetics billboard with just a photo of Kylie Jenner, and KYLIECOSMETICS . COM on the billboard. It’s very clear by the creative, which companies are old and washed out versus those who are new and innovative. Being in LA, I don’t have an Apple TV hooked up to the hotel TV, so I also end up watching commercials across different channels like TRUTV, CNBC, E!, etc. and combined with some other random thoughts and conversations, I wanted to share what I think so many founders, marketers, and even investors overlook today, in the short-term pursuit of pleasing themselves.
To start off, the best brands that exist today solve real problems, and most are started or co-created by those who experience(d) the problems at the beginning. Poo~Pourri started with Suzy Batiz hating when her husband used the bathroom. Orgain started when Andrew Abraham had cancer and needed a solution to gain weight and get his nutrients. Apple started because Steve Jobs wanted to make computers small enough for the home or office. Nike started because Phil Knight needed a better shoe to run track in college. Native started because Moiz Ali wanted to find a better deodorant for his sister who was pregnant.
Among the most iconic brands that we all know and love, they all very clearly solve a problem that people face, usually in some sort of a routine — which creates stickiness and retention — if the messaging and product quality can stay strong over time.
Every single one of these brands also all have an ideal persona they portray in their marketing. Nike pushes the elite athlete. Apple pushes an elevated consumer. Native pushes someone who cares about what goes on their body. Every single one of their ads on TV, a billboard, or on TikTok all push the persona they want to attract, and it does two things: Pre-purchase, the persona creates something that you aspire to be or become a part of. If you want to be the BEST runner, you will wear Nike. If you want to be the SMARTER one at the table, you’ll use a Mac.
Post-purchase, it works as a badge of who you are, to others, and whether the product is so good every time you use it, or the brand does a great job of doing good for others, it reminds you why you bought from that brand in the first place. A great recent example is Airbnb helping Ukrainians looking for refuge — it makes me proud as an Airbnb customer and I won’t use another service in its place.
These brands aren’t focused just on selling today, they’re focused on making sure that today’s buyer’s great-granddaughter is also still using the product. Why do I go to Trader Joe’s? Because my mom did when I was a kid.
Slight switch of topics… One of the must-do’s in Los Angeles is visiting the Erewhon market to see what’s new, trendy, up and coming, and selling the most. As I walked through the aisles I saw tons of brands I recognized, including those that do very well in their DTC channel and others who don’t. But what was made very clear in those aisles was: brands who spend money solely on performance marketing can’t drive sell-through in retail, when they are next to a brand that has strong brand equity, even if the latter one doesn’t spend money on performance marketing.
Brand marketing drives sell-through in retail. Performance marketing drives sell-through online. To do both well, you can do each one individually, or you can push for education across all your performance marketing, allowing yourself the chance to build brand with a consumer and lead with value, versus “BUY THIS RIGHT NOW AND GET 20% OFF!”
I started to think, “Ok, what are some good ways to build long-term brand equity?” and the more I thought of it, the more it made me think of a YouTuber or some sort of creator. When you start a YouTube channel, you can’t expect yourself to be a 500k or 1M subscribers in a week, even if you spend money on advertising! You have to earn your subscribers, readers, followers, etc. through consistently providing value to the person on the other side of the screen, being smart about how you use other levers for growth (referrals, giveaways, social media, etc.), and ensuring there is a reason to come back the next time around. It’s no different when building a brand from scratch.
At Sharma Brands, we’re launching a brand soon and we’re approaching it the same way. We’re not going to run a flashy ad or try to hit the gas with ad spend, instead, we’re going to focus on education and aligning ourselves to be someone that others aspire to join or be a part of. On social media, we’re not going to represent the brand with a logo, it’ll be a persona — people don’t want to hear from corporations, they want to hear from people!
Our Instagram posts will be optimized for DM’ing your friends. TikTok will be optimized for content that makes you want to watch until the last second of the video. Twitter will be optimized for a fast-scrolling feed with education behind formulations, ingredients, etc. We’re going to be extremely native to each platform as if we’re a creator.
Creators launch the most successful brands. Why? Because they lead with value, whether that’s education, entertainment, or aspiration. The easiest way to think about your content being successful as a brand is to think like a creator.
One last example I’ll share with brands & creators. When TikTok’ers or YouTubers want to grow their following, they cross-pollinate. Mr. Beast does a video with Logan Paul and vise-versa, or Sara Dietschy does a video with Casey Neistat. Partnerships in the brand world are incredibly underrated, and the brands that do it best are the ones you wouldn’t expect: Sonic Burger & Oreo’s, Cheetos & Forever 21, Nike & Sharpie, Doritos & Taco Bell.
In all these scenarios, they find smart ways to leverage the brand equity of another to drive people to try something new. It’s underrated, very easy to set up, and most of the time doesn’t cost anything when you can bring equal value to the other party.
The punchline of today’s email is: don’t obsess over just generating revenue with ads (I’m not saying don’t make any money, either), focus on creating, educating, inspiring, and executing. As you build a brand, make sure it lasts the next 100 years, whether or not you will be the operator behind it throughout that whole time.
On to some fun stuff…
Vendor of the Week:
Black Crow AI — The platform to supercharge your ad spend with predictive audiences for retargeting.
Imagine when someone comes to your website. They might land on the homepage or a product page. They take actions like scrolling down a certain % of the page, or maybe they click to see different variants — flavors, colors, materials, scents, etc. Then they might head to the “About Us” page and see what the brand is about and watch a video to completion.
Over someone’s website visit, depending on what they do, Black Crow AI can figure out how likely they are to become a customer, based on 400 different data points, as well as learning what actions your highest LTV customers took on your site to become those high LTV customers.
The problem with today’s retargeting is that it’s very general. If someone visits your site and bounces, they see the same ad with the same amount of ad spend as if someone spends 8 minutes on your site and has a much higher intent to convert.
With Black Crow AI, their tool automatically segments users into separate retargeting campaigns, allows you to insert higher or lower funnel messaging/creative to convert them better, and ensures that if you’re spending heavily on retargeting, it’s toward people who will have the best pay off for you.
You can see how they worked with brands like Bearaby or Liquid IV here, but if you spend more than $40k/month on Facebook ads, you should get a demo.
Click here to sign up and get a demo of Black Crow — they’ll even give you 30 days to try the product for free!
Jobs of the Week:
- The Earthling Co — Marketing Director, Retention & CX
- Very Great — Founder
- $30M Digital Art/Tech Co — Communications Manager and/or Digital Marketing Manager (Please send resumes to [email protected] and say Nik sent ya!)
Brand of the Week:
JuneShine — Your girlfriend’s favorite hard kombucha.
Everyone’s favorite hard kombucha brand just launched a new line of 3 cocktails: Vodka Soda, Tequila Margarita & Rum Mai Tai.
You’re probably thinking, “How can JuneShine, which is normally a wine, sell spirits direct to consumer, legally?” The way they do it is by using an API called AccelPay, which condenses the three-tier system into an app for brands to be able to sell spirits online!
We just got these at the office, but I haven’t tried them yet. That said, everyone who has tried them is raving about how awesome they are!
That’s all for this week!
I hope you enjoyed today’s newsletter. Next week I’m planning to dive into everything we audit and improve on new clients we onboard at Sharma Brands.
Get those 9 hours of sleep tonight and start tomorrow off with a bang!
Have a great evening! 🤗
P.S. — if this newsletter has at all been helpful to you, please share it with 1 person today who might find it helpful as well.
I’ll be hosting a few upcoming events and people who are on the referral leaderboard are all getting invites 😉.