EPISODE
8

Growing to 100k+ Orders/Year Through a Viral Video & Thoughtful Branding (with Jack Haldrup)

with
Jack Haldrup

In the last episode of the Minds of Ecommerce Podcast, Gareth Everard, co-founder of Rockwell Razors, Keyto, and a few other eCommerce brands, shared how he calculates and utilizes the lifetime value of his customers to make paid ads ultra profitable and a key driver of profit for his business.

In episode #8, Jack Haldrup, founder of Dr. Squatch, will share how they managed to get 40 million views for one of their viral videos, and how they get over 100,000 orders a year with a brand personality that convert customers through relatability and humor. He’ll also explain how he manages to preserve a brand identity as the company scales significantly.

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Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Today on episode number eight, Jack Haldrup, founder of Dr. Squatch, will share how they managed to get 40 million views for one of their viral videos, and how they get over 100,000 orders a year with a brand personality that convert customers through relatability and humor. He'll also explain how he manages to preserve a brand identity as the company scales significantly.

I'm your host, Raphael Paulin-Daigle, and I'm the founder of SplitBase, a conversion optimization agency for lifestyle, beauty and fashion eCommerce brands. And quick disclaimer before we begin, Dr. Squatch is a client of SplitBase for conversion optimization services.

All right. Welcome to the show. So as you know, this podcast, Minds of Ecommerce is all about going deep into things you've done really well for your eCommerce brand so our listeners can really get the most value out of it.

Thank you for being here.

Jack Haldrup:

Thanks for having me.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

I'd love to know, just to provide context for our listeners. How long have you had Dr. Squatch?

Jack Haldrup:

I actually started the company officially in fall of 2012.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Gotcha, so pretty recent. Now it's just a few years, and you've achieved the type of growth that so many companies are dreaming about, right? We're talking here, I mean I actually want you to share. I know some of your numbers, but tell people, what are some of the craziest successes that you've achieved so far with Dr. Squatch?

Jack Haldrup:

Yes, I'd say we're one of the largest direct sellers of soap online. We primarily focus on the male market, but we're shipping out over 5,000 bars of soap per day, and have over 200,000 customers who have purchased from us.

Some of our content has been very successful. I think our biggest video has over 40 million video views across different platforms.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Amazing. For people listening, 40 million views for a viral video, that's pretty insane. But one of the things that to me is that really stands out about Dr. Squatch is that it really has a brand voice, a brand personality. People identify with the brand, with what it sells. It's stayed really consistent as the company grew. I think that's one of your key drivers of success from our previous conversations. That's one thing that I think our listeners can learn a lot from.

Let's start with brand voice and that whole personality that you have around Dr. Squatch. Tell us more about that strategy, and was it a conscious decision to really have a face to the the brand, and how did that work?

Jack Haldrup:

It actually was a very conscious decision and it strongly relates to why I started the company in the first place. I basically discovered these really nice, natural handmade soaps. I didn't identify with any of the branding of it, and more importantly, I thought that it wasn't being marketed to a male audience, but I thought they would love the product if they had received it in the right way, the messaging in the right way.

From the brand perspective, it always has been about brand for us and basically saying how can we sell a really great product that's actually better for people that they will enjoy? We have to communicate and reach them in a way that they're going to receive that. Being the male customer that I thought I was generally going to target, it made a lot of sense to basically lead with humour and to lead with authenticity versus a lot of men's brands I saw in the market that were showcasing this ideal guy and perfect guy, like everything is super polished, and I just wanted to do something that was a little bit more authentic.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Amazing. What you saw was an opportunity to sell a product that obviously was already on the market, but for an audience that wasn't really targeted by any other brands out there.

Now you've developed that brand and personality around that audience. How did you know that the personality traits for the brand that you were building were the right ones? Did you have to try different things, different brand tones? Tell us more about how you found that perfect voice.

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah, totally. I think it's always a work in progress and it's also a little bit about meeting people where they're at in different platforms, and I can give some more specific examples about that. I will say one interesting thing that happened was when I created it, I did think that the ideal customer for this would be maybe a little more affluent, coastal-type customer who's very into buying natural products, but I actually found that it really resonated a little bit more with a blue collar and more of an outdoorsy guy from more of middle America, and so that didn't come into place for maybe a year or so.

It was looking at data and it was also just seeing how people were talking on social media, actually going and looking at those customers, looking at their profiles, and just getting a sense of it. It's definitely an art form, I would say. As you grow, you get access to more data and you can bring a little more science behind that.

It was an interesting shift that we had when we realized our customers a little different than my first started out for.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. Are there specific strategies, Jack, that you've used to really dig, to understand that voice of customer so you could really meet them where they're at, like you mentioned? You said you know they're a bit different on different channels as well, so walk us through exactly how you were able to really adapt and improve that voice, and also depending on the different channels you're using.

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah. Like I said before, it's been something that we've done over, I would say, a two to three year period, and we probably haven't even done it that well. But I would say it involves talking directly to our customers via surveys, whether that's email, or we have a lot of little surveys that we run on our site. They're very effective and we get incredible data from, so that's one component.

Comments and just how people talk on social media is another component.

Then there's just looking at the data. Looking at the data from both a demographic perspective on who your customers actually are and then looking at the data, in particular, one example I can give is on Instagram. I think Instagram as a platform has changed from being perfect pictures and perfect images to now it's just, it's all memes. We obviously noticed that personally and we started just drilling into that a little bit.

Since we started basically introducing memes, a meme will get anywhere from 3 to 15X the likes, the reach, the engagement, everything. That's just a clear signal that that's the type of content that people want to consume on the platform. It's like, why fight it? We talked a lot about should we go all in on the meme? Should we go full meme, should we not? What do we do here? And we still want to retain our brand principles, which is that we like to call an edutainment type of brand where we want to lead with the entertainment, but we want to still stand for something. We don't want to lose that. But if we can do that in a meme package, that's what people want to see on social media. We started launching our new products via memes. We started announcing sales via memes, in addition to the general content, and people just love it.

I don't know if that will work for every brand, but it clearly resonates with our customers.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. Let's be clear, you discovered that memes were one of the right methods because you knew so much about your customers, and you did a lot of testing, and you're not just sharing any type of memes here. You're sharing memes that are relevant to your audience and that you found out through talking with customers, analyzing comments on Facebook ads, on social media, sending surveys, analyzing, I'm guessing, customer support?

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah. I can give a great example of that. Like you said, we still almost always try to tie it back to some type of brand value proposition or principle.

One of the surveys that we ran recently that actually your team did for us was asking people, "How did your life improve after using the product? Or why do you love it so much?" And one of the key things was that they liked how their significant other would would come smell them or they liked the fact that they would compliment them on how they smelled, and so we do a meme about that where it's Will Ferrell, you know, standing in a Speedo and it's like, "Babe, come smell me. I just showered." It's still on brand, and it's hitting those value propositions. I think it's just the way that, as of as of today, who knows where it's going to go, that's how people are consuming content on that platform, so that's how we want to communicate to them.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Amazing. You took the answers of the question, how did your life get better thanks to our products, based on this feedback that you got, which was, "Oh well my wife loves smelling, you know, my manly scent" and all sorts of things like that that I would say.

You were able to generate content based on that voice of customer that initially you ignored. Right. It's not something that we get if we, if we just brainstorm with our teams. It has to come from the customer.

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah, absolutely.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

That's fantastic. Now if we go and if we look further into that brand voice, one of the things you've been able to do really well and has been a catalyst for growth for you was that massive viral video, right?

40 million views and that video exudes Dr. Squatch. It's a voice of customer. Tell me more about how you were able to create a video that got shared so much and that resonated with your audience at that level.

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah, it's hard, and I don't want to say that we have the magic formula, and we're trying to do it again, so we'll see how our our second one comes out. But there's definitely some things that we did. It was a partnership. There is a lot of assistance from an outside creative firm and also we work with a comedian who is dedicated to our brand and brings a lot of our ideas to life from a comedic standpoint.

But ultimately what we wanted to achieve was a video that fully told the brand story, that entertained people and captured attention, but then also sold them on the product. We followed this, I don't want to say a standard, but it's fairly kind of well-documented problem-solution framework where we positioned the problem as like, hey, like you've never thought about the soap that you're using. Basically, you were a teenager and you started using whatever your parents gave you. Most guys have never thought about that. That's the problem. That's the attention grabber, and basically that's not the best option for you most likely.

Then positioning us as a solution and then just really still hitting on a lot of things that we felt our customer would like. It's a little bit more masculine, talking about the guy who like opens a pickle jar and catches a foul ball with his bare hands, so we're bringing in some examples that we feel like will resonate with our customer based on what we knew about them.

Honestly, I think it was just timing was good and it just took off. People shared it. People comment even consistently on our feedback surveys that we do on why you bought the product. One of the top two or three things is I bought it because I loved the video that I saw on YouTube or Facebook, which is a funny reason to buy a product if you really think about it.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

And let's be clear, your video is not just like, "Hey, let's hire a comedian that will make something funny with our product." It had this structure of really grabbing attention, explaining the problem, and then leading into a solution and then a call to action.

Jack Haldrup:

Right. I think the comedy is the the icing on the cake if you will. The framework of that problem-solution framework and really distilling down what you do into its core key element and understanding, hey, most of our customers have been using one of a few, three to four big name soaps their entire life.

We're trying to grab their attention and basically convince them that there's a better way to do it. How do we do that in a video format? The reason why the video went well is because we understood. We understood that that was the customer and that was their journey. That they weren't already buying soap at Whole Foods and then we're trying to convince them that we're better than this other Whole Foods brand.

We're trying to convince them that we're better than this big box brad that they've been using their entire life. It's speaking just directly to the problem that we're solving for that customer.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right. And obviously the humour that's in it is one of the huge reasons why it went viral and it got shared so much, but obviously it wasn't hidden on the internet and then somebody randomly discovered it.

Are there any tricks that you guys use to ... obviously you've put some money behind it, but are there any tricks that maybe people don't know about that you've used to put that video in front of more eyes?

Jack Haldrup:

It's really simple stuff. I mean, it's really the fact that we can continue to put money behind it and make a profitable return. At the end of the day, that's really our business model. We don't rely on hope.

I do think that it did really well in particular on Facebook at least for a period of time because it was so shareable. It was a new idea in this space and honestly, people just enjoyed it and so they wanted to share it with their friends. One of the things that's funny is that and that we we need to like be careful with is that we had, probably one of the top comments on the video is, "Is this real or did I just watch like a ..." People didn't know that it was a product that they could buy because, maybe because of how overshared or how funny it was.

But yeah, Facebook has actually, prevented us from continuing to run that video because it says a bleeped-out word and they're continuing to get more strict on their content policies.

That's been a major challenge for us, and as we plan the next video, we're thinking about that because, and this is a very well and commonly known strategy, but when you have an an asset, if you will, on Facebook platform, you can continue to run traffic to it from different basically ad campaigns. It almost becomes its own little like web asset, like an SEO asset. You get all of that social proof of, okay, 20 million views and 200,000 comments and all of that is just kind of there. It becomes this snowball effect. I think that that's harder to do and we've had challenges with that they don't let us run that video anymore.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Got it. Well, take note people, if you're working on a viral video or wish to become viral, be careful with the words that are being used and that everything follows Facebook's pretty strict policies.

Jack Haldrup:

Right. You to be forward thinking on what their policies are going to be in a year or two.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Oh my God. I mean, especially if you're having that type of investment in a video, it's like you don't want it to be used for a weekend, and that's it. You want to keep using it as an asset. Awesome.

Jack, now let's say we look at it the Dr. Squatch brand because that includes that video, the website, everything, the memes on Instagram.

If a company is really looking to define their brand personality and really give it substance with a persona, how would they go about it?

What would be your three steps, and then I've got more questions for you, but let's start with that.

Jack Haldrup:

Is this a brand that's just starting out or they have traction?

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Let's say a brand that has traction. Most people that are listening already have traction, but let's say they're not really sure where to go with that, if they really want to have a persona or not. How would you go about it?

Jack Haldrup:

Personas are hard and we've hired in multiple different companies and agencies and whatever to go through them. It has to be a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, so you have to have general statistics that tell you, okay, our customer is generally male and generally in these age ranges and stuff like that, and then you have to pair that with talking to the customer. And you'd probably want to do that together, have them self identify that they fall in this group and then ask them some specific questions about who they are, and then bring that to life, basically.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Let's say, still on that topic, how do you ensure that the brand personality scales as you scale? Because I feel as companies add more people, fewer and fewer people are close to you, the founder, the original purpose and story of the brand, so how do you make sure that stays as you add people, grow, and that it just doesn't get lost in it in the meantime?

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah, that's a really good question. It's hard and something that that we didn't always do well. We have great partners, we have great agency partners. I think when it comes to creative you have to create frameworks, and you have to define what are your brand values? What's your brand style? How do you want to talk? Then you have to give people parameters to play within, whether that's outside partners or people on your team. You set those guidelines and set those rules and then you give them room to make decisions and to create things. Then you follow the data on what's created and you can say, "Okay, this really resonated. We think this is why this didn't resonate."

We have a weekly meeting where we just look at creative and not only brainstorm, but look at performance of what's been working for us and then try to understand why we think that is the case.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

So you would say one of the biggest recommendations would be to really have that clear brand guide and brand voice and guidelines and a system that everyone can follow and review it on a weekly basis to ensure you're still on tone and on brand with whatever you do creatively?

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah, and we don't necessarily review that guideline on a weekly basis. We review more of the content performance and then we try to put it in that context.

Awesome. What is the biggest mistake that you see brands making when it comes to building a personality like you've done with Dr. Squatch?

Jack Haldrup:

I think the hardest thing that people do is building a company or creating a brand or a product that they don't actually use and it's not for them. I think that that was the 80-20 of why ours took off was because I understood the customer just because it was me and my friends.

I couldn't even imagine launching a woman's focused brand or something like that that I didn't even know how to buy. I have no experience in that, so I really don't even feel comfortable in giving people guidance on that because other than talking to your customers and seeing what they do on social media, I don't know how you would get much insight into that.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Right. I mean that's super key, right? If you're your own customer, you will 100% understand the product and your customers better.

Jack Haldrup:

Yeah. There's obviously a lot of advantages to that if you're starting out there.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Totally. Final question, Jack. Now we're going outside of the realm of brand voice and everything like that.

If we just look at your business in general, what would you do differently if you would go a few years back? Not from the very, very beginning, but let's say as you start gaining traction, when you first hit about maybe a million dollars, if you were at that point again, what you do differently?

Jack Haldrup:

Two things. I would have focused more on data and understanding my business model. Understanding basically my business model from an investment standpoint of if I put a dollar into marketing, how long does it take me to get that dollar back? Really understand and refine that model and then I would have raised capital a lot faster.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

Got it. Awesome. So much gold in this interview, Jack.

Just to summarize for everyone, we talked about a lot of things. I'm not going to go through all this.

But number one, I think one of the key things that really stood out to me in this interview is you really want to understand your customer. If you're growing a brand and want to have a personality to it it's not about creating it or just brainstorming a personality. It's about starting at one point where you think your customers are and then you evolve from that. That means running surveys, customer interviews, looking at social media comments, and then trying to understand what words to use? What are their concerns? How do they describe your brand? How did they talk about it to their friends? Right?

From there, you can create different type of assets. You'll never have that like, "Oh, that's it, we're there." It's really something that is, it evolves as your brand grows, and to make sure that, you know, you keep that brand voice as the brand grows, you need to make sure you've got guidelines, that you review them with your team, but that the content mostly that you create is reviewed so your voice is not being lost as you scale and then become a brand void of any personality.

That's my biggest takeaway. Obviously same thing when it comes to engineering that viral video, it's not just because it was funny, it's because it had process, a structure, and again, it also came from your voice of customer.

Jack, that was awesome. Now, if people want to learn more about your brand or you, where should they go?

Jack Haldrup:

Dr. Squatch on Facebook or Instagram or YouTube. If you go watch our YouTube video, you will understand our brand and way more than I can explain on here.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a good laugh. It is super entertaining and really well done.

Jack Haldrup:

Thanks.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle:

All right, thanks Jack.

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