April 22, 2021 Clubhouse Recap
By Andrea Leigh
I had the pleasure of sitting down last week with two celebrities in both product and personal branding in our weekly Clubhouse, the Digital Underground. I spoke with Sean Riley of Dude Wipes, adult wipes that have disrupted the toilet paper category. I also spoke with Dave Crosby of both Claire and the Crosbys, a famous YouTube family, and also founder of Wyze smart devices, along with my co-host Melissa Burdick of Pacvue.
Both company founders brought to market highly disruptive brands in categories with intense competition. While they forged different paths to success, both found ways to innovate, connect with consumers, and build a strong following, professionally and personally.
Sean Riley kicked off his business by listening to consumers and creating a brand that “feels like one of your buddies in the room.” As Sean put it, “Here we are in this multi-billion-dollar toilet paper industry, yet no one is talking about actually going to the bathroom.” He took the idea of his disposable wipes on Shark Tank, winning an important investor, and proceeded to disrupt a traditional category (toilet paper) industry with humor and honesty. Now giving Charmin a run for their money, Dude Wipes’ bold and honest presence on social media drives strong brand affinity, and it’s no surprise that Amazon’s search results are now littered with lookalikes.
For Dave, the idea for Wyze came while he was holed up in a hotel for a week as a singing contestant on The Voice. Trying to stay in touch with his young, growing family, Dave lamented the lack of affordable smart video camera options. He vowed to create a company that listened to the consumer and prioritized value… and thus, Wyze was born. Their signature camera is a bestseller on Amazon with nearly sixty-thousand customer reviews and a highly disruptive, low retail price point. Further, Dave has expanded his brand to other smart devices, including light bulbs, deadbolts, and noise-cancelling headphones.
How did they build disruptive brands? What did these two brands, in two very different categories, have in common? Read on for four keys to building a disruptive brand.
- Consumer focus is key to category disruption. Both Dude Wipes and Wyze discussed how critical that consumer focus and feedback loop was, as well as thinking of the consumers as friends. Knowing your consumer, where they shop, and how to communicate with them is necessary to disrupt. Wyze, for example, uses Reddit to communicate with consumers, collecting product feedback, allowing customers to vote for which products they produce next, and evangelizing the brand.
- Risk taking to disrupt is necessary to disrupt. Both founders started with very little, and they leveraged a great deal to get the brands going. The hardest part of launching a new brand is making sure you have something that customers want. As the idea begins to take hold, it’s then about tweaking, perfecting, and scaling. As Sean puts it, “At first you wake up every day gasping for oxygen. Because you aren’t sure it’s going to work.”
- E-commerce platforms like Amazon are excellent launchpads for disruptive brands. Whereas brick and mortar retailers aren’t likely to offer a product that’s not yet proven, Amazon provides a more level playing field. For example, Dude Wipes did an exclusive launch with Walgreens, and it didn’t meet either parties’ expectations. “Finding the winning channel/market fit is critical.”
- Eschew traditional marketing. Wyze, for example, famously spent nothing on marketing, vowing to accept 3-5% profit margins and keep retail prices as low as possible. Instead, they use Reddit forums to give customers a voice in voting for the next product development and evangelizing the brand.
I often hear established consumer packaged goods (CPG) leadership dismiss small disruptive players that start creeping into the Amazon search results. The belief that an established market leadership position is fairly secure is steeped deeply in a brick and mortar environment with limited digital engagement with consumers. However, with the growth of digital and e-commerce, brands no longer need a brick and mortar partnership to launch and gain a following. Brick and mortar relationships can, and often do, come later.
These brands use authentic and effective tactics to garner a following. Most importantly, they are listening closely—and communicating with—the end consumer.