In this episode of the Foundr podcast, Nathan Chan speaks with Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield to find out how they scaled Harry’s into a $20 million brand, and how they created other multiple million-dollar brands.
The idea for Harry’s came about after Katz-Mayfield had a disappointing late-night shopping experience at the chemists, and noticed that all the men’s razors were overpriced and overdesigned. Almost 8 years later, Raider and Katz-Mayfield have multiple channels, over 1000 employees, and several multi-million dollar brands.
Listen in as they discuss exactly how they successfully scaled their brands, how they identified potential gaps in the market, the dangers of launching something just to make money, and why they decided to pull the plug on their Harry’s brand of lip balm.
Nathan: The first question I ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job? AKA how’d you find yourself doing the work you’re doing today? I was saying to Andy that I first heard of you guys on the Tim Ferriss blog around you released the code for the viral loop. I don’t know who wants to take this. It’s sometimes tricky with two people interviewing but yeah, how’d you guys start?
Andy: Well I guess we hired each other, so that’s how we got the job. But yeah, the idea for Harry’s, and inspiration for it, came in a drugstore one day when I had gone to buy replacement razor blades and just had a really frustrating purchase experience. So the products were locked away, and I had to go find an associate to come unlock the case, and it was kind of crazy. It was late at night and trying to find somebody. The reason they were locked away is because they’re so expensive. The reason they’re so … Or they get stolen all the time and the reason they get stolen all the time is because they’re so expensive. So it was just overpriced, over designed products. Not a great experience. Didn’t speak to me.
Jeff and I had known each other forever, almost 20 years at this point. We were college interns together and then worked together professionally out of undergrad. He can obviously tell you about his journey but he had helped to found a business called Warby Parker, which was born out of a similar frustration of overpaying for prescription eyewear. There was a lot of parallels there, so I called him up and talked about the experience that I had. He empathised and that was the beginning of the journey. Really, at the end of the day, we were trying to create a product, a brand, an overall experience that was solving a pain point that we both had as consumers.
Nathan: So I’d love to hear your take Jeff. What did it look like first day when you guys launched? How long did it take? First of all, how long did it take to get the first version of the product ready?
Jeff: Yeah. It probably took us from the time that Andy called me to launch it took us about 18 months. The most complicated thing we had to do in that interim time was to figure out how to make an amazing product. Like really, really great razors and razor blades. We didn’t know anything about it at the time. So the first thing we did is we went to the store and we bought all the razors we could, we started shaving with them. One side of our face with one and the other side of the face with the other. We realised there’s a pretty big difference between a good and a bad product. Shaving with a bad razor can be like a physically and emotionally scarring experience. So we wanted to make sure we could make an awesome product. Then we ended up doing a tonne of research on how razor blades are made, where they’re made, who makes them, what makes a good razor blade.
We ended up finding this factory in Germany that makes some of the best blades in the world. They’d been around, at that time, for about 90 years. Now they’re close to 100 years old. We just called them up one day and said, “Hey, we have this idea to build a brand in men’s shave and then personal care, and well beyond that. Would you be interested in working with us?” Thankfully we found the right person there and they said, “Yeah, come to Germany and why don’t we have a conversation?” So Andy and I flew to Germany, drove the … The factory’s about two and a half hours from Frankfurt. So we flew into Frankfurt, and then drove two and a half hours into the German countryside, and met with this factory who … The folks who are in this factory who literally had been grinding precision steel into blades for decades, and we’re so impressed with what they did, and then said, “Hey, I think we could build a partnership with them to make our products.” That was a huge opportunity and unlock for us in a really exciting way.
That’s what got us started. We had the idea to build a brand that would speak to consumers in a different way. And we had a really high quality product. Then since then we’ve ended up buying the factory. So when we launched they were our exclusive supplier and we said, “It’s so important to make such high quality products, and we have ideas for how we can innovate and improve that,” that we ended up actually buying the factory. Now we have 500 people on our team in Germany who make razor blades every day that we hope give people an awesome experience.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s crazy. So just on that factory piece, does that mean now the factory only works for you guys exclusively or you’re still-
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when we bought the factory they were supplying to us and some other retailers in Europe, and were working with some other folks. They had existing customers, we wanted to be respectful of those relationships, so we enabled them to keep the ones that they thought were most important. But we’ve invested a tremendous amount in innovating on product for the Harry’s brand and making, I think, just improvements in the way that we manufacture in general, which impacts everybody in a positive way. So Harry’s, I think, has certainly become the focus.
Nathan: I think I would be foolish not to make the theme and focus of this interview around how you guys scale brands. So for context, everyone listening, you guys have multiple brands. So you’ve got four successful brands, not just Harry’s but Flamingo, Cat Person, and Headquarters. You’ve got multiple channels, multiple geographies, and you have over 1,000 employees. Each of these brands, it’s safe to say, that they’re multimillion dollar brands, right?
Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nathan: Yep. You guys have done this in the space of eight years. Usually the success that founders have achieved with growth would be usually just one brand but you’ve done it with multiple brands. So I’d love to know, first of all to set the scene, why did you guys decide to start creating multiple brands?
Andy: Yeah. Well we obviously started off to build Harry’s and Harry’s was focused on shaving to start, but we always had a vision that it would become a men’s personal care grooming brand. Now that brand spans multiple categories, so we’re in haircare, we’re in antiperspirant and deodorant, and body wash and bar soap, and have a broad offering across a bunch of categories. It was probably back in 2016 or 2017 where we had built all these capabilities to support the Harry’s brand around direct-to-consumer; around retail; and the mix between retail, and direct-to-consumer, and omnichannel; and a bunch of capabilities just around modern design and brand building. And at the same time we were looking at a bunch of different categories across consumer packaged goods and looking at really a bunch of unmet consumer need across these categories, and brands being built to fill those needs, and better meet consumers where they were. And felt like we had a set of capabilities that would leverage not just for Harry’s brand but for a family of brands, whether we build those brands, whether we buy those brands.
To your point scaling is hard. You can launch a brand, you can get it to a few million of revenue maybe more easily than ever in history, but taking that to 50 million, 100 million, 200 million in revenue and really scaling across channels, across geographies, is a really difficult thing to do. So we got really excited about the vision of building out a family of disruptive omnichannel CPG brands. We raised some capital against that vision. We created this organisation within Harry’s called Harry’s Labs that is focused on both incubation and M&A. Yeah, started to look for where there might be unmet need and where there might be opportunity.
And as opposed to drawing maps of the market and saying, “How big is this category? How fast is it growing? How competitive is it?” Of course, we’d look at some of those business dynamics and fundamentals. I think for us a lot of these ideas and inspirations, whether it be Flamingo, or Cat Person, or Headquarters, came from fundamentally the same place that Harry’s came from, which is where is there a consumer need that’s just not being adequately met in the market where we can build a proposition across [inaudible] product value that better resonates with consumers. And using direct-to-consumer as a channel and go-to-market approach that really enables us to test, and learn, to develop much more personal relationships and iterate into something that hopefully better meets that need. So that’s kind of the model that’s been underlying the success across all those brands.
Jeff: The other thing I’d add is it’s really fun. It’s been fun personally to get to think about new brands, and new categories, and new customers, new products. We like building things I think as founders and as a company. It’s cool to get to do that. I think over time we’d hoped to buy a brand or two and get to work with amazing [inaudible], and get inspired by them, and help them in their journey. And that sounds super fun. I don’t know. I think that’s also part of it for us.
Nathan: Yeah. Look, no doubt about it, it is fun creating new products, new businesses, and new brands. But I think the biggest challenge that companies face, when you do have traction, is you have this idea, “Oh we’ll just add this,” or, “We’ll just bolt this on.” And oftentimes, I think, companies aren’t operationally set up to add another element or a whole nother business within a business. So what you guys have done in such a relatively short period of time, in eight years, I’d love to know what do you think has been unique there? Are you guys next level at operations, systems, processes, identifying these patterns and then it’s easy to bolt on the next brand? Or I’d love to go a bit deeper there.
Jeff: I think…… as a company and have a lot of people who are really empathetic to who customers are, and what they want and need, and I think are really focused on those people. If you think about who we serve it’s like Nathan we serve you every day. What do you want? How can we make your life better? So I think we’ve got people who ask that question a lot and think about that problem a lot. If we can do that in an amazing way, serve you really uniquely, man I think that then we can have brands that will resonate with you. So that’s probably number one.
Then I think number two I think we have people who are willing to take risks, and take bets, and rethink the way that normal things are done. And a culture that encourages that, I hope, so that people feel like, “Hey, I can do something different. I can make a razor in four different colours that maybe doesn’t look like it was futuristic or something. It just looks … It’s super cleanly designed,” or, “I can make cat food and make it only protein, so cats want [inaudible] of that protein, of a chicken or a duck on the package as opposed to some other marketing claims or making me feel like I’m buying this in the wilderness.” There’s just different ways, I think, that you can appeal to people in an exciting and imaginative way.
Then I think we’ve got … Where we’ve probably built infrastructure most is in the ways that we reach people online. I think there, being able to have a direct-to-consumer experience where we get to know you super well, and know what you want and need, and learn about you is amazing. Because as thoughtful as we try to be and as inspired as we want to be with everything that we do it’s only as good as the experience you have. What’s cool about direct-to-consumer is we can be like, “Hey, we did this thing. We tried to make it great. What do you think?” You’re like, “Hey, these three things are awesome but these other two things I would want this.” It’s like, “Okay, cool.” Well if 100, or 200, or 1,000 other people want these other two things we’re going to go create them for you.
For an example … I’m going to steal Andy’s story and he can add to it but remember early on at Harry’s when our razor connected to our blade it didn’t click. It didn’t click. It just slid in and stayed, and was fine. One of our customers was like, “I want there to be an audible click. When I click this in I want to click it in, I want to know that it’s on there. I actually took this razor to my garage and I figured out a way to make it change the connector so that it would click in.” He called our [Six] Team and our Six Team was like, “This is interesting.” And Andy actually called him and was like, “Can I talk to you about this? What did you do? How did you think about it?” The guy sent us his prototype. And we took it and we used it as an inspiration for figuring out how to create a click, which he and a bunch of other people wanted, and all of a sudden his experience got better.
Now we thought we did a lot of cool stuff in areas but we didn’t make a click. He was the one who told us, “Hey, you’ve got to do that.” So that’s where DTC is so fun, is that we learn and we get to create experiences that are better for people. Ultimately if you that enough and enough we think that that’s a really exciting path to growth and success, I guess.
Nathan: I’d love to hear your take Andy.
Andy: That all resonates with me. I think we’re also pretty deliberate in the way that we add on or drive growth. The Harry’s brand is probably a good example where we probably, in the earlier days of Harry’s once we were having a lot of success in shave, we could have just taken our brand and slapped it on a bunch of stuff, and just said, “Great. Let’s launch shampoo, and deodorant, and soap, and whatever. Just give us something off the shelf and we’ll put our brand on it, and it will sell.” But we don’t really believe that that type of an approach leads to sustainable success. So even in each category, outside of shave, we took a lot of time to try to really understand what is the pain point in that category. Can we actually deliver on that better than whatever the status quo is?
The mission of our company is create things people like more, which sounds very simple but in some ways it’s really helpful in that regard. Is, “All right, can you just do something better?” If you can’t you probably shouldn’t do it. So sometimes that’s a better scent, sometimes that is more intuitive packaging, sometimes that’s better value. So it’s going to vary category by category. But I think some of our ability to [inaudible] success is a result of that deliberateness and this idea that brands really get built over a long period of time. It’s not like software, it doesn’t just scale overnight. So I think that’s been helpful for us too along the way.
Nathan: Yeah. I’m really curious as well, talk me through the signals that you guys look for where you believe there might be something in a market that you guys would look to enter. What does that look like? Because I think a lot of people watching this right now they would be inspired by, “Wow, you guys have created four successful brands.” You’re probably not going to stick at four, there’ll be more over time and you’re building a big portfolio. What signals do you look like and what does that go-to-market strategy look like?
Jeff: I think the thing for us it starts with, I think what Andy said, is there an unmet consumer need? Or maybe the opportunity to create in some way a positive experience for someone that doesn’t exist. If there’s not then there’s no reason … If everyone is perfectly satisfied with the products that they’re using, and it’s no way to make it better for them, there’s no reason for a new thing to exist. We wouldn’t want to do it to do it. We’d want to do it because there’s a really big unmet need. When there is an unmet need it’s so obvious, it’s almost blatant.
For example the reason that we ended up starting Cat Person, which is our brand in the pet space, was because a guy on our team [inaudible] cats, fosters cats, and he’s like, “Hey, there’s a huge need for me as a cat parent because I’ve done a bunch of research on my cats. I know that they’re [inaudible] carnivore. They like to eat meat. I go to the store and all I see in cat food is grain, and vegetables, and a bunch of other stuff that’s not good for my cats.”
He’s like, “So I’m like … Actually stopped buying regular cat food and I’m now buying a bunch of the raw ingredients, and cooking for my cats. I’m a pretty busy guy. I don’t have time to do that or it’s taking up a lot of my free time. I would love a brand that was for me. That would give me really high quality food that was really transparent about what was in my food, and that I would trust. If there was a brand that existed like that, that gave my carnivore cats a high protein diet that I trust, I would want that.”
We’re like, “You know we bet a lot of other people would feel the same way.” So that was the impetus for Cat Person. It was you talk to him and you hear his story, and it just becomes obvious that there’s an opportunity for someone to do it better. Then the work that we obviously do is like, “Okay, he feels that way. How many other people feel that way?” Then, “Can we reasonably, from a cost and product delivery perspective, and brand perspective, give him and all these other people a thing that they will actually like more?” Once we get conviction in that then it’s pretty easy and straightforward.
Someone once told me you want to start a company just think about all the things that bother you all day long. Then think about how you might fix them. I actually think that that’s not terrible … I think that’s really good advice. So we think about that in the consumer world. We think about all the stuff that people use every day and what’s frustrating for them or where you can create something better for them.
Within Headquarters, this haircare brand that we started, we heard from women that what they really wanted was healthy hair. Lots of the other brands out there were feeling superficial to them. Like they were trying to embellish hair and add beauty to it in some ways, as opposed to just having hair be healthy and natural. When we actually tried to understand, “Okay, well what makes health and natural hair?” What makes healthy and natural hair is having a really healthy scalp. The skin on your scalp is just like the skin on your face, it’s skincare. So how can we help you have a healthy scalp and healthy roots? If you do that then you’re going to have a really healthy hair. So we created products that did that, as opposed to other products that didn’t really treat the root cause of healthy hair.
So we think about things like that, that just feel like opportunities to do something better for someone, because as we get to know them we learn about the chances and the places to go do that.
Nathan: Hey guys, I hope you’re enjoying this episode and learning a tonne. As you know in this series we interview some of the greatest founders of our generation to find out how they did it. However, if you’re thinking of starting your own business and you want to hear from some incredible stories from every day people, like you or I, who are actually in the trenches, only been building their business for maybe one year or two years, that are building right now and they’re really in the early stages but they’re getting success, you should come and check out our new podcast From Zero to Foundr. Hosted by our community manager Mollie Flynn these are in the trenches stories from our very own successful students that have gone through some of our programmes. People just like you who are deep within the process of building their very own successful business. These are the founders of tomorrow. You can find the From Zero to Foundr podcast on all platforms. Remember, it’s founder without the E. All right, now let’s jump into the show.
I’m curious with these ideas, because you guys must have tonnes, do you score them? Do you run adds? Do you have prototypes? What does that validation go-to-market look like?
Andy: Well as Jeff said we start with really that consumer lens and do a bunch of consumer research. That’s a lot of insights work, focus group, surveys, et cetera to refine and validate hypothesis. Then from there there is some testing that we’ll do. Like we can whip up a dummy brand reasonably quickly that isn’t necessarily all that thoughtful from a design, and the way you’d want to put thought and care into the final brand, but can do a reasonably good job in a short period of time to test different territories. Yeah, we’ll actually put that in front of consumers. We can run different types of tests online and by advertising, and see what conversion rates look like. So there’s a bunch of testing and learning we’ll do to really refine the brand itself, and the territory, and the target consumer, and then ultimately who we want to be speaking to before actually trying to develop the real brand.
Of course, we’ll build a business case and all of that prudent business stuff as well, and to make sure that we can actually deliver product at a reasonable cost, and that we’ve got product and formulations that work, and all of that stuff. But I would say the vast majority of our testing and learning up front is really consumer oriented, whether that’s purely insights or whether that’s getting consumers to react to brand messaging, or even product itself, scents and those types of things.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Interesting. This is fascinating. So you guys go relatively deep. I think sometimes when people see the finished product they might have thought, “Oh you guys just came up with this idea and then you just started building the product, and then you go launch, right?”
Andy: Yeah, that’s not really the case. When I was talking earlier about deliberateness it’s really that, it’s trying to be really clear about the problem that we’re solving; how the brand’s going to help solve that problem; how the product is going to help solve that problem; packaging, design, the value proposition, all of those things to really try to ensure that at the end of the day whatever you create is meeting the spec. Even the Harry’s brand, which was perhaps the most … We didn’t have a super well oiled process in how to do that. We took a lot of time and it was just … That was a little different, it was me and Jeff in a room but really trying to … I remember literally sitting with a bunch of magazines and cutting out images of things that we liked, and didn’t like. This is dating ourselves obviously, since I’m talking about paper magazines. And trying to be really thoughtful about what we wanted the brand to stand for and the type of imagery we liked. Yeah, it definitely wasn’t just throw something out there and see what sticks.
Jeff: I think the difference between brand building and the MVP model of technology … There’s a whole model and technology that works really well in a bunch of cases, where you put out an MVP; you get a bunch of users to try it; you test, iterate, optimise, test, iterate, optimise. It’s like we believe you only have one chance to really launch a brand and only one chance to make a first impression with a product or a brand. That’s not to say that you can’t improve over time, of course you can. But I think we also take a lot of pride in trying to put our best foot forward day one. Yes and then learn really quickly, and continue to make it better.
So it is better to be a Harry’s customer today than it was eight years ago. We’ve made our product demonstrably better, like statistically significantly better. We’ve updated every single piece of it. We’ve done that because we’ve learned a lot from our customer, and we got more sophisticated, and we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars, and we’ve done it. But we also were really proud of the thing that we started with. I think that that’s the mentality that we’ve taken, for better or worse, in terms of brand building.
Nathan: Yeah, fascinating. So if we can delve a little deeper on brand building I think that would really help people because if you look at the four brands that you have they’re really cool. Like they’re really cool. The design’s awesome. There’s a just great feel. They’re awesome products. Do you have any advice for people that want to create these iconic, cool, direct-to-consumer brands? Because now anybody can … Let’s be honest, with Shopify and Stripe, and Alibaba or whatever, you can launch an E-commerce business in three to six months. And you can get sales, like with Instagram … You can launch a business but it’s very competitive, right?
Jeff: Yep. Yeah. I think it starts with does the brand have a reason to exist? Does the world need another X? I don’t want to pick on any categories, but does it need another one? If people are super happy with the products that they have, and there’s not a real difference in what the brand stands for or means, or delivers, it’s probably not going to … It’s going to be really hard or expensive to make that brand cut through. We find when we make products that maybe don’t have as much of a reason to exist, we’ve certainly had situations that haven’t gone as entirely according to plan, then it’s almost like you’re swimming upstream and you feel that. Then when you have a product that does have a reason to exist, where tonnes and tonnes of people are like, “Yeah, I want to get behind that. That’s what I want,” then you’re swimming with the current in an amazing way and pushing you forward. So I’d say that’s number one.
Then I think number two is being maniacal about your customer. I think really getting to know people. I mean, when we started Harry’s Andy and I did customer experience a lot. Like multiple hours a week talking to customers, getting to know them, spending time with them. Really deeply engaging. It was so fun. We just feel like we learned so much from that experience. I think that’s the second thing. If you’re making every one of your customers happy or doing your best and setting that tone you’re probably going to be in a good spot.
I think the third thing is don’t be afraid to take risk, be bold, imagine. We’ve been pushing a lot of the folks in the Harry’s ecosystem, over the last few years, given that every category is getting crowded, to be bold, take risks. If you know your customer and you have a good sense for what they want don’t be afraid to do something that’s inspirational for them and take a big risk. It’s okay. It’s exciting. So I think that those are probably the things I would encourage.
Nathan: Love it. Yeah, this is great stuff. Anything you’d like to add on Andy?
Andy: Maybe one additional piece of tactical advice, which is that you can’t really outsource this stuff. I know a lot of people who maybe want to start a brand or build something they themselves may not be a industrial designer, or a mechanical engineer, or a graphic designer, so you have to surround yourselves with great partners to make it come to life. But if you just go to a design firm and you’re like, “Oh cool. Make me something cool.” That’s not a great brief and you’re going to get stuff that feels me too, and because they’re … Even if you’re just giving them references and be like, “All right, well” … And so you really do have to engage in the details. It’s interesting because you may not be an expert, and certainly I’m not an expert but I’m a consumer. It’s not actually that hard to have a nuanced perspective on what you like and don’t like, and the emotion that you want a certain type of packaging to evoke.
So I think yes you got to find great partners to work with on a bunch of that stuff but usually the work is only as good as the brief, and the coaching along the way. So you do have to have a pretty … I think it’s a different side of the same coin, or the point that Jeff was making, is that you really need a point of view that, “Hey, this brand or this product has a real reason to exist. This is what that reason is. This is how it’s going to be different and unique.” And engage at a pretty significant level of depth on that stuff.
Nathan: Yeah. No, that makes 100% sense. I’m curious, as well … As I said, I first heard about you guys on the Tim Ferriss blog with using the viral loop. Is that part of your go-to-market now for the other brands, like the referral stuff or you think that’s done now?
Jeff: We did that at the time, the viral loop at the time, because we thought it was innovative and not that many people had done it. Then we shared what we’d done and I think a lot of other people started doing it, which was awesome. So then we started to think about, “Well how could we be innovative again when we launch brands?” The one thing that we did do at Harry’s, that we have continued to do over time, is to tell everyone that we personally know about it and encourage … We that with the Tim Ferriss thing, where we encouraged them to invite friends or whatever. But I think even beyond that we just think that the people that we’re closest with should be our biggest supporters to start. So we’ve always, with the Harry’s family, given them the products and told them the story, and wanted to make sure that they felt like they were the first to know because they are. That family now extends not just to our own personal friends and family but to our customers, and letting our customers know about our other brands, and social followers.
We think the benefit of having a community that’s engaged is that then you can let them know about new stuff that happens. And people like new stuff and tend to want to gravitate towards it. So we may give our parents or siblings the product itself, and we may tell other customers or people in the community about it, but we just think it’s important that the people in the community feel special, like they’ve gotten some unique access because they are special. They are part of our community and it’s important that they know that.
Nathan: Look, I think now that you have this … You have over 20 million customers. Now you have that customer base. You would be silly not to use that. But then, also, I love that take on just the family and the friends, and just producing products that you’re really proud of.
Like to switch gears. What hasn’t worked? Because it appears to me that you guys have an incredible culture of speed, learning, testing, and that is how you guys have been able to achieve just astronomical success in this period of time. What hasn’t worked? What are traps you think people should look out for when wanting to launch a direct-to-consumer brand or product?
Andy: No, I mean, I’m sure plenty hasn’t worked. I think that thematically, Jeff alluded to this, but when we do … And look, it’s always tempting to chase something that feels like it’s going to be an … Like, “Oh we’ll just launch this adjacent thing, and it’ll be worth five or 10 million in revenue, and it’s an easy thing to do.” But I think whenever we do something like that, and fall to temptation of short-cutting on that dimension, you do feel it. You feel like you’re swimming upstream. I think it’s when we’ve gotten away from that focus, which I think we’ve done, thankfully not often. But I’m trying to think of specific examples within the Harry’s brand where we may have-
Jeff: Yeah, I’ve got one. I remember a bunch of years ago we liked the idea of a lip balm for Harry’s.
Andy: Oh yeah, that’s a good one. Yeah.
Jeff: Because we thought it would be cool … You never see our products. So we thought, “Well maybe we could create a product that someone could have and then they’d pull it out at some point, and then you could see it.” “Oh, what’s that Harry’s thing?” But that was the reason we did it. We made, I think, a product that was cool, it has a pepperminty feeling. But there was no real reason for it to exist. We weren’t like, “What’s wrong with everyone else’s lip balms? Why does the world need another lip balm?” We just thought, “Well it would be cool if you could see the Harry’s lip balm.” It did okay. A bunch of our customers really liked it. But we ended up not continuing to drive it forward as a brand because I think when we layered it against our mission, which is creating things people like more, it’s not entirely clear why we had created a lip balm in that instance that people would like more.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t do a lip balm for Harry’s over time. Maybe we should. I think the bar would just be like what about this new lip balm is going to be so much better than the other lip balms that you’d need this one? That’s probably an interesting … That happened in the very early days but it was a good learning for us.
Andy: Yeah, that’s a good example.
Nathan: Yeah. One thing I’ve found when we’ve spoken to founders when they do have multiple products, or they might have a brand and they’re trying to serve customers in more ways than one, is the take rate when they launch. Like if it just goes gangbusters than you know you’re onto something. So I found it really interesting what you were saying Andy, like just because you can do something that makes money doesn’t mean you should always do it. Oftentimes it’s a tempting trap to go, “Yeah, we’ll just bolt this on and we’ll just spin it out.” But then it doesn’t do as well as you thought and you probably haven’t put in the work at the right … It just doesn’t line up. So that is great. That’s really great advice.
I’m curious … Just we’ll work towards wrapping up but I have to ask you guys about scaling. You guys must be heavy, heavy PPC; very, very strong there on paid advertising. For someone that wants to scale a brand, their first one, what should they be thinking about? Should they be going all ads, thinking about ads, or should they be thinking about influencers? Yeah, I’m curious to hear your guys’ take and what is the consistent theme you’ve seen across the four?
Andy: I mean, I can offer a take and I’m sure Jeff has a perspective. I don’t know that there’s any one winning formula. We, I would say, believe in the power of creating organic advocacy early in the life of a brand. Jeff alluded a little bit to there was a friends and family component to that, there’s a PR component to that, there’s just direct-to-consumer is a really powerful tool to activate a community. When we launched Harry’s we didn’t spend a dollar. I guess we probably spent some money on PR agencies but we didn’t spend a dollar on paid advertising. I do think that’s powerful. It’s not the only way to launch a brand. But I think there’s power in really building community advocacy early and having your customers be your best sales people.
Then from there I do think that there’s obviously lots of ways now to reach consumers directly and lots of channels. You can be pretty sophisticated in the way that you target and optimise efficiency. That’s all well and good. I think the key is probably to do things that feel consistent with your brand and who you are. There are brands that lend themselves well to influencer marketing or celebrity endorsement, or whatever. And then there’s other brands where yeah that might help you get eyeballs but it’s not really going to help you build brand equity.
I think coming back to what are … In the early days of Harry’s we also had this idea of in good company. It’s like what other brands, or channels, or partnerships, or even the types of marketing messaging we’re using is actually going to add to our brand equity versus detract from it. I think that’s been a pretty good North Star for us over time. Sounds obvious but you can easily find yourself in a position where you’re like, “Well yeah, I’m not sure how it’s going to be great for the brand but man I’m going to get three million eyeballs on that, so it’ll drive awareness.” But is it really the kind of awareness that you want? Those are just a couple thoughts from my end.
Jeff: Yeah, I think that’s right. The only other thing I’d add Andy is when you start to build community engagement what you naturally figure out is what works. I don’t know. You get press articles and there’s 10 press articles you get, and one of them drives a tonne of traffic to your website. You’re like, “What about that thing did that?” Then if you can figure out what that is it’s almost like bottling up lightning. Then you can then amplify it. That’s, I think, the role that marketing should do, is to figure out the way that people organically are talking about this brand to each other and do it in a way that’s fun, and interesting, I guess. Then from there amplify it. So all the direct response advertisement in the world, you mentioned pay-per-click, that stuff is all well and good, and good to be sophisticated about for sure, but for me I think what’s interesting about that world is you can get a tonne of learning.
So for us it’s like we might try 100 things and be like, “I don’t know, did Nathan like this? Did Nathan like that? Was this funny for him, or engaging, or amusing?” If it is and you find something that you really like, that connects with the vision and the values of the brand, then the rest of the marketing dollars just go to amplify that in a way that hopefully reaches a lot more people that are like you. That’s the most fundamental thing. Then what channel that is, is it influencers, is it social, is it TV, email? All of that just depends on the brand and who you are, and how you would want to consume that. I guess that’s how I think about it.
Nathan: Yeah. No, no, I get it now. You guys really pro product, really pro brand, over time really work out the messaging and then the channels you guys … Yeah, it sounds like you don’t have a playbook, per se, once you go … Like when you move to a brand do this, do this, do this. It’s just really around the messaging, the brand, the product, and community, and listening.
Jeff: Really. And when you know it, when you hit it right, you see it. That’s the cool thing about DTC, all of a sudden all these people start coming to your website. And then you have-
Andy: And then you-
Jeff: And you’re like, “Oh wow, that works. Some people really like that thing. Whoa, okay. What about it?” Then, “What about the people?” Then you go from there.
Andy: Yeah. Then you have a menu of options to help amplify that. I think once you’ve got, to sort of use a cliché, but product/market fit then there’s lots of ways to then truly amplify and scale from there.
Nathan: Yeah. Love it. Awesome. No, I think that was a really cool unlock to really understand how you guys think about things. Thank you for sharing. All right, we’ll work towards wrapping up. Two last questions, probably for you both. For each of you anything that you wanted me to ask you that I haven’t or anything you’d like to share of final words of wisdom? Or just anything you’d like to share with our audience of early-stage startup founders that are just about to launch something, working on something, or they’ve been working on it for a couple of years? Then where’s the best place people can find out more about each of you, and your brands, and your work?
Andy: I mean, the one thing that we didn’t talk about, which I think is as important if not more so to sustainable success, is just the approach to actually building the team and talent. There’s only so much that Jeff and I did, or can do, as individual humans and founders. I think clearly surrounding yourself with people who are values aligned and believe in the mission, and trying to build an organisation that can scale with the brands and with the company. That’s an obvious point but it’s easier said than done. If you actually think about time allocation in the early days it’s tempting to spend all of your time on this business blocking and tackling, and not enough time on thinking about building a culture and values. Over the long run that becomes probably more important than any given business initiative, so just something to keep in mind as well.
Nathan: Awesome. Well look, where’s the best place people can find about each of you guys and your brands, your work? Anywhere you’d like to share?
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, I think probably to start the websites. Harrys.com is a great place to start and you can learn a lot about us. We’ve got some sections on [inaudible] other brands, so I’d probably start there. You can follow us on social media. That’s a good place to learn about our brands and our brands do a lot together there. That’s probably where I’d go.
Andy: Yeah. It’s Harry’s, ShopFlamingo, Cat Person, and Your Headquarters.
Jeff: There are the sites.
Andy: Jeff and I aren’t personally too big on social, yet anyways. So prefer you interact with our brands than with us personally.
Nathan: Awesome. All good. Well yeah, look, thank you so much guys for just being so open, honest. I know I asked you some questions that perhaps I was angling for an answer but you gave an answer that was maybe not expected and it was just open, and honest, and I think it will be really helpful to founders in their early days. Because oftentimes people are looking for the hacks, right? They’re looking for the tactics. They’re looking for the formula, the blueprint. And you guys are really real and I think it’ll really help people. So thank you so much and congratulations on all your success. I look forward to seeing all the other brands that you launch and the crazy scale that you guys are going through. So thank you so much.
Jeff: Awesome. Thanks Nathan, we really appreciate it. Appreciate you spending time with us.
Nathan: Yeah, appreciate your time-
Andy: Yeah, thanks Nathan. Happy to chat. Nice to meet you.
Nathan: Yeah, great to meet you too.