Over the last few weeks, a big focus for us at Sharma Brands has been working toward the launch of Jolie, a new brand focused on positioning clean water as a beauty tool. The brand is called Jolie, and it’s founded by Ryan Babenzien (founded & sold GREATS Sneakers to Steve Madden) and Arjan Singh. This email is going to focus on how we build the pre-launch list to 15,000 people without spending much, at all.
Disclaimer: Masala Capital wrote a sizable check to Jolie for a few reasons I want to share below, but as a bi-product of that, Jolie gets services from the Sharma Brands team to support their launch.
So, what made me want to invest in the first place? Well, initially it was Ryan and Arjan. They are both incredibly smart, but also have very different skill sets. After spending a couple of dinners with each of them, it was clear that whether or not this company succeeded with its initial product, these founders wouldn't let a ship sink. Their behaviors matched many of the other successful founders I've been fortunate to back before. The second main thing was the business: clean water.
The government hasn't updated its standards of what clean water means in decades (no surprise here), and probably because it would cost more money than they'd like to fix the underlying issue. There are tons of pretty toxic chemicals that run in our tap water, even New York tap water, which everyone says tastes great. Jolie's first product, the showerhead, tackles clean water in the shower. We put toxic chemicals on our largest organ, the skin, and as a result we either need a 12-step skincare routine to fix what we wreck with bad water, or we have reactions (hives, eczema, etc.). The third thing that made me excited about Jolie was the business itself.
The product fits into a routine — everyone showers daily, and sometimes twice a day. You can't not shower (well, you can, but ew). The category hasn't been innovated in a long time, and there's lots of room to make a brand that defines the category. It reminds me of the opportunity that JUDY did for emergency prep, Haus did for low-ABV, or Caraway did for cookware. From a marketing angle, you can really create a narrative that people can rally around, and leading off that, you can use technology to put all of this together and get people to realize they need this more than we need them to buy it. Lastly, you buy the showerhead upfront (it's beautiful btw), and then receive a filter every 3 months that you swap out to ensure the water on your skin is only the best.
For the purpose of this email, you might want to check out the Jolie Water Report. The Water Report allows you to input your zip code, Jolie taps an API by the EPA to figure out what toxins are in your local water, and how much of it exists and sends it to you in a clear, easy-to-understand, and digestible manner.
Sharma Brands helped with 4 main things leading up to Jolie's launch:
- We sourced a freelance media buyer through MarketerHire to help with the launch. Because our team handled the strategy, we didn't need a full paid-media agency.
- We developed ad creative to get people to the water report from channels like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
- We wire-framed, designed, and developed intricate landing pages that spoke to different messaging angles we believed could work.
- We brought on our sister agency, 1180 (co-founded by myself and Scott Swanson) to create really high-quality editorial content, for the purpose of building a waitlist.
Ryan had one simple goal: he wanted people to line up to buy Jolie on launch day, which is this coming Tuesday, for the lowest amount of ad spend possible. Initially, I thought, "Well, we just need a pre-launch lander and some ads, right?" But that would've been great in 2015. How do we do it in a 2021 manner? To figure it out, we realized there were 3 variables to focus on:
- Click-through rate from the traffic source. If we didn't have a good CTR coming from our channel, whether it was organic TikTok, an Instagram ad, or an article, then we'd never even give the landing page a real shot.
- Education of Jolie and/or the water report to build pre-order sign-up intent. It's completely on us to make the problem obvious. We're drinking the Kool-Aid of the brand, so while there are things we might believe are obvious, we have to make sure we properly explain that to a new potential customer of Jolie so they also see Jolie as a solution.
- The conversion rate on the actual landing page to sign someone up. We needed to sign people up — that's the job. We took benchmarks from past similar work and came up with a sliding scale of what our conversion rate meant for the success of the landing pages:
- 15% CVR was okay. We're not nailing the messaging.
- 25% CVR was good. There's something here people like. 1 in 4 sign up.
- 50% CVR was amazing. 1 in 2 sign up? We easily have a great business here solving this problem.
- 75% CVR was heaven.
- 80% CVR was gravy. This is going to be a category leader.
Launching Tactic #1
With our first tactic/test, we launched ad creative pushing the message of, "Did you know what's in your local water?", with an iMessage ad format. You can see the ad by clicking here. We coupled the ad creative with the landing page that currently lives on JolieSkinCo.com's homepage.
The creative is fun and engaging. We know from viral storytelling apps like HOOKED that the iMessage format is one people love — it's like you're snooping on another conversation and let's be honest, we all love to eavesdrop. But it also clearly hits the pain points someone would have from reading the conversation. The combination of those led to a CTR of around 4%, ~4x more than the average of 0.9% CTR.
Like the ad, the landing page also hits the problems starting in the hero with the headline of "Stop showering in Chlorine." When people read that, it's alarming. Who's showering in Chlorine? Me? How? I need to see what's in my water. Right below that, we get into the problems you might see on your own skin if you have bad water: dry skin, dry scalp, hair loss, etc. When you get to what's normally the shop section of the landing page, we replaced it with a form alongside a screenshot of what the report looks like. Initially, we had just a screenshot of the email, but putting the mobile view into an iPhone increased our form conversion rate.
Our process of building landing pages sometimes takes 2 weeks between wireframing, design, development, testing, making fixes, updating sections, and then officially going live. It's not because we're intentionally delaying the process, it's because we're finding things that can get better. When you're selling to real people, there's no one-size-fits-all formula, especially with landing pages. We have to be empathetic to the source of traffic people come from, current events going on in the world, how those might affect what emotions people have coming to the page, etc. While the initial page looks like it may take 2 hours to put together, it was a process, but that's why it performed well out the gate.
Tactic #1 was off to a great start with about a 40% conversion rate on the page. It gave us a baseline to work against now... how can we get better than 40% conversion, keep a high-quality user, and get more people talking about clean water.
Launching Tactic #2
In the second tactic, we worked closely with 1180 to create editorial content around the water report. Why create editorial content for the purpose of customer acquisition? Well, simply put, instead of selling, we story tell. As a result, it becomes your, the consumers, decision to sign up or purchase, versus us just pushing things on you. Post iOS 14.5/iOS 15, it also allows us to not rely on the pixel's magic to sell you something.
Pre iOS 15, the Facebook Pixel used to consistently get small points of feedback from you. If you were thinking of buying a Caraway Cookware Set, Facebook knew you might be interested based on your browsing, shopping, DM, and consumption habits. It could show you an ad, and whether or not you clicked, it still tracked you across the web because their pixel is embedded on almost every website. They knew if you were reading reviews on their site if you were watching an Emily Mariko Instagram video that had a Caraway pan in there, if you read an editorial piece on PopSugar, or if you were even on a coupon site looking for discount codes. Based on all the pixel data, it could put you into different audience segments and decide which ad creative to serve to you, at what time. The Pixel was so smart, it was like hiring the best possible salesperson who saw everything a potential customer consumed and knew when to ask them to buy.
Now that Facebook doesn't get much of those inputs back into its system, 1180's business, which drives heavy customer acquisition for brands through high-quality editorial content, has taken off. Instead of relying on the pixel, we're able to tell stories with our owned-and-operated publishers, as well as creators, and in a way that makes it your decision to want to try the products. We knew that Jolie's product had a great story behind it, and we could leverage the power of good storytelling. So, we started with 3 pieces of content:
- We just figured out why your hair doesn't feel the same when you travel
- There's one thing we know you're doing wrong in your beauty routine
- We discovered the most neglected beauty secret
Our goal was to test the positioning of the showerhead as a beauty tool, and if it could work, but to also see what kind of angle had the largest potential from an audience standpoint. 1 completely flopped. 1 had okay results. 1 completely blew the others out of the water.
The CTR of the content was higher than that of the iMessage-style ad, and we initially drove to the same landing page. We quickly saw an on-page conversion rate of 80%. People were reading the content and getting REALLY interested in the water report. The time on site was low, too — a good sign. In watching the screen recordings of user sessions, most people who came from the article didn't think twice before going straight to sign up for the water report. The open rate on the email was also significantly higher.
Launching Tactic #3
This tactic was mostly driven by Ryan out of curiosity for leveraging TikTok. We partnered with Nadya Okamoto, a social entrepreneur who's also a talented content creator on TikTok, and built her following by posting upwards of 50 times per day, just this year. She loved the Jolie showerhead and wanted to create content around the water report to see what the power of completely organic and free TikTok can be.
She posted a handful of videos, each of which took less than 45 seconds to make, and just posted them on her channel. You might think, "She has a lot of followers, that's why it blew up." But if you use TikTok, or especially if you've posted and seen the analytics, you know that 90%+ of your views don't come from your followers, they come from the For You Page. Her videos talked about the showerhead, the chemicals in our water, and how to get the water report, and as a result, it led to a 50% on-page conversion rate.
As a new test, we are taking her posts that did well, getting the individual post's ad authorization (TikTok's version of whitelisting), and will run that as a TikTok ad now. Combining the fact that we already know this video converts well, and also that TikTok CPMs are very cheap, compared to Facebook, we're hopeful this can build the list quickly.
My key takeaways from this project so far have been:
- Launching products into routines, especially with un-innovated categories, is always a great idea.
- People want ads that are entertaining first, not the equivalent of digital billboards.
- Stories sell way better than any generic DTC-esque ad.
- TikTok, while it stays free for the reach you get out of it, can help you build a business without spending a single dollar.