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Ep. 30 – How to Build a Customer-Centric Marketing Strategy with John Sheldon of SmileDirectClub

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Eric talks to John Sheldon, CMO of SmileDirectClub about building a customer-centric marketing strategy.

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John: For me, brand purpose means that the use usage of your product delivers disproportionate and out outsized benefit to the customer and beyond. But first, it has to start with that disproportionate benefit to the customer

Eric: I'm Eric Full Weiler, and this is Scratch bringing you marketing lessons from the leading brands and brains rewriting the rule book from scratch for the world of today.

Hey everyone, my guests today, John Sheldon, CMO of Smile Direct Club. So we've had a lot of different guests on this show. I think Smile Direct Club and John probably fit the mold of challenger brands, challenger, CMO to a T. They are not only a challenger within their category to Invisalign, which is kind of the Goliath and obviously they're more than a David now they're, they're publicly traded in Smile Direct club but challenging them. And it was interesting hearing John talk about how to make it a two horse race. How as a challenger you need to have an enemy, you need someone to push off of, but also they're challenging the incumbent solutions within their category, which is braces. So really interesting conversation just kind of getting into the mindset and getting into the strategy and the team of a true challenger marketer. What I loved and really related to and talked about this in a lot of interviews, but it really comes through in what John says explicitly and then also implicitly is just the need to focus on the customer and how so many of the answers, so many of the innovation and growth opportunities, challenger growth opportunities come from that.:So it was great to hear how he does that with his team down to the tactical level of the meetings that he puts in place. We talk about a bunch of other things, their success on TikTok, how they think about brand purpose. Lots of good stuff in this episode. I know that you are going to enjoy it. So without further ado, please enjoy my interview, my conversation with John Sheldon of Smile Direct Club. Hey John, how you doing today?

John: Things really good, thank you. How you doing?

Eric: I am good. I am really looking forward to this conversation because as I said before we pressed record, I first kind of heard about you and the work that you're doing at SmileDirect Club from an article way back in January I realized. So it's been a little while. I know it's taken us time to actually set up the recording, but based on what you've done on TikTok, there was a great article that I know we're going to talk about, but actually digging into what you're doing at SmileDirect Club and also your career and background. I think it's really fascinating to have you on the show. It's all about challenger marketing and you both in big incumbents like MasterCard and also in true disruptive businesses like Fresh Direct and Smile Direct Club. That's a lot of what you've done. So really excited to get into it with you today

John: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Eric: Of course. All right, so let's start with a couple of the warmup questions. So first would love to hear what's a brand that you are obsessed with or very fascinated by right now in any category?

John: Yeah. Well when I think about brands, I spent a lot of time looking at I, I've spent a lot of time looking at Peloton and obviously they've had been bumpy for them a lot recently, but overall as a brand, I think they've done some really interesting things. And as we've both kind of grown up, we're in the same cohort of startups if you will. We started roughly the same time, we grew roughly the same time and they were always like our older brother that was about six to nine months ahead of us in IPO and a bunch of other things. I've been watching them really closely through their ups and some of the challenges that they've faced and I think they've done a great job of building community and I think they've done a really good job at building the brands of their instructors and helping those folks to become really meaningful and people get really personally connected with those instructors. And it's one of those things when two people with a Peloton, I have one when two people with a Peloton talk you're like, who's your favorite instructor? That comes up right away. And I think that some of the elements that they've built there are really interesting. I think they went really fast into some key brand building areas from performance marketing and then really started building out some brand building. They showed up in the Olympics four years ago and they were so young at a time to go do that and I was really admired how they did that and the investments that they've made there

Eric: So it's interesting you say Peloton and actually our other podcast, which is a weekly marketing news show, we recorded it yesterday and one of the articles that we covered was Peloton Outsourcing production and all the hardware now. And the guest that we had on Robert Rose, I don't know if you know him, he is like, well to me this kind of smells like a consulting firm coming in and saying, Hey, shed the dead weight, shed the overhead to help get you ready for a sale. But the thing is we actually, so we haven't talked about this and obviously this is the first chat that we've had, but in our business while we're working with Challenger brands, it's kind of how we describe it actually. What we're interested in is what makes successful challenger brands and we're trying to brand those as rival brands, tbd, whether or not that's going to stick. But I think there's something interesting to the idea of actually challenger brand is a statement of intent, not accomplishment. And there's so many of them, particularly now. So it's such an overused term in the industry I feel like. And so what is it about certain challenger brands that makes them successful? And Peloton is the example that one of my co-founders uses as an unsuccessful challenger brand. They've obviously done a lot and they've built a, to some degree, very successful business, a very strong brand, very engaged community. There's a lot that has gone well for them, but actually they haven't, I would argue, haven't truly succeeded in disrupting and becoming the incumbent in a category. And if you look at some of the headwinds that they're facing now, not just on the hardware and supply chain and the economics of their business, but even on the brand and the percentage of people that are potentially looking to cancel based on surveys they've done and the percentage of people that are actually interested in signing up for more of a product and a subscription like that. They've done a lot of the challenger things, but somewhere along the line it hasn't turned into them actually being successful at disrupting the industry, I would argue.

John: Yeah. One of the things I think, to use your phrase rival brands need is an enemy is the person they're challenging Mack versus pc cl classic version of that very, very clear thing that you're pushing off of. And I think what they haven't done is identified and then done a really good job of pushing off of that in rival brand status. And for me I think that's a really important part of being a challenger brand is that knowing who are you challenging and why and actually making it clear to everybody that you're challenging them and why you think you have the right to do that. When we launched our challenger campaign and let me back up a second. So Smile Direct Club introduced a whole new audience and whole new segment of the market to being able to access teeth straightening and when we launched the business, and these are the people who can't afford $68,000 to go to their orthodontist but are looking to have their teeth straightening because of the nature of the vertical business model we've built, we are able to offer them a very effective doctor directed teeth straightening for about $2,000. And so we opened up a brand new market for teeth trading.Once we've built that, once we got that up and really truly effective in every way to deliver an excellent experience, what we realized is it's not just for those people who never had access before, but actually 80 90% of the overall current orthodontic market would also tremendously benefit from using our product via customer experience that we've created. And we realized that about 18 months ago and we were all the way there. And so that's when we said, okay, it's time to move from being the disruptor that came into the market and flipped over the tables and did something nobody had ever done and actually become transitioned from being a disruptor to being a challenger. Now in our world, the brand that we're challenging is the only brand in orthodontia talking about which is Invisalign besides us. And we're try and our job was hey, let's make this a two horse race.They're a 50 billion company, they've done a great job with their branding in some ways the Kleenex of the industry, people call us all the time with our product and say, I'm wearing my Invisalign right now. And we're like, please don't say that. It kills us. So that gives us somebody to push off of, right? And that's why when we were able to launch our challenger campaign for example on television and some of the digital work that we've done, we made the risky call to actually call them out by name and actually say, Hey listen, this is better than those guys. And for a lot of reasons that we think that we are and model allows. And so I think that's just to tie it back to your point about a Peloton, I think they haven't pointed at the the other parts of the market that they've done better than and pushed off of that in a really meaningful way

Eric: Just a quick side note, I've always been fascinated by the orthodonture teeth straightening industry and bear with me for a second. I had braces, my wife had braces, we all had braces back in the eighties and nineties, but it seems insane to me that the solution for crooked teeth is still to glue pieces of metal to people's mouth and then slowly tighten them over time. So this is neither here nor there, but I just realized, cause I hadn't even put it together with this conversation that I actually have a very personal interest of what you're doing and I should look it up of do you guys sell in the UK because my oldest daughter is going to be in need of something like this very soon.

John: We absolutely do. In fact, excellent. It's one of those things when we launched in the uk the everybody's like isn't that kind of obvious with all the jokes, but the short version is it's been a great market for us. And so L Love our London locations are some of the busiest we have in the entire network and for us, but first of all, to be clear, we don't glue anything to your teeth. Even Invisalign does that. They put buttons and attachments on your teeth and things. The system that we utilize for people who have mild to moderate teeth straightening, these doesn't actually require anything to be attached to your teeth. And actually we have two formats. So for your daughter and a lot of teen parents really like this model, we have a version that's just something that you wear for 10 hours continuously at night. So the team can go to school, nothing, just nothing's not wearing anything on their teeth, whatever. Come home after dinner, brush your teeth, put these on 10 hours later. And obviously because you're not wearing the system takes a little longer, but by the way, by a little longer, it's way shorter than braces, right? I'm talking an average of seven, eight months you know, can have your teeth straightened via clear aligners when, and nobody even knows you were doing it other than the fact that all of a sudden you've got this end result and parents love it because you don't have to worry about your kid taking him out, not wearing 'em, losing 'em, et cetera, because it's just going to sit on their nightstand and just make sure that they put 'em in after dinner. And that's a model that parents seem to really, really gravitate toward. Yeah

Eric: Well definitely an industry ripe for disruption. I actually had no idea Invisalign was a 50 billion company, but a huge Company. I guess that makes sense. So I'm thinking about where to go from here because it's very clear. 10 minutes in, we are going to run out of time. So I might kind of throw the standard questions out the window because there's a few things I know I want to talk to you about and I don't think we're going to get to all of it. So why don't we go back a little bit. Let's talk about you. So I will have given kind of the CV overview in the intro to the episode, but I guess the question that I want to ask or the way I want to tee it up, knowing your background and even in your LinkedIn bio, you say your CMO and innovation leader scaling disruptive brands. So you've worked in challengers like SmileDirect Club, like Fresh Direct like others, but you've also worked in incumbents trying to think and act like challengers, your innovation role at MasterCard. What have you learned over the years in marketing slash innovation roles about how you actually create disruption in the market? I know it's a super broad question, but it's intentional cause I kind of want to see where you take it and then we can double click on that. I'm just curious, of all the things that drive innovation, what are the most important to you with all the experience that you have doing this type of work

John: Well, I think the piece that's the most important, and I'm going to just abstract this for a second, is knowing your customer at a really deep level and what are their core needs and so on. And so whether it's fresh direct or small club or all of the things that we were doing at MasterCard and I specifically was focused on areas of identity and financial inclusion, which are two really important areas for MasterCard is to get to know who your customer is at a really deep level. Some of the work we did on identity, I was literally interviewing refugees in refugee camps or work on financial inclusion. I went to a town 70 miles outside of Nairobi and watched a towns full of women bank with a box they bury in the ground for every three weeks. And I just think understanding exactly who your customer is, what are their beliefs, what are their behaviors and what are the challenges to the way that they're operating today helps you uncover all kinds of opportunities to innovate.So one of the things that at Small Direct Club, what we learned is one of the innovations that we put together is we actually ship customers all of their aligners, their entire treatment right up front, it's in the blur box and so on. But between that and all the tools that we put in there to manage their treatment it got a little overwhelming for them. And we heard this from them by talking and listening to phone calls and all of this. And so what it prompted was us doing an orientation call like, Hey, we know you just got your box, let us take you through it together. It'll take 10 minutes, but by the time you're done you'll you'll be much more comfortable and confident. And what we found is the people who we take that orientation call through, they call us less they have complete treatment more frequently and generally speaking, they start when we go through the orientation call, a lot of people receive their treatment box, some people receive it and set it aside and just end up delaying the beginning of their treatment because they're intimidated. And so that orientation call helps pull them through and get them and get them the confidence to get going in this treatment. And so it just comes from listening to and watching the behavior of your customers really, really closely

Eric: Yeah, I totally agree. And at the end of the day, it's interesting conversations like this just day to day, no matter what you do as a marketer, really in any business, so much of it is actually not focused on the customer. And at the end of the day, all growth ultimately comes from understanding and solving a customer's need in a different way. Of course, there's support things that need to happen in order to enable that type of delivery of value, but that's really it. I don't know if you're familiar with the Jobs to Be Done framework, Clayton Christensen, Bob Messa, that type of thing. It's the whole people don't want a six inch drill, they want a 6 cent hole in the wall. For me, having spent a lot of time in agencies and then working in a product business in the FinTech space here in London, it was just such a moment for me because obviously that is the question and the answer to everything. But oftentimes I find particularly with more incumbent businesses and incumbent agencies for that matter, that's not always where things start and end. And that's where I think a lot of lost growth actually comes from. So it doesn't surprise me that that would be your answer given what you've done and the perspective that you have. My follow up question to it would be taking it down a level, how do you deliver that within Smile Direct Club? How do you keep your teams oriented on it? You know, gave that one example. And just real quick, I think the thing that's interesting about that example that I want to expand on briefly is oftentimes, particularly in smaller challenger brands, startups and scale-ups that might not have a CMO with the experience that you oftentimes marketing is advertising or it's visual identity or it's these kind of superficial things. But actually the example you gave heard this from the customer and what you described, setting up that orientation call, that's a product change, marketing delivered product innovation, which I think is a huge opportunity if you're doing it right. I talk a lot about how marketing should be seen as an innovation function within a business, not just a distribution function. Because at the end of the day, marketing is not just about communication, it's the bridge between the product and the customer. So I think that's a really interesting example of how you've done it, but how else are you keeping your teams and your focus budgets strategy focused on the customer within Smile Direct Club?

John: So the two most impactful hours I have every week, and the thing I tell every new team member to do and block off to participate because they're open meetings in our business, is that we have an hour where we watch videos obviously with their permission of customers coming into our smile shops and we edit and go through clips and review what they're saying and what potential objections are they having, all of that and just go through what that journey looks like in great detail. And so that hour and then we have an hour where we listen to the phones, people scheduling people with payment issues, people sales calls where we're basically saying, okay, your treatment plan ready, what's preventing you from going? And we just l and you just listen to what the customers are saying and particularly trying to get to what is their emotional why, what is the reason that person got up scheduled an appointment and showed up in the chair, and how can we make sure when it comes to decision moments that they remember that, hey, the reason you told me you are sitting here is because of whatever you're getting back into the dating game or you're taking control of your health or what have you. And just bringing that back into the conversation is one element, but also we hear lots of objections, lots of concerns that they have, and we're like, Hey, this payment plan may not be working exactly for this type of customer. What can we do about it? And you ask our challenging yourself and asking those questions and that's how you get better.

Eric: Yeah, I love that. And actually my last role as cmo, we were a FinTech business, but we were b2b, we sold into big banks. So we didn't do it weekly, but we did it monthly. We called it dog food meeting. So we all sat down in a room and went online or wherever our brand existed to try to consume it as if we were a customer. And I think that's so important, putting yourself in the customer's shoes, being closer to the customer because actually if you're doing it right, part of the role of marketing is to make an organization more customer centric. I love that tactic. I'm going to put myself out on a limb here, but I have a feeling the answer is going to be yes to this because what you just said, I've seen, I have the benefit of having done, I don't know, 40 of these conversations And then when I was in the FinTech world, I had a FinTech CMO podcast. So a lot talking to a lot of challenger CMOs and also incumbent CMOs and this thing that you're talking about in different shapes and forms, almost everyone who has built a successful disruptive brand does something like this, making their teams spend time listening to watching, understanding the customer on a regular basis, not just on a campaign planning or annual planning or product development type of cycle. The other thing I see them do, and I'm curious, curious whether or not you do this is if you're familiar with the 70 20 10 framework for investment. So 70% goes to tried and true, 20% goes to kind of new and next and 10% is moonshot ideas. Do you have something like that for how you invest your budget or your team's time where they're not only focused on what works, but they're also intentionally and they're kind of forced to do these more 10 x riskier ideas? Do you have something like that?

John: Yeah, I mean, I think w w, we're so young, our business is so young the whole business is eight years from the time that Jordan Katzman, our founder, sent the email to David, who's now our CEO saying, Hey, do you think anybody would do this? Right? We're eight years from that moment. We're only five years in advertising. We learn so much about our business every day, week, month. That completely changes how we want to operate that business. It's probably not 70, 20 10 right now for us. We're still learning. And so we try and test dozens of things at any given moment. We're got four email tests and five tests on the site, and we're trying something else on the phones and versus or in the shops, I mean the number of tests that we have in our business to try to learn what's optimal in terms of creating the experience the customer's going to get the most out of that's a huge part of the culture of the business and so on. I mean, I just want to go back for a second also and just talk a little bit about more how do you get your team to be the customer? My expectation of my leaders and for them to roll down to their teams is, Hey, listen, right? Today for our business, the way people get started is that either order a impression kit where they can do an impression at home or schedule a scan in one of our small shops. And we have about 150 of them globally now. And my expectation is at least on a weekly basis, people are scheduling a scan or once a quarter ordering a kit and doing it. Go through that experience, share that experience, and communicate that to the people who are setting up the kits, who are advertising the kits, who are building up the crm that makes sure that when you haven't returned it, that you are inspired to do so. And passing that kind of information and its personal experience around you get a lot of, when my wife did the kit, blah, blah, blah. That stuff's so amazing that that's an incredible input that helps us make our experiences all the better

Eric: I love that. And I think honestly, if, well, I'm going to ask you this question at the end, what's one thing that people should do differently? But to me, I would already say just this much of the, if you're not doing this already, you need to be. And if you are doing it, find a way to do it 20% more, 50% more, because there's so much opportunity and so many of the answers are within this. So coming back to the kind of 70 20 10, and it doesn't have to be kind of a fixed framework like that, and actually in many cases it's not. But the culture of innovation, the culture of testing, and another way of saying that is kind of the culture of risk taking, which I think sometimes gets a negative connotation to it, but is so important to finding disruptive growth. So why don't we drill down into this TikTok case study, I guess. So the article talks about your success on TikTok and how you are consistently one of the top brands on this platform. So my question is it, it'd be great to hear a little bit about the strategy because I think a lot of the people listening, particularly for B2C businesses looking to reach a younger demographic, I know a lot of your core customers are, that would be interesting. But I think more in general to our conversation about testing, where I want to start is what led you to make such a bet on TikTok? Because I would imagine if you've been this successful, you either would've had to be there earlier or you would've had to invested more, focused more than maybe some of your competition. So kind of culturally, strategically, what led you there? And then more specifically, how have you done it in a way that's been this successful?

John: Yeah, so we've been on TikTok for three and a half years, since the very early days. And it starts by the fact that it's where our customer was. And again, when you listen to your customer, when you talk to your customer regularly, you surveys, you do the research, you just want to be where they are because that's how you're going to be a part of the conversation. And so we started testing into TikTok really early because that's where a really important segment of our customer was. And so had to learn our way into our strategy. So we talked about a lot early on was how do we lean into the creators that are there? And so what we found, and we already had a influencer strategy that was really delivering for our business. And so our first step in was to work with influencers and allow the creators to deliver key messages for us and do things that were frankly native and interesting to the platform and the reasons why they had built up sizable audiences And it was really important to us, this is true all around for us as it relates to spokespeople or influencers, is it had to be really authentic. They have to actually go through treatment, they have to be real customers, they have to be talking about their own experiences. So that authenticity had to be baked in really early. And so really that was kind of the start of it for us. And then two other things kind of happened. One is we're like, okay, how can we take assets that we're creating in other platforms and make them relevant here? And so by way of example, we have a character, deedee, who's our challenger brand voice, if you will. And so we found ways for us to create, I'll call it native friendly content for her. And so built out more branded content with all your Byron Sharpie stuff, with audio mnemonics, and again, having the character, the colors, all that stuff. :And so we built that out and we wanted to do that in a way that felt platform consistent, for lack of a better word. And then finally we also wanted to build up our own organic audience on the platform. And so we turned to a team member who was super interested in this, and actually she's a great story. Her name is Emily. And the Emily's story is she started her experience with customer with Smile Direct Club as a model in our photo shoot for us. So she had never heard of the brand before, but we had hired her as a model. She did a photo shoot with us. She was like, they actually, I'd like to straighten my teeth. So she then straightened her teeth with us, became a customer, loved the experience, and actually applied to be someone that worked for the company, a team member. And now we've got her as a face of the brand out in TikTok, and she is really good, she and her team, and there's a whole set of folks that are paying attention to this stuff are looking for what are some of the trends, what are some of the things that we can insert ourselves into or replicate. And a lot of TikTok, as you know, is this side by side replication. What can we jump in on and make our brand relevant? And she does that for us on a regular basis and does a great job.

Eric: What are some of the other areas that you are investing in very focused on? So it seems like TikTok as a channel has obviously delivered very good results for you. If you take a step back and look at the macro marketing strategy right now, what does that look like for you?

John: Yeah, I mean, I think as a challenger brand, and we're still working on making people aware that there's a better way to straighten your teeth. And so we use our awareness channels like Linear TV and of course even more so connected TV or O T T, whatever you want to call that in a much more targeted way to deliver those awareness oriented messages. And YouTube plays a role for us there also. And then really what the goal for that is, is just get people to the website to educate themselves. And so where Facebook and paid social really sit in that consideration level, they've been to the website, we can retarget 'em, bring them back, take them through a broader story and look to get that lead. Because really the hardest working part of our media isn't really paid media at all. It's crm, right? So once we get that lead, we can take a person through an education journey. :And because of the nature of our customer experience today, there's a lot of places for people to get lost in the process, whether it's insurance or I don't know if I want to do this now or whatever. There's lots of places. And so what CRM can do is just pull a person slowly through the education journey to get them to the place where they're ready to say, all right, I'm ready to go now. And that's between CRM and paid search, which is, it does a lot of the cleanup work for highly interested people. That's what brings people in and gets them to either buy that kit or schedule that scan. And then again, CRM picks it up after that moment again and pulls them through, make sure they show up for an appointment, make sure they return that kit, and that's what 'em ultimately into a set of prescribed aligners from their doctor

Eric: It's interesting just hearing you talk for 30 minutes now, obviously you said it at the beginning being more customer-centric, but even when you haven't said that explicitly, your answers have all been about that. How did you go onto TikTok while you focused on what I would say creating content that was contextual for the platform, understanding what people wanted to see, tapping into influencers that were already speaking to the customer. CRM is that you're talking about how do you actually have a customer-centric focus on what the experience is for someone with your business? And so it's not marketing silo, it's not starting from your perspective and working out to the customer, it's starting from the customer perspective and working in. So I just think that's interesting how it's come across. I just wanted to draw a line under it and I'd love to maybe use that as a springboard to talk about purpose. So it was one of the things I know you and your team wanted to talk about in this conversation, the impact of purpose-driven companies by the consumer. And then while this might not go out for a little while, we just released our research on how challenger brands are using purpose. And so I'd love to just tee that up. What is the impact of purpose-driven companies? What does that mean to Smile Direct Club and how do you think about developing that and executing on that as part of how you're building the brand?

John: Yeah, great. So I got my first taste of really being personally involved in very high purpose work when I was MasterCard. And one of the things I did when I was helping run innovation, we, MasterCard received the first public company grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to go co-fund the lab for Financial inclusion together in Nairobi, Kenya. I mentioned that before. And the job of that was to create net new products that would help get people connected to formal financial systems, which has unbelievable list of benefits once you can get somebody to do that. And so that's one of those things that once you have that experience, once I literally stood in the hills of Kenya and had a 75 year old tea grower with tears in his eyes talking about how he finally believes that he can pass his business to his kids now, because we help them self aggregate how they sell, and the profit margins were there where they hadn't been previously all of a sudden I mean, you get that moment and of you're like, I can't go back to doing something that I don't feel connected to anymore. And that's what I really love about Smile Direct Club is how many times have we heard smiles a window to your soul, or the first thing people notice about you is your smile. And when people come into our shop, and again, we just try to understand why they're there, the stories that they bear are deeply personal. And my child asked me why I never smile in photos or I always laugh like this, or you know, get those stories that are really personal. And if you just look through our before and after page on our website and just say, look at the before picture, look at the after picture, the smile journey that they want on is not the journey. We are part of a much bigger transformation for these people, whether they're taking control of their health or again, going through a divorce, they're headed off to college or some other major transformation. I mean, they often, they're wearing makeup, they c change their hair, the whole life transformations that they're going through. And we're just a part of that. And so knowing that we can help them have the confidence that comes from a smile they love, and the stories that we get back in social media or emails directly to me on a weekly basis are unbelievably moving. My favorite email I send every week is at noon on Mondays, I send an email called Inspired by Y, and it is literally nothing but customer stories that they've given to us, right about how this has transformed them. We had a TV spot that we ran for a good amount of time with a woman named Chimani, and she opened the spot unprovoked by us unscripted. She said, smile Art Club changed my life. How do you not get out of bed for that? So it's what the team members that, what I call Bleed Blurple, which is our corporate color, the people that they literally come in every day and show up for the brand, they feel personally connected to this mission. And to me that that's my favorite part of the job. How do you not get excited about it?

Eric: I thought you said Blurple earlier, but I didn't want to call it out cause I wasn't sure if you misspoke. Okay, so that's good to know. Blurple is the company color. So as a follow up to that, so actually how you're talking about purpose is how we believe businesses should be talking about purpose and what we found in our research customers. Yes, a lot of them want, when you say the term purpose, particularly in the context of a marketing conversation or speaking to marketers, it's ESG, it's environmentally friendly, it's giving back. It's all those things and be curious if there is anything that you're doing. But what we found in our research and try to guide clients in the work that we do is it needs to be not only authentic to who you are, but it needs to be tied to how you make money as a business That's the only place that you can truly claim what your purpose is otherwise. And you see these stories of Unilever mandating top down that every brand, including mayonnaise, needs to have a purpose on how it's saving the world. Yes, that's what customers want, but they want it if it's authentic. So correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's exactly what you're doing, is you're working inside out from your business what it delivers for the customer. Again, being customer centric do you do anything around the environmental, social political, maybe size side of things with your brand purpose as well?

John: So let's just back up. I want to address the other piece, which is the, for me brand purpose means that the usage of your product delivers disproportionate and out outsized benefit to the customer and beyond. But first, it has to start with that disproportional benefit to the customer. And it's a $2,000, the impact that people come back and tell us that it has on their lives are massively outsized right to that. And that's how you can feel purpose. Again, same thing when I was talking about financial inclusion. The benefits of getting connected to formal financial systems are super outsized compared to what we ask of the consumer in that process. And so to me, that's where brand purpose comes from, is you're just delivering disproportionate benefit. As we think about our business, two things. One, we created a foundation, smaller club foundation that obviously focuses on helping people in moments of transition I mentioned before that we're often a part of a person's life transformation when they're moving from one stage to another. And that's exactly what the foundation focuses on. Building programs with key charities that help deliver people programs that when they're in this transition, whether it's going from active military service to civilian life or from an abusive household to independence, then there's a number of other programs that we've built out. And so that foundation really, really focuses on that Smile direct club itself outside of the foundation also has a huge impact. And we're really spending some time now focusing on diversity in dentistry and making sure that existing dental deserts, places where you just can't get access to care that we're solving for that we're seeing underrepresented groups in the dental community enter dental school, enter dental hygienist school. And so we're sponsoring scholarships in that environment as well. And so all of these are areas that are important to our business, and again, our team members can get really excited about because they're having an impact on the communities that we're operating in

Eric: That's amazing. So I feel like we got to 20% of what we said we were going to talk about, but I think that's a sign of a good conversation and hopefully the audience agrees. So we are out of time, but John, just to wrap it up, last question for me that I said I would ask earlier is after listening to this episode, what is one thing that you would recommend people actually do differently in their marketing roles right now?

John: I think it ties back to the most recent conversation, which is I make sure you understand the purpose behind your brand and make sure your team members and your marketing connect your team and your customers to that purpose in an active way. And because that's going to help elevate your brand and help you break through, right? You're not selling a widget, you're selling something much more impactful and important and the benefit that you're providing is disproportionate. I think there's so many brands that don't take the moment to understand what that means, but there's a bunch of great brands that have, by the way. But I do think that as a marketer, you need to understand what that is for your brand and articulate it clearly and make sure everybody, every team member knows it and every customer knows it about your business.

Eric: And I think that's an easy thing to sometimes businesses actually do step back and do a full exercise on that. But I think that's an easy thing to just gloss over almost if you're listening to this. But actually like no press pause, put it on your list, actually sit down and gut check for yourself. How do you deliver? Stack up against this right now? And a little bit of time invested in that on a regular basis. However you want to do it however you want to ritualize it is going to go a long way. So John, thank you. So I really enjoyed this conversation at the very least. You've probably got one new customer out of this in the UK over here at our family. But yeah, thank you so much for making the time. It's great to be connected and really enjoyed it.

John: Eric, thank you so much for your time.

Eric: Take Care.

Scratch is a production of Rival. We are a growth consultancy that builds challenger brands, strategies and capabilities to disrupt categories. If you want to learn more about us, check out If you want to connect with me, email me at or find me on LinkedIn. If you enjoy today's show, please subscribe, share with anyone you think might enjoy it and leave us a review. Thanks for listening and see you next week.

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