Ep. 37 – SmileDirectClub’s huge success on TikTok, Radio Shack goes NSFW, and Here We Flo is focused on purpose AND profit

😄 We had John Sheldon, the CMO of SmileDirectClub on Scratch this week. We’ll be releasing the episode soon, but it was a fascinating conversation. He and the team have done some really interesting things to build a challenger brand in the orthodonture category, taking on the original challenger, Invisalign (which is a $5B company now! Who knew…).

There’s a lot of good stuff in John’s approach, and we’d encourage you to Google him and read a few interviews (as well as check out ours when it’s released of course! But for now we wanted to highlight the strategy and success they’ve had on TikTok.

SmileDirectClub has been rated as one of the most effective brands on TikTok, and they’ve done it with “only” 50k followers to date. Yes, some of their campaigns have “gone viral”, including one where they amassed 1.5B views for their #superlativesmiles TikTok challenge.

But it’s more about the approach they take.

“You really need to be engineered for the TikTok environment, which is one that grabs attention quickly, entertains, creates something worth copying, and then allows people to iterate on your brand.”

It’s a great philosophy, for any channel. But usually it’s the new and emerging channels where we need a reminder that adding value through differentiated, contextual content is what makes effective marketing.

Or as John says “Provide instant value, and make it memorable”.

Read more from and about John and SmileDirectClub

Radio Shack has been making headlines for it’s new and (not?) improved incredibly NSFW Twitter account. Consider yourself warned before you click the link. It’s pushing if not beyond the boundary of what’s funny and what’s just plain gross.

Now, the haters have an obvious case to make with an approach like this. But the lovers will fall back on the old “any press is good press” philosophy. And there’s a certain amount of truth in that. It’s a classic page from the challenger playbook to generate awareness by being provocative. And we do strongly believe that the biggest risk in modern marketing isn’t saying the wrong thing, it’s going unnoticed entirely.

Radio Shack is certainly not going unnoticed…They have 67% of the brand’s total social media mentions in ONE DAY after a particularly spicy tweet a little while back.

So, is it working? Is it a viable strategy? It actually could be, but for us the piece that’s missing is the strategic foundation underneath all the buzz. What’s the message they’re trying to convey? What’s their point of differentiation? Right now it’s just noise…they need more of a signal to go along with it.

They’ve done the hard part – they’ve earned people’s attention. But there isn’t much of a message there, which means many of the impressions they’ve making are less effective.

Read more about how/why they shook things up here

If you’ve been a subscriber for a while, you know we love the team, brand and product behind Riley, the challenger period care business out of Ireland (and we have one of the co-founders on our Scratch episode this week!). But they’re not the only one taking on the incumbents in this space. Check out Here We Flo, another challenger based on this side of the pond who will be expanding into the US soon.

We love this quote from one of their co-founders

“When you say category changer, it’s not enough to say it’s going to be sustainable, biodegradable, or carbon neutral. None of those things matter unless you get a foothold in the mass market”.

That sentiment and strategy lines up with what we believe and have found in our research about brand purpose. Yes, consumers want brands that are driving positive change, but it’s not a silver bullet for growth AND it needs to be tied to the core of the business, not a superficial layer on top of the brand.

Also check out Flo’s recent TV campaign which was rated the UK’s most effective ad in April.

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