How to Launch Your DTC Brand with Creators and Influencers

Josh Zhang
April 20, 2022

Traditionally, the ancient AIDA marketing funnel is divided into 4 pieces: awareness, interest, desire, and action. The more modern-day funnel is broken into 3 parts: top-of-funnel (TOFU), middle-of-funnel (MOFU), and bottom-of-funnel (BOFU).

In my opinion, the real funnel starts with the first time someone sees an ad. It continues when that consumer purchases, engages with customer service (if applicable), and then hopefully makes a repeat purchase.

Your launch marketing efforts should involve creators and influencers to effectively reach your end-consumer through various initiatives. In this post, I'll walk you through everything you need to know about working with creators and influencers during your launch.

When should I engage creators and influencers?

Ideally, you should work with creators and influencers in the first part of the funnel to bring a mass number of eyeballs to your brand, product, or solution. If you tried a product for the first time and then saw someone else you follow using it (which makes for extra social proof), you're a lot more likely to re-purchase or order again.

A partnership with influencers and creators can be useful at any time because it creates another form of validation and social proof. However, for the purpose of launching a brand, it's a fast way to get eyeballs on what you're doing. This is especially effective if the creator loves the brand/product and can get behind it in a more meaningful way than what I call the "Zombie Bottle Selfie" like in this example.

For a product launch, you want to ensure that the influencers create authentic content that fully explains your new brand on their social media. You want them to be into it. Have them explain why they use the product, how they use it, what their previous issue was that your problem solves and how your product is effective.

If the content is more authentic and resonates with their following, this can be an incredibly lucrative form of advertising that highlights your brand values and ultimately lowers your customer acquisition costs.

Here are a few good examples:

You can see each one tells a fun story, and if they are organic posts, they relate to their audiences too.

Who should you go after?

This question becomes something that can be specific to your business. If we're speaking broadly for CPG brands, I would bet on YouTubers every single time.

Why YouTubers? For starters, they have built a following because they are especially great at speaking directly into the camera and telling a story. In most cases, they also have large followings because people follow them for their personalities at their core, not just because they take scandalous pictures for Instagram or are good with posting skits on TikTok.

YouTubers also out-sell non-YouTubers when it comes to merch. Danny Duncan and NELK are two examples of YouTubers who sell well over 8-figures per year in merchandise—all because people relate to them better. This is an ongoing trend that shows how creators and influencers are connecting with their fans over the internet, fostering loyalty, and working with retail partners and consumer brands to sell products.

It's similar to podcasters (think Call Her Daddy). You get to see the true, vulnerable, and "normal" side of their lives—not just the post-glam or red carpet life. People follow people who are relatable.

When in doubt, YouTubers are great storytellers, and historically move the most product, compared to other channels.

What should you send?

If you're working with a roster of creators for a new launch, you want to make sure you're really milking every second you're in front of their audience. Through the creators, you are speaking directly to your end customers.

You'll want to motivate them with engaging content and a compelling case made by the creator to purchase your product. Shoppers should be eagerly searching for your e-commerce site or running to the nearest traditional retail store to get your product after they see the content.

My favorite brand that did this was Haus, mainly because they didn't do anything special, but they went above and beyond with their standard packaging. The unboxing itself became their biggest driver of customer acquisition for the first year the company was live.

My recommendation is to try to go above and beyond with your own kits. Think through everything from the packing tape on the outside box to how the box looks when you open it up. Consider the following questions when designing your kit:

  • What does it say?
  • What colors are there?
  • Does it catch your eye?
  • Is there something to make someone really excited about what they're getting?
  • Is it clear how to use the product they received?
  • Is there anything they need to know?

Beyond unboxing, there is so much opportunity even after purchase to still make an impact with all the things I mentioned above. Take advantage of it.

When should you send the product?

The biggest impact from influencers and creators happens at the launch of the brand, a new collection, or a new product. Sometimes, people forget that you need to ALWAYS make sure you're paying attention to your creators.

It's like any good relationship. It's a two-way street. If you're not putting in the effort, you can't expect them to be putting it in either.

If you sell cookware and see a creator is moving, hook them up with a new set of pots and pans. The cost to you is just the cost-of-goods (COGs), and that $100 to you will have the highest ROI you could ever imagine. Trust me.

You can also use these components of an influencer campaign in a funny way. I remember when I saw Sara Dietschy (a tech YouTuber) drinking La Croix (pronounced Le-Crap), I sent her 108 bottles of hint. It made it into her video and was the beginning of a very fruitful (pun intended) relationship between Hint and Sara. You can probably tell Sara and I have become close friends thanks to water and how much I mention her, but it's my favorite example.

How do I make sure creators do it right?

The delivery of this entire process is the hardest part. You want to make sure that if someone is talking or advocating for your product, they highlight your main value props. However, you need to give them enough creative freedom to do it in the way they want to do it.

I can't tell you how many times I talk to creators and their biggest frustration is getting a deck of how they need to talk, look, act, etc. They're the creator, let them create!

By allowing them to authentically post about your product on their blog or platform, they can play an important role in your overarching DTC strategy.

Success with creators and influencers

Working with creators and influencers can be one of many essential tactics in driving more buyers to your online store (no matter what eCommerce platform you're using).

The campaigns they execute for you don't have to have the same complexity and formality as your email marketing, Facebook ads, or SEO. Instead, these campaigns may come off as more authentic and lucrative to any business with a consumer model. With influencers and creators as partners, you can begin to create a better customer experience for your brand.

By working with these creators, influencers, and online celebrities, you're to share your product with the world, gather product research and customer feedback, drive sales, and ultimately grow your business in an effective way.