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Marketing Mix Podcast with Tina Sharkey

Tina Sharkey explains how Brandless is building a direct-to-consumer brand through experiential marketing and consumer trust

April 24, 2019

Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast is Tina Sharkey, Co-Founder and CEO at Brandless. Tina talks curating experiential marketing popups, generating tri-directional conversations with consumer communities, and keeping costs low with a direct-to-consumer model. Reimagining what it means to be a brand, Tina describes how Brandless is tackling the paradox of choice modern consumers face.

Listen to "Tina Sharkey, Co-Founder & CEO, Brandless" on Spreaker.
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Jeff Ragovin:  What’s the mission and the why behind brandless?

Tina Sharkey: We started Brandless with the intention of trying to do things in a new and efficient way. There was a better way to build a company, express shared values, and build something that truly combined purpose and profit.

We started with the things you reach for every day because we believe that better doesn't need to cost more. It was born from the idea that we were seeing so much rejection of brands. The numbers suggested that not only did millennials not want to buy the products they grew up with, but people who lead a modern lifestyle were also shifting their consumption and behavioral patterns.

If people have lost trust in and are rejecting brands, could we build something new that is rooted in truth, trust, and transparency and intended to serve modern life? Could we reimagine what it means to build a brand - not one that is a trust mark because we say so, but one that becomes a trust mark because it's built alongside the community that it’s there to serve? Could we take some of the costs out of the unnecessary markups of good quality products that are making them inaccessible to most people in the market?  With that, the idea of Brandless was born.

Jeff Ragovin:  Can you tell us about your product expansion since launch?

Tina Sharkey: We just expanded to 500 products. We launched with 110 products 21 months ago. We will probably be at 800 by the end of 2019. We just dropped a whole wellness collection two weeks ago. At the end of January, we launched an earth-friendly baby collection of diapers, organic food, and clean toiletries, as well as a pet collection of pet protein-first snacks, nutritionals, toiletries and accessories. In the next few months, we will be launching many more.

Jeff Ragovin:  The prices of Brandless products are so affordable and competitive. How are you doing this?

Tina Sharkey: At Brandless, we work with an incredible community of partners that we curate and create these products with. We Our direct-to-consumer model tothen ships productsthem directly from our warehouse to the customer so that the customer is not paying for all of the intermediate mark-ups most brands are charging for.

Jeff Ragovin: How are people responding to the pop-ups you have been opening?

Tina Sharkey: We have done two experiential marketing activations - one in Los Angeles, and one in New York City. Most of the people that came were already part of our community, and many were friends of friends or just passersby that have now started to restock their shelves in a Brandless way.

What our experiential marketing activation in we learned in Los Angeles taught us was that people wanted to simply try our products like our $3 Brandless Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and we were almost overthinking it by presenting them with these magnificent recipes. When we went to New York, the experiential marketing componentit was all about trial. We had a Yummy Bar where we offered four different flights of food and we gave people tasting mats so we could collect their feedback. We also had a clean beauty bar where we were educating people on the 400 ingredients you don't want to have in your beauty products while they tried our range. We had a fairtrade coffee bar, a bamboo forest because our toilet tissue is made from sugarcane and bamboo grasses.

We use the experiential marketing pop-ups as an opportunity to be immersive and allow people to understand the intentions behind all the values, curation and selection of all the Brandless products.   

We had an entire kindness and intention station because all of these products add up to the idea that Brandless wants to make sure that everyone in our community receives, shares and scales kindness. We had postcards to write to loved ones, gratitude tags and intention walls for everyone to write on. We made the experiential marketing event a prompt that would help people to start to think about themselves because Brandless is meant to be more about you than it is about us. We don't have any false narrative at Brandless. We will never tell you that our products will make you beautiful because it's our assumption that you already are. Our job is to be transparent with our products and to allow the customer to speak on our behalf.

Jeff Ragovin: Is the Brandless narrative a bi-directional conversation with consumers?

Tina Sharkey: I would say it's tri-directional. Consumers talk to us, we talk to them, and they talk to each other. Consumers talking to each other is the most exciting part of what it means to be Brandless.

Jeff Ragovin: Have you ever thought about opening up a Brandless store in permanent retail space?

Tina Sharkey: That will be a natural outgrowth. We are going to continue to play with IRL (“in real life”) and that might be a popup, meetup, festival or any kind of experiential marketing event found on the roadmap within physical places and spaces. What is important for us right now is to continue to expand into all of the categories found in modern life and continue to curate products that our consumers are asking for while keeping costs low through direct-to-consumer. I think our brick and mortar store will end up being a blend of a cash and carry and showroom because we stock products you want to just pick up and products, like homeware, that you wouldn't necessarily take away with you.

Jeff Ragovin: Brandless in itself is a great brand. Has the name Brandless ever limited your brand marketing freedoms?

Tina Sharkey: We are unapologetically a brand -  we are just reimaging what it means to be one. We don’t believe direct-to-consumer is a channel, we believe it's a relationship. We built the community around Brandless because we want people to live more and brand less and we want people to have their brands be self-expressions of themselves. We are here to share your stories, amplify your insights, and scale kindness by giving you access to extraordinary products with UI and UX that makes them simple and easy to understand. We are trying to create something that is highly curated, high quality yet affordable, that doesn't put the paradox of choice in your lap because so many people today are suffering from the anxiety of too much choice. Our customers say Brandless is not only fun but is also a relaxing and easy purchasing experience.

Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes