On today’s episode, Kunle is joined by Lucas DiPietrantonio, Co-Founder & CEO of Darkroom Agency, a digital marketing firm taking on unique and progressive growth strategies for B2C brands and startups.
Being an entrepreneur and investor in a lot of startups himself, Lucas and his best friend and cofounder, Jackson, started Darkroom Agency. Helping a lot of startups and young brands, Lucas was able to compete with well-established and larger marketing agencies with the understanding that brands and their creatives have a powerful impact on its consumers.
While looking and understanding data is important, what to do with it makes the difference. Darkroom Agency has transformed businesses by looking into each of them with curious and fresh eyes, understanding and solving problems that are unique to each business, to each industry and utilizing technology, not just to ride the waves but to create it.
It’s an interesting episode as you’d hear Kunle and Lucas talk more about new perspectives in marketing, building communities, Lucas’ take on influencer marketing and the era of social media as advertising platforms.
Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:
On this episode, Kunle and Lucas discuss:
Q: What advice would you give yourself five years ago?
A: Don’t worry so much. Go out and execute. I’m an overthinker.
Q: Are you a morning person?
A: No, I’m not.
Q: Are you into sports?
A: Yes. I’m a big Knicks fan.
Q: What two things can’t you live without?
I can’t live without a water bottle so it’s either Hidrate Spark or Cactaki, 1 of the 2. Water, like the beach. Water bottle and water.
Q: What’s been your best mistake to date? By that time, I mean a setback that’s giving the biggest feedback.
A: There are a million hiring mistakes that I’ve made. Going back, we’ve been relegated to direct-to-consumer for the first two years of our existence. It was recently that we recognized the writing on the wall and have had to adapt. That’s been a tough challenge but it’s something that’s made our expertise infinitely more valuable to our clients. That was a tough challenge. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a mistake.
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On this episode, our guest shares his expert tips for optimizing eCommerce growth through enhancing customer retention and customer experience. It’s a great episode you don’t want to miss it.
Welcome to the 2X eCommerce Podcast Show. We have a special guest joining us and his name is Lucas DiPietrantonio, the CEO and Co-founder of Darkroom Agency. Darkroom is a New York-based full-service digital marketing agency focused on helping eCommerce businesses grow through data-driven marketing strategies.
This episode is a deep dive into the importance of leveraging customer data to create a strong community around your brand, particularly through tough economic times. Lucas shares his insight on the value of understanding customer churn and using that information to iterate on your products and improve the overall customer experience. He emphasizes the importance of connecting marketing with product improvements based on customer feedback.
He also discusses the role of influencers and celebrity-led brands in the D2C space because they work with some celebrity-led brands highlighting the potential for accelerated growth rate but also the challenges that may face in terms of sustainability. Lucas shares his thoughts on the power of community building and the need for brands to be diligent in developing a strong community across all touchpoints, both online and offline.
Lucas gives us a glimpse into Darkroom Agency’s approach to working with their clients, emphasizing growth, creative experience, and strong attribution frameworks. He also shares his thoughts on TikTok as an advertising platform and its potential scalability. Stay tuned also for our lightning round where Lucas answers rapid-fire questions on his personal life, professional journey, and the books he’s currently reading. You don’t want to miss this insightful conversation with Lucas as we explore the world of eCommerce marketing and the strategies that can help your business thrive.
Lucas, welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast.
Kunle, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Where are you calling in from? It’s a nice and cozy background there.
This is the podcast setup. I’m calling in from downtown New York in Tribeca.
You guys host a podcast, right?
We do. We haven’t published it yet but we’ve been planning out the season. We’ve had a couple of interesting guests. We’ve had a couple of conversations. That’s why I have this setup, I’ve been investing in the production. We’re getting started on it.
I was on your TikTok and I saw some cutouts from shows you’ve been on. It’s a pleasure to have you. When I presented the opportunity to speak with you guys, it was one of those fast yeses. I like what you do. You come across a height-hot agency. You look like a DTC company when you look at the visuals of UX on your site. Do you want to speak and introduce Darkroom Agency to the readers?
For sure, I’d love to. We are a progressive growth strategy in digital marketing firm. We predominantly operate in the B2C space. A lot of the strategies and growth marketing that we develop for our client is based on how consumers buy today. There have been some pretty tectonic shifts as we move away from the pure-play DTC era to what we’re working with now.
We’ve positioned ourselves to excel in that environment. We’ve been around for over six years. We have over 75 employees worldwide. Most of our clients are challenger consumer brands, high-growth either venture-backed startups, bootstrapped, or legacy brands. We’ve had an opportunity to work with an excellent portfolio of businesses.
It’s great to have you on again. I picked up on your tectonic shift in this space, which we’re going to touch on. Prior to your six years in existence, what is the backstory? Who’s your co-founder? What was your background prior to founding the agency or starting the agency?
I co-founded the company with one of my best friends, Jackson Corey. He’s our Chief Creative Officer and he’s a graphic designer by trade. He is the reason behind our rise as a creative force within the eCommerce space and being able to compete with some of these larger agencies that have more creative firepower than us. Jackson and I started the company over six years ago. Before that, we had collaborated on a number of different startups.
We had a keen interest in commerce, knowledge of the digital space, software development, and eComm. It naturally lent itself to a consulting business. The majority of our early portfolio wasn’t all that impressive but we did have a couple of our first clients, one was a big institution, and then the other was a top-five worldwide entertainer who was building a portfolio of consumer businesses. We had the opportunity to work with him in the early stages of that. The ventures that he ended up launching were some of the fastest-growing consumer ventures in history and that solidified our place in the consumer space and allowed us to scale the agency relatively quickly through COVID.
Was he a New Yorker by any chance?
He’s not a New Yorker. He is a Floridian. I would love to talk more about it.
I’ll do my research. We’re here to talk about growth strategy in 2023. A lot has changed over the years. Even if we go back to COVID, a lot has changed between COVID. Over the COVID period, the iOS updaters launched and people were getting battered. In fact, there are still companies nursing the wounds from the iOS 14 ATT update.
You guys focus a lot on strategy and that is what differentiates you from other agencies. You don’t take action and take instructions essentially. At this point, in the eCommerce growth philosophy, I wouldn’t even say eCommerce, just growth for a consumer brand, what is a perspective on growing? It’s now beyond eCommerce from my perspective but I like to hear yours.
I would agree with that. What we’ve learned is that eCommerce is a great channel, it’s another way of distribution like wholesale, retail, or other avenues. The unit economics during the direct-to-consumer era, which you can categorize by roughly 2008 advent of Facebook ads to 2020, which is iOS 14 and ATT updates, was a period of great year economics on ad platforms. What Facebook revolutionized is the ability to deterministically allocate ad spend and understand what your return is going to be. That was pretty novel for marketers.
Prior to that period, you have what’s called an analog era of advertising or what I like to call the Madison Avenue era of advertising. There was less channel innovation so you have pretty much everyone on the same distribution channels for the most part, TV, print, and potentially there was display. There were a couple of novel forms in the early two 2000s post-internet. For the most part, when you look at the advertising agency’s responsibility, the way that they grew a client account was through the creative campaign, which was the central mode of advertising strategy.
The creative campaign was like a brand awareness play and it was meant to increase brand awareness and grow market share from your competitive set of like-minded businesses. You’re growing mindshare within the customer and ultimately that leads to sales. There wasn’t any deterministic attribution that was happening during that period. You have Facebook. For the past years, you had what’s called an attribution mirage.
Sam Blumenthal, who we had on our pod, has some great pieces about this. Facebook is good at taking credit for purchases online through Pixel because they could prove that someone who purchased a product saw an impression. 100% of the reason they purchased that item was because of Facebook. It didn’t necessarily matter because Facebook could prove it through the ad platform. After the ATT changes, you see that pretty much degrade overnight. A brand that may have been making a 4X return on ad spend all of a sudden was making a 1.5X return on ad spend. All of a sudden, that created a little bit of chaos in terms of how they were going to allocate media spend.
Now what you have is a lot of conflicting information and a lot of confusion on the advertiser’s part in terms of how they should be allocating spend because things aren’t as clear as they once were. I want to put this into perspective. The challenges that brands are having today in terms of allocating spend are the exact same challenges that brands had in the analog era when you were deciding your media mix and you looked at the overall lift on revenue. You didn’t look at your single-channel ROAS.
There are a lot of similarities. The difference today is that all of these brands are pretty much digital-first. COVID accelerated that process so you have a lot of consumers online, they’re on digital platforms, and the innovation cycles are accelerating. It’s harder for purely direct-to-consumer brands to stand out because everyone’s advertising on these platforms. Because of this direct-to-consumer era where aesthetics were everything and brands got pretty sophisticated with their photography, positioning, and the barriers to entry lowered, it’s hard to stand out now. You have to have a unique take. It’s not enough just to look good. It’s a pretty interesting dynamic.
What you’re seeing is like a battle of the brands on digital platforms. It’s not just in the retail storefront anymore, it’s online. These are the types of challenges that we work with our clients on. We’re trying to help them navigate the waters. With the whole D2C echo chamber, they need to recognize that direct-to-consumer as a business model and as an investment thesis is not attractive anymore.
Thank you for letting it all out like the connection between the old-school Madison Avenue and where we are now. Things have improved from what I could see. I’m not buying media at scale, you guys are. With the ad accounts I have access to, 2020 was tough from an attribution standpoint. However, due to the fact that there was excess money in the economy, it wasn’t that bad if you still had strong creatives and a good product or a good brand experience. In 2022, with tools like Triple Whale, they’re giving a better holistic overview of what channels you should put your money in.
When I look at Facebook Ads Manager today, the numbers aren’t that bad. It seems like the AI has found its feet. Maybe this applies to historic accounts, accounts that have had history and lots of data in them. It’s not that bad. I’m not saying it’s a North star from decision-making but the reports are pretty good. With some of what you see on Triple Whale and what you see on your eCommerce platform, unless I’m an outlier, I’d love to hear your insight.
You make some great points. I don’t think things are all that bad. Advertisers and agencies are much more equipped now to impact results and deliver insights to their clients about how customers behave, what product insights we have that we can relate to the brand, and how they should be strategically growing their business based on signal insights from the customer to click away from us. We’re certainly better off and more equipped to steward these businesses and brands today than any brand strategist was back in 1980 or 1960. These platforms are getting a lot more sophisticated.
I’m an investor in Triple Whale, I love that platform. What they’ve done in terms of solving for attribution and providing SMBs in eCommerce businesses and retail businesses in general with a robust toolset to better understand their customers and their advertising challenges is incredible. That’s a valuable resource. Facebook is the most powerful advertising platform in history. I’m not knocking Facebook, I’m saying the game has changed. Brands need to understand that it’s part of the equation. The customer journey has always been complicated, it just hasn’t necessarily been that clear.
Commerce has always been a multi-touch attribution game. You might discover a product on a Facebook ad but then you need to talk to friends and you need to go in-store to see the product. It’s always been multi-touch. As a brand owner, agency owner, or marketer, you need to understand that to provide the best possible customer experience. Marketers, especially agencies, became way too overreliant on single-channel performance.
Prior to Facebook, there was a demand capture error with Google search. Not to say brands don’t exist with Google search but it was what people are searching for and let’s be there. Everybody and their dogs were on it. Facebook came with the opportunity for the first time to generate demand and it was magic. You made a point that I resonated with, which is you have to have a unique take. You can’t just be good anymore. How do you get that unique take? Is this a product play or CX play? A brand like Athletic Greens, how are they cutting through the noise in their strategy?
Athletic Greens does a great job. When they’re doing demand generation or demand capture, they’re demonstrating why they’re the best solution for a problem relatively quickly in such a way that they’re building brand equity and showing value for the product. They’ve dialed in their messaging and it’s showing through the creative. I’ve never worked on Athletic Green so I don’t know how performance is but I know that company has been scaling like crazy. That’s probably a good example of them having a great channel market fit on Facebook too.
For certain categories and certain verticals, it varies from vertical to vertical. One of the challenges that you need to use creative storytelling to overcome is, “Can we convey that we’re the best solution for a given problem that a certain subset of people has that are on that channel?” That’s part of the challenge of the brand and the advertiser. There are other markets where it’s going to be this saturation and competition on these digital channels, it’s become much more of an uphill battle than it used to be.
Take mattresses, it’s a good example. When Casper launched in 2014, they were one of one. Now, how many mattress brands are there? There’s Leesa, Purple, and Nectar. That’s what I mean by this battle of the brands playing out in the digital sphere, in the ether. That problem compounds. That problem is different from industry to industry. If you look at rugs, there are not a lot of direct-to-consumer rug brands.
There’s Ruggable but the other partners predominantly are selling on third-party eCommerce or marketplaces and they’re demonstrating big business there. Those brands have gotten used to demand capture. The ROI isn’t necessarily clear on Facebook where they could be generating a tremendous amount of brand awareness and demand generation for their business, which would filter down into their retail locations and into third-party eCommerce sites. The ROI there isn’t so visible for those brand owners so it’s hard to take that step in the right direction.
If you have any client case studies, please share them. One thing I’m noticing is the fact that brands cutting through the noise are using unique platforms to make noise. If they can afford it, some are channeling their value proposition through people with loud voices, trustworthy voices, and influential voices. Think about performance marketing being a chain on a bike that’s not oiled and the moment that happens, it’s pouring oil on that chain and it starts to move like a cog because they have differentiated.
It risks the fact that other competitors can still use those similar voices and then it gets saturated again. If you look at Athletic Greens with big podcasters, nutrition and fitness influencers, and top-of-the-funnel. When you see the ads, you trust them and you want to convert the ads to match the narrative. I’m wondering, is that part of the strategy with some of the brands you are working with, particularly for brand launch campaigns or even scaling campaigns if there’s a change in initial strategy?
That’s the approach we take with every business. We have a framework at the agency that we deploy for each of our clients. They’re like the guardrails that we use to make sure we’re at least leveraging some scientific process to properly clarify a client’s goals, develop hypotheses, and then eventually go out and test them. The main goal of the framework is to drive the brand a quantum leap forward. People go out to agencies because they’re looking for growth. They’re not looking for just incremental growth, I understand this as an entrepreneur, and they want to take the business forward.
If I’m a 7-figure business, I want to figure out how to get to 8 figures. If I’m an 8-figure business, it’s 9 figures. For some of the nine-figure brands in our portfolio, how do we double the business over this amount of time? How do we get to an acquisition? All executive teams and brand owner owners are thinking about those things. In order to do that, you need a framework that dictates how we’re properly going to run experiments and tests at scale to properly filter through the noise.
With all of these downstream channels, distribution strategies are part of that. What I oftentimes find brands doing is saying, “We need to get on a podcast. We need to get on TikTok. That’s the new thing.” It demonstrates reactiveness and a lack of a cohesive strategy. Ultimately, if you’re a brand owner and you have a dialed-in marketing strategy, you want to be everywhere if possible in the most critical touchpoints, your target consumers, where they’re consuming, where they’re living, and where they’re spending time.
Most of the time, it was easy to go to Facebook and demand capture through Google because they had such a large supply and inventory and reach with prospective audiences. Now, because distribution channels are relatively available to everyone, brand sophistication is up there in terms of digital acquisition strategy. We need to be going to the most critical touchpoints. For Athletic Greens, the podcast has a lift for them but they also are on Facebook so they’re hitting you there too, and they’re also on TikTok.
When you’re a consumer who is in the market for Athletic Greens and you want something that’s relatively good for you and nutrition is quick, we have all brand awareness. You can bring it up in a podcast and they’re now getting free advertising for Athletic Greens. We’ve been talking about it for fifteen minutes. That’s a smart strategy, that’s cohesion, that’s understanding the customer journey, and that’s probably why they’re winning.
I’ll be curious to know your take on the power of influence. We are hearing a lot of people talk about micro-influencers. There have always been celebrities or macro influencers have been there running sales with known D2C brands and offline brands. What is your agency’s take on the best way to utilize influencers and use them to leverage performance output from performance marketing?
At our agency, we’ve had influencer programs. We made an early decision a few years ago as we recognized some of the shifts in the creator economy to merge our acquisition and our creator management service, which is what we call UGC content creation and working with creators. We leveraged the creative value that micro-creators have within the performance program.
The value for us as an agency is in the fact that you can have low-cost distributed content creation efforts from creators that are mostly in market. They are developing creatives that perform best on these ad platforms, which is to say that they are native to the platform, UGC. That’s what’s been performing best for a long time. There still is a place and time for high-fidelity creatives.
I’m very much a proponent of that even though it’s not always necessary. We talked about Ruggable and they do a great example of this. Some of their high-fidelity ads have a place and time. For our agency, we work with a lot of creators. We have a robust function. We’re a creatively driven growth agency and that’s probably one of our biggest value propositions.
When we work with the brand and they come from another growth or eCommerce agency, we can take them a quantum leap forward there. We leverage a bunch of different creators to make that happen. As far as large-scale influencer campaigns, that’s not something that we do. I also think there’s a place and time for that. The market is correcting the ROI on some of those campaigns.
What do you think is the right balance from a creative standpoint? You open up a good-performing meta-advertising campaign. When you look at the creatives, the creative library, what percentage of creatives are now in UGC versus branded or, in your words, high-fidelity creatives?
It depends on the vertical and it depends on the product and the business goals. You’ll see different goals for retail and third-party eCommerce business as you would see for direct-to-consumer business. Direct-to-consumer businesses are over-reliant on conversion-focused campaigns and they’re going to SKU larger towards lower fidelity high performing creative. I’ve seen that time and time again with direct-to-consumer brands and then having the reluctance to invest in high fidelity or high production value creative.
I understand that and that’s part and parcel of what we described before regarding how we’ve been trained as marketers, especially in the D2C era to look at objective attribution ROI. It depends business to business and on the goals of the organization. Athletic Greens is another good example, they have a lot of high production value creative, and it does a good job of demonstrating the value propositions of the product relatively quickly.
With Athletic Greens, for the influencer campaigns, they use native UGC content from trusted voices and then the high-fidelity branded creatives are what they typically run. That’s what I’m being served on my feet, which is interesting.
Are you an Athletic Greens customer? I’m curious.
I’m about to convert. That’s why they’re top of mind. I love their execution. I’ve been having conversations with some CPG brand founders who are trying to figure out their setup. I say, “Look at these guys, look at what they’re doing.” They’ve solved that average order value issue upfront because of the welcome pack they give you, which is worth the value, it’s about $70 something or $69 thereabout, ensuring that their CAC to LTV is healthy.
With performance retention, we’ve spoken about acquisition channels, particularly performance marketing and other above-the-line routes to improving performance. What should brand owners reading this conversation be aware of when it comes to retention marketing? Have the rules changed as they have in media buying, particularly on the Meta platform?
It’s a question of progression and sophistication. These platforms are constantly changing retention. The name of the game has always been providing the best customer experience and brands are doing that in innovative ways now. It’s not just about email or SMS, it’s thinking through, “How can we use that channel to build community?” For brand owners like my council, it would be having an owned email database and a channel where you can consistently communicate with your customers, test new ideas, and go deeper into the segments.
Leverage that to create community is one of the biggest moats that you can build as a brand, especially going through some of these more difficult economic times where you’re seeing some pinch on the consumer side. Go deep into your existing customers and retain them. A lot of brands neglect the channel, they view it as a strict revenue source, which it is, and it’s one of the best for eCommerce businesses. It’s valuable.
One of the toughest things with eCommerce, unless you have a subscription program, is you can never understand when a customer churns, they just go away, and that’s unique to commerce businesses. With other MRR-based businesses, you know when a customer churns and you get the opportunity to understand and discern, “Why did that customer churn? Is it something about the service? What did we do wrong?”
On the consumer side, I see many brands who are not diving into that dataset, their customer file, and understanding it as much as they can to better inform how they should be refactoring and iterating on their products and making them better and how they can be better providing a customer experience to their business and their customers. What we’ve done at the agency is to try to equip our clients with the ability to do that. You do that through a mix of data models that sift through your customer file and all of the different touchpoints and data points.
Triple Whale is doing some of this out of the box in helpful ways. I still think it’s a novelty for brand owners. They’re like, “That’s interesting,” but they don’t do anything with the data. You need to start doing things with the data and moving work forward. It’s time for marketing to have connective tissue to a product and it needs to be a feedback loop. That would be my take on the retention program.
I like the fact that you ended that question with product because it’s often overlooked as an afterthought. Looping what customers are saying with product improvement will surely get them to hang around a lot more, for sure. Speaking about community, I often question the thesis that you build community through email. If I have a database, I’m running a brand, and you’re on my email list and I have three other people, you never know each other.
Community is about social connections and having a singular view in a particular way. Beyond email and SMS, which, to me, are communication channels, either one-to-one or one-to-many, how are best-in-class businesses truly building a community that has social proof and all of the other elements of community at a social level? A lot of people talk about events. For consumer brands, it’s not possible. How are D2C or CPG brands truly building community?
It’s one of those things that every CPG brand wants, they want community, and they don’t know exactly how to go out and create it. There are certainly other experts out there who are more proficient first than I am at building community. It’s not currently a function of the agency, it’s something that we’ve talked about though because it’s becoming vitally important to consumer brands. With that in mind, there are some great tools that are currently being built in the commerce space to help businesses locate their evangelists and better galvanize and aggregate them to create a community.
It’s one of those things where if certain brands do it well, it accelerates their growth. It’s like the analogy that you were giving regarding performance marketing but if you have that community, you have these network effects that multiply and they become a ma a crazy asset for a lot of these. Some of our most successful clients at the agency had this organic growth that was something that the founder did and it was part of their DNA. They had word-of-mouth effects that helped in the growth of the company.
It starts with the founding team. It’s not one of those things where you hire a community manager and it’s like, “Let’s get on socials. Let’s build community.” You need to be diligent about it. There’s an interesting brand here in New York, I did a panel with them, called Bandit Running. It’s a direct-to-consumer running brand and they make apparel for people who are diehard runners. That is a community-driven brand through and through. They do events and popups. Their customers are contributing to the growth of the brand, they’re actively involved.
I would challenge that. Building community is in all touchpoints now, it’s in socials and real life. On the retention channels, I agree with you, retention isn’t necessarily where it starts but those customers that are your best customers are judging you on every single communication that comes from the inbox. That’s where you need to be careful as a brand owner not just to please the next customer that comes through the door.
Depending on how old your business is, how many impressions, and how much reach you’ve had, that customer probably has the least propensity to buy and repurchase your product over time and has a higher CLV because of the law of crappy cohorts and how things degrade over time than the first customer who purchased your product and was your beachhead customer. You need to be thinking about the first customer you acquired and the next customer that you’re going to acquire with each of those communications.
If you look at the micro-trends in DTC, these outlier winners have been Kylie Cosmetics. We also have the KSI and Logan brand, Prime. They seem to be influencer-led and these guys already have community with them and they’re instructing their community members or their tribe members to support them. They’re doing it in drones and growing these super rocket-fueled businesses. I don’t know how sustainable they are. Does it wane as their fame wanes? I don’t know. Should D2C businesses take influencers and build that? I know it’s not within the scope but it seems like these guys are cutting through the noise and you’re still seeing success stories despite all the headwinds.
They have unfair advantages, for sure. Celebrities launching consumer brands is nothing novel. People have been doing that since they had influence and had any pull. If you’re a brand founder and you have the opportunity to launch a brand with a celebrity, it accelerates your growth rate. There are no two ways about it. It’s a small percentage of people that are able to do that and they’re probably not getting the lion’s share of the equity. That’s a great situation to be a part of.
As an agency, we’ve been a part of some of the fastest-growing celebrity brands that we’ve launched. We’re doing another one here with another top-five entertainer in the world. The growth rates of those businesses are insane, 0 to $75 million, $100 million in a year. Those are great opportunities. By and large, the majority of entrepreneurs out there are going to need to cut their teeth and figure out how to grow without being able to pay an influencer $300,000, which is what these large entertainers expect for not a lot of lift on their business.
They’re going to need to figure out how to do it organically. That community building is different than a celebrity tapping into the 300 million fans that they already have on Instagram and saying, “Go buy this product because I’m behind it.” To put a pin in that, some of those celebrity ventures fail. I don’t know if this is a fact yet but Josh Richards’s Ani Energy, that consumer brand is not a thing anymore.
When you have someone like Logan Paul launching Prime and you have a good business team behind it, I’m not sure what their infrastructure looks like, you got good unit economics, and the brand is grown in the proper way, those can be highly successful consumer enterprises. That community is different. Even these celebrity brands that we’re launching, they’re not just D2C. They’re talking about Amazon. Prime, I’m pretty sure, is on Amazon. There are other ones that are on Amazon and then they move into retail relatively quickly. Prime is definitely in retail. They are where consumers are buying those products.
You mentioned Amazon. What is your take on Amazon?
It’s a tremendous revenue opportunity for businesses and it has been for a while. People love buying on Amazon, they have a great customer experience. I’ve used Amazon a lot. It’s meeting your customer where they’re at and where they like to make purchases. If your brand fits in that category, it makes sense.
Speaking of control, conversion rates optimization, and landing pages, where are you driving traffic, particularly traffic you buy from social platforms or traffic that’s directed by creators you work with if that’s part of your piece? Are you driving them to product pages, categories, collection pages, or uniquely crafted landing pages built out for conversions?
In all of our engagement structures, we build teams for our clients. Those teams usually include some element of creative and a design team. The design team executes ad units, landing pages, email designs, and other downstream communications that make sense for the business and the type of work that we’re doing for them. By and large, most brands that come to us are driving traffic to the PDP homepage. It varies from category to category and the type of product and promotion that’s happening. Some brands have dabbled with landing pages.
There was a huge fad for businesses to run to LPs and brands were throwing things out there and the LPs did not make sense or didn’t convert as well as the PDP. We work through why that is with certain clients. Ideally, what we want to do is optimize the PDP for conversions, optimize the homepage for conversions and better customer experience, and then use landing pages for certain products that make a lot of sense. Maybe their specialty products or bundles for certain promotional periods and other moments that make sense or have an offer related to it.
Our design team is equipped to work through that and make sure that those LPs are an integrated part of a larger customer journey. We’re not just throwing out an LP. It’s another one of those tactics. We need TikTok, we need podcasts, and we need landing pages. We need to think about it from a cohesive perspective and take a bit of a 20,000-foot view approach.
As you said, follow the data. If PDPs are converting, why not? We’re going to wrap this up with metrics. What are your go-to metrics for measuring, managing, and reporting growth and scale? What should brands be focusing on?
Every brand has different objectives but the majority of them are looking at EBITDA, revenue growth, and marketing efficiency ratio. Spend is a function of some of those. We usually start with EBITDA. What are your goals for the business? Most businesses are run by a founder, they have an executive board, and there is a goal at the end of the road and it’s either to make more money or sell the business. Those are both functions of profitability.
Let’s say a brand approaches you guys and you realize that, from a visual perspective, they’re not quite there. What do you do? Do you still try and engage with them or do you tell them a half-truth or do you try and get them to up their presentation and brand? Is it brand first all the time or performance?
It depends on the business. Ultimately, we always look at growth first.We’re looking at the business from a financial lens. Creative is always a part of that equation. We opt for growth but if we can grow and elevate the creative experience, ideally, that translates to revenue. A large part of what we do at the agency is to try and quantify that and measure it because it’s been art versus science forever but these things work together.
There’s a reason why you have great creatives and people resonate with that. We’re trying to quantify that. What we tell clients is it’s always from a growth perspective. A business is a good business and it has growth potential and they’re under-indexing on brand or on creative, there’s al almost always a huge opportunity there to build brand as an asset on their balance sheet. That’s where some exciting things happen.
What are your thoughts on TikTok as an advertising platform? Is it scalable in its current form?
We’ve had a good scale with TikTok. It’s part of the normal marketing mix for our clients. It’s important to have a rigid attribution framework in order to quantify how successful the platform is. That’s important at first.The consumer journey now is pretty multi-touch and it always has been. TikTok is going through some headwinds with this potential ban. It’s a great platform. The amount of people spending time on the platform and discovering products, you can’t argue with it.
Unique insights from you. Thank you. Before I let you go, we have a lightning round where I’m going to ask you about 6 or 7 questions. If you could use a single sentence to answer them, you’d be okay.
What advice would you give yourself five years ago?
Don’t worry so much. Go out and execute. I’m an overthinker.
Are you a morning person?
No, I’m not.
Are you into sports?
Yes. I’m a big Knicks fan.
I take it that the Knicks are your favorite team then.
Yeah, and the NBA, for sure.
What two things can’t you live without?
I’ll plug a product. I can’t live without a water bottle so it’s either Hidrate Spark or Cactaki, 1 of the 2. Water, like the beach. Water bottle and water.
What book are you currently reading or listening to?
The final question is, what’s been your best mistake to date? By that time, I mean a setback that’s giving the biggest feedback.
There are a million hiring mistakes that I’ve made. Going back, we’ve been relegated to direct-to-consumer for the first two years of our existence. It was recently that we recognized the writing on the wall and have had to adapt. That’s been a tough challenge but it’s something that’s made our expertise infinitely more valuable to our clients. That was a tough challenge. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a mistake.
You learn from it. Lucas, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the 2X eCommerce Podcast show. For those people who want to find out more about what you guys do, it’s DarkroomAgency.com. You’re active on most social networks. I could see LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. How about you personally? Are you professionally active on any social media platforms?