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Welcome back to another episode of the eCommerce Playbook Podcast! In today's episode, we're diving deep into the fascinating journey of Loop Earplugs (GQ score of 148), a brand that has not only disrupted the earplug industry but has also redefined how we perceive hearing protection.

Join us as we sit down with Dimitri O, one of the co-founders of Loop Earplugs, for a conversation on their remarkable evolution and strategic pivots.

Show Notes:
  • The Ecommerce Playbook mailbag is open — email us at to ask us any questions you might have about the world of ecomm.

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[00:00:00] Taylor Holiday: Welcome back to another episode of the e commerce playbook podcast, where we are dissecting the GQ giants to understand what makes eight figure brands profitable and growing and special. And today I gotta say, I have my marketing man crush with me today. I have been watching this brand for a long time before they even knew I was watching.

And there's so many things about this gentleman in this business that are incredibly compelling. And I'm excited today to be joined by Dimitri O, One of the co founders of loop earplugs. How are you, sir?

[00:00:31] Dimitri O: Super good. They are very happy to 

[00:00:33] Taylor Holiday: So I I'm doing well, man. I gotta say every time I see you or Martin, who's your co founder you guys are in. Beautiful spaces. You've got great looking sweaters on. You're always on top of your stuff. So happy to have you here today, sir. And to talk a little bit of marketing for those that don't know, because you guys are one of those like hidden secrets of our industry that I don't think people have any idea, the kind of business that you're running.

Tell us a little bit about who is loop earplugs.

[00:00:59] Dimitri O: A loop earplugs.

is a brand that Martin and I started back in 2016, actually started selling in 20, 2018. And we initially set out to try and basically remove entirely from this planet hearing damage because of loud noise Going through COVID, we expanded that a little bit and we evolved our vision and our mission to basically give everyone the freedom to control what the world sounds like.

I like to compare it to the sunglasses of your ears. Whenever the sun shines in your eyes a little bit too bright, bright, and it's bothering you, you're going to put on your sunglasses without even thinking twice about that. We want to do the same thing when noise is bothering you. 

[00:01:38] Taylor Holiday: There it is. There is what you'll see is the gift of this gentleman. The ability to succinctly and clearly communicate a value proposition in a way that makes total sense. But so I became aware of loops. So I'm going to sell this story before I met Demetria Martin. We have this creative framework that we call offer audience angle.

And we're always trying to teach people how you need to have continuity of messaging from your ad to the landing page, to the way the product's experienced so that people understand that this product is uniquely for them. And I don't even remember exactly how it happened. I don't how I came across you guys, but right after COVID, and I'd love you to take us through this journey, because I think you guys made a pretty big switch in terms of the positioning of the product, but I found this series of ads and landers.

There were. All the same product, but uniquely messaged to these different demographics of people with different hearing related issues. This was motorcycle riders to parents of children, to people with noise sensitivity, to concert go, like there was all these different ways that the same product was uniquely message.

And you had this, I don't know if you remember this landing page, but it was like the same template. And there was like a, a graph that showed the noise level. And they were just like, each one had a different variation relative to the problem. And it was just, Brilliant from the ads, the lander was just this perfect sequence.

And I used to show it in admission. I would like walk through these funnels that you had designed. But that's not where you guys started out, right. Was across all these different audiences. You were solving a very specific problem before COVID, right?

[00:03:04] Dimitri O: Exactly. Exactly. Loop started from a passion and a frustration that Magda and I share we both like festivals, concerts, clubbing, motor racing motorcycling, all of these. For one or some reason, all our favorite hobbies are loud, and as a consequence, both Maarten and I have hearing damage. This happened over 10 years ago.

And at the moment that we had that constant buzzing sound in our ears, we started looking around. Okay. What, why is this happening? What are solutions? Obviously you need to wear a earplugs. So we basically tried everything that we could find on the market and we absolutely hated these products.

Generally speaking, they weren't sounding right, especially not in a nightlife context where you want to. Basically enjoy the music and dance and have fun and have a conversation with people around. And then these foam is that you typically see that are made for industrial use and sleeping. It just doesn't make sense.

It completely ruins the experience. Same with comforts. You have a one size fits all approach in a traditional earplug market. Whereas if you look at your phones, you're going to find an extra small to a large included in them, which obviously is super logical because people are Ears can be very different in size and in and in shape.

And last but not least we absolutely hated the way that they looked. You're young, you dress up, you want to be sociable. The last thing that you want is having social barriers sticking out of your ears. So basically we set out in the beginning, okay, let's redefine what an earplug should sound, look, and feel like.

And that was the entire value proposition that Lou brought. It was just one product, one one audience being hearing protection for nightlife. That was really protect your ears in style. That was a tagline of the brand. That was what we're all about. And we started selling in 2018, which was which was relatively nice.

We did four and a half thousand sets sold that that year, very small to what we do today, obviously, but it was a good start for us. And then in 2019, we scaled that to tenfold of that number, more or less. And back in 2020, we were ready to really scale the business. We're both in DTC channels and in retail.

Everything was going great. We were hiring our first people. We're talking to some investors, not that we needed them on the unit economic side, but we wanted to invest more in people basically. So we could grow the team a little bit faster and accelerate our our growth. And then came COVID. And with COVID a very clear thing happened was that lockdowns happened and with lockdowns, nightlife was gone.

And so basically, although we had product market fit, our market was gone from one day to another. So for us, that was a moment where you typically see the advice towards startups. Like you have to have hyper focused and I think it makes a lot of sense and it helped definitely a scale in the beginning of being so focused on that nightlife perspective.

The moment that your market disappear from one day to another, that's an issue. And so back in that moment, we made two strategic decisions. The first one was that we stopped everything retail related. We loved direct to consumer. We loved having that direct relationship with our customers, understanding them, knowing what to do better, having control of our value proposition, our pricing, our promotion, basically everything.

And the second part was that obviously we need to find another market. And what we did back then was a series of initiatives where we did some brainstorming of our own. We came up with 46 different use cases of which Instances can people potentially use earplugs and then we match them with the product that we have and where do we see a potential fit?

And now we, we basically went through all the reviews that we had and what are people telling us? Why are they using, or when are they using our product? Why, why do they appreciate them? We send out a survey, whatever one we set up a couple of interviews. So basically we did in a week's time, an entire an entire series of surveys To gather a short list of 10 to 15 use case where, where we thought, okay.

The product that we have today is a good chance that people might appreciate it here as well. And there's a couple of use cases where we see some really common grounds, but also some tweaks that the market's already asking for products. Very clearly, some people were sleeping with our earplugs. Because they were comfortable because they, they look nice, but they weren't reducing the noise enough, which makes a lot of sense because they were developed for nightlife for hearing the music as clearly as possibly can be just taking off the edge.

So there, we clearly had the product definition ready for a second product that we're developing in the meantime. And I think this is the face where you must have have found our our brand. Somewhere in the summer of 2020 where we tested, indeed, I think we had more than 40 different funnels on top of that.

We did the full price testing as well. Back then we were selling at I think it was the 30 price point. We test 20, 25, 30, 35, and the price elasticity basically was one ruler. Every increase of 5 was a 40 percent difference in conversion rate. So during a couple of months, we truly tested that true and true.

We looked at what the reviews were telling us. We launched quiet in October and basically that is what really got us through through that yeah, I can say quite difficult period in the six to eight months after, 

[00:08:20] Taylor Holiday: Well, it's, it's interesting. Cause do you think it's fair then to say that the process of exploring all those other audiences actually unlocked a bigger business potential for you? At the end of that,

[00:08:32] Dimitri O: I, yeah, I think it's fair to say, and I think it did it was difficult for us back in 2020, but as we were having this conversation with the customers, it became more and more apparent that people don't only use earplugs for protection, but also for control. over noise. And I think we all have use cases that are going to be super recognizable.

I already mentioned sleeping, but the same happens in, in open offices where people wear headphones, noise canceling headphones without any music playing. That is just because they want silence. They know that noise is going to destroy their focus. And so there also is just basically having the ability to control what the noise does.

And by having. Testing all these audience in a very intensive way, having them all put together. It's sort of aligned all the stars on that inside of saying, like, it's not just about protecting ears in style. It's actually allowing everyone to live life by their volume. And so that,

was what became the tagline as well.

Your life, your volume and an admission statement around empowering everyone to choose 

[00:09:38] Taylor Holiday: it's so good. I think it's one of those moments that you know, whatever the saying is that struggles, the mother of innovation or whatever the phrase is. But I see this happen to a lot of brands where they find some angle and they get locked into this rut. Where they're constantly just trying to plow that single idea.

And that often there's actually needs to be this forced expansion into other audience and problems that you could solve with the same product that allows for the next stage of growth. I was just talking to Alejandro, who's a friend of mine that runs a Denim company that was forever was men's denim.

And every time they tried to expand into a separate product category, they would struggle because in the short term, if you're driving optimization is around ROAS or efficiency, that new thing is likely going to be at a short term cost all the time. And so you'll actually really commit to that sort of expansion or idea.

And so I wonder for you now, as you think about all these audience demos, how do you think about how. Rigorously, you serve all of them, or is it just like the money goes to the winner? Or do you think about a commitment to each of the different types? Do they have value to your business in some way beyond their short term ROAS?

Like, how do you think about serving all those communities now in the different use cases?

[00:10:47] Dimitri O: It's it's important and you emphasize the now because it's something that changed over time in, in the first couple of years were very, very much row is driven right away. Just like let the algorithm surf wherever the row is is the highest that goes. And that didn't only go for use cases. It also went for regions.

From, from day one, we optimized our packaging that it was super small. It's less than two centimeters. Not sure what that's in American standards, but really small. It fits into a, into a letterbox. Which meant that we didn't need to use package services, but postal services. So basically shipping throughout the world was was relatively cheap.

We made this the choice from day one you notice by my accent, I'm not American. I'm European. I'm based in Belgium. We speak Dutch and French here in Belgium, not English, but you will not find a Dutch and a French website of loop from day one. We chose to go English. So combining these choices allowed us basically to have the global The literally the entire globe is our playing playing field and combining that with letting the algorithms optimized maximally to performance basically allowed us to mostly grow in, in North America.

  1. S. is our biggest markets, then UK, Canada and Australia basically filled that top top four and that is definitely one of the choices that we that we make. Going a little bit further into the development and more going into where we are now, it becomes a little bit more strategic on where we are spending, because obviously as you expand into, into different channels, different touch points, you're going to see that they're going to influence each other.

And so to make sure that we still find that optimum, we are aligning a little bit more on where we spend, which audience we spend, how we negotiate and select partnerships to amplify our efforts over there. So as we grow, The, let's say the marketing mix becomes a little bit more complex and a little bit more targeted towards very specific use cases where today we pick only four ish, we have a lot of super exciting use cases that are still waiting for us, but we have at the same time, some of the growth in where we are at the moment that we focus on these first before expand

[00:13:00] Taylor Holiday: So one of my favorite things about. This role I get to play in these conversations is the dichotomy of what makes brands succeed. So last week I had Alan Doan, who is one of the founders of the Missouri Star Quilt Company. And if you go look at their revenue in the month of March, 90%, 90 percent of their revenue comes from existing customers.

If I look at your revenue, it's almost the opposite, right? The one thing about earplugs is that it's not a massively high LTV category. You guys have a durable product. It's high quality. It lasts. So when people buy them, they don't necessarily need a ton more frequently. So you guys had to develop this evolutionary skill of acquisition.

Where every month you have an incredibly hard job, which is you have to go find all new customers every single month. And so I watch brands sort of evolve these skills relative to who they are. And Alan, when he talks, it's all about community and nurturing the existing customers and That cause that's, that's where all the revenue sits in their business.

Right. Whereas for you guys, so much of your tactical excellence. And this is why I think this is like, like you, you're very similar to Ridge wallets. I don't know if you know the guys over there where the same kind of problem is you develop this immense skill around acquisition. So I'm curious, like, were you guys consciously aware that that was the.

Sort of genetic reality that LTV was not going to be a big part of it, that you were going to have to become great at this part of it. Like how, and how has that informed your skill development and focus as a marketer?

[00:14:24] Dimitri O: In hindsight I would love to say that yes, it was a very strategic and deliberate choice. And we're very aware if I'm being more honest I don't think that in the first stages of the business, we weren't really reflecting on that. As you mentioned, indeed, our products are very durable and very deliberate.

That they are like that. It was in fact, the reaction against throwaway foam is earplugs that made his go absolutely for the durable durable route. So from day one, we are, well, by definition, when you are a startup, you have full focus on acquisition. The fact that we had a, I think what, what's, what's its loop apart from a lot of different businesses, both in and outside our category is that we, that we succeeded in touching a core issue for a lot of people that they weren't aware of.

Not a lot of people are aware of what the impact is of noise on how they feel, how they act, how they think. And for those that are aware, very little, they know that there's actually nice solutions out there. And that was. What our narrative basically was to all of our prospects. And this is something what paid social does really well.

It was a lot of demand creation that we did, especially in the first two or three years right now, it's, it's, it's shifting a little bit more about like getting more in balance between demand generation and demand demand creation. But from the capture, I mean, but from the start, it was very much demand generation.

And with that comes social media skills and creative. Skills and basically understanding your audience and working with the life force eight and making sure that you experiment on all of these elements. And I, and so I think that that that truly experimental and I'm not talking about, like, should be a blue button or red button, but what is the angle and what is the visual that comes with it?

What is the entire narrative that we're telling and how can we get that consistently through the, through the journeys is something that we had to 

[00:16:27] Taylor Holiday: So you mentioned this, the sort of the, the five stages of problem awareness, you know, you have heard that like the unaware problem aware, solution aware. Have you heard of this framework? Yeah. Yeah. I'd be curious, like now in this journey, like. Do you think you are at the stage where you are primarily educating people about a solution to the problem that they're conscious of?

Or do you think you're now at a phase where you're actually helping people become conscious of a problem that they are, they didn't really know how to name, they were experiencing, but didn't know how to name it. Like, where are you guys at in that life cycle of messaging? Do you think?

[00:17:02] Dimitri O: It's a tricky question and I think it very much depends on where we are region wise, I mean, and what use case we're looking at. I'm going to give you one concrete example. We have a partnership here in Belgium with Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland being a In my book, the best festival EDM related in in the world.

Fantastic partnership, big, big name here in Belgium. And through that collaboration within the space of nightlife in Belgium, we have as good as maximum brand awareness and, and, and everyone knows what we stand for. It's been picked up in, in PR quite kind of, we have nothing to grow there anymore. So it's pure about, okay.

You know, that's going to be an issue. We have the right solution. You know, we are the right solution. That's converging still remains that what I don't have exact numbers, but three, four, five, maybe maximum 10 percent of people that go to the festival effectively wear hearing protection, our products or others.

So there it's still people know about the solution, but are they really super constant consider considering what the real impact is of the problem. Not so much, whereas in the U S for example, the use case of nightlife is way smaller, even than in Belgium, the awareness of like, there's something that you need to do.

And there is a product that actually solves all your problems really well. It's less apparent, but influencer marketing in the mental health space. It's much more common. And there we see, for example, that in the neurodivergent community, I think we sort of spoken to everyone. So it's very different on which community, which region, which use case, where we are with the, with problem.

Whereas That said, and I would love to get your idea on, on that concept. We've, we've had quite a lot of discussion internally as well, as in like, okay, this, this direct conversion marketing, how does it actually work? And people, they see an ad and they convert right away. We apply a low average order value.

So we're an impulse buy, but when we, when we ask in our post purchase surveys, like When was the first time that you saw us? Why are you buying today? Who recommend you? What did you consider? Well, how many times have you seen us? You actually see that an impulse buy that a lot of people have known us for, for weeks and months, even, and that word of mouth is a huge driver and influencer marketing is a huge, huge driver.

Although direct attribution is going to tell you a completely different story and where I, and then I'm going to shut up and you can comment on that. Where the thing that, That's always in the back of my mind is that we look at conversions, right? We have a conversion rate at let's calculate easily 5%, which means that for every conversion that you do, you have 20 people that clicked.

You have a click through rate of, again, let's calculate easily of 1%, which means that for every click that you have, you have a hundred people that saw you. So basically for that one conversion, 2000 people saw your ad. And obviously these metrics are not 5 percent and 1 percent on click through rate and conversion rate.

So it's a multiple five, 10, 000 people have seen your ad for that one person that converts. And so it's typically not, I believe that top of funnel, middle funnel, bottom of funnel, very linearly. Okay. But it's spaghetti where all these touch points come across. And so you fuel all the different angles throughout each other.

The algorithm do their thing. And ultimately that is how these traditional six, seven, eight touch point that you need for a conversion 

[00:20:32] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, no, I totally agree. I think the way I would frame it is that buying can be an impulse decision. For a consideration I've been having as a portion of my brain for a very long time, and I'll give you an example for me, like, so my wife wears earplugs when she sleeps. Okay. That's been a part of our marriage for 12 years.

I've watched her do this perpetually. I've never bought the earplugs for her. But very recently this past Christmas, when I was building her stocking and I was thinking about all the things that she might. Want in there, I thought to myself, Oh, you know, it would be kind of cool. Some nice earplugs.

And that was an impulse related to a moment of buying that I was engaged in, where I was consciously aware of your product for a very long time and added it in at that moment. So I suddenly become in market in a way that changes my state as a consumer. That changes the way I engage with the content suddenly, and that can appear sudden that might show up on a seven day click window.

It might even show up on a one day click window that feels bottom of funnel in some way, but the reality is there was so much work to your point, the spaghetti surrounding human relationships to seeing ads, the things that would contribute to actually reaching a moment of necessity or desire to make an action.

And I think that's the reality of a lot of this. I call it tilling up the soil, right? I want the experience to be that when you see my ad, it's being reinforced by all these other experiences you've had of me in a positive way. It's such that when you do become in market or ready to make an action, I'm present in that moment.

Yeah. And now that's, that's hard because, and this is the next thing I think that would be interesting is that you guys have a pretty diverse media mix in terms of the channels that you're in between Snapchat and Tik TOK and Google and Facebook, and I see this a lot for brands that have to constantly forage for new audience where they're, All always in this expansionary land grab, because they need new customers constantly is that it's very hard to do that in one place, like that very quickly exhausts itself.

Even something as big as meta, when you have to scale at the level that you guys are, it becomes challenging to consistently reach that next incremental customer profitably in the same place. So tell me about how you think about channels and where you guys are at in that journey and how all these channels relate to one another.

[00:22:46] Dimitri O: That is again, a very interesting and difficult question to ask. And, and I think it would be super interesting to have this conversation again in a year from here and see What we've learned from from, from here to to now. Basically, we're setting out the entire year of setting up experiments.

throughout different channels, throughout different strategies, tactics, audiences, like the Holsterbank, there's a whole 40 experiments, 10 million euros that's gonna, it's dedicated purely on that this year to try and see, okay, if we elevate that, and if we let go a little bit of that direct attribution and that row is driven model and And we invest some more in, in a lower row as a stop of funnel.

Can we actually compensate that on the lower end? And how do these channels come together? What role does, each channel play into these journeys? Trying to find a data driven answer on that question is basically what we set out to do this this year, because I do agree. At some point you hit limitations on what you can do in one specific channel. And so you look, you look further and for us, it's it's, it's, I think, three expansion roadmaps that we're at, that we're tracking. One is purely regional where we go mainly to Asia at the, at the moment, obviously still a lot to do in the Western world, but Asia is as a huge potential market for us as well, then the channels as we discussed as well, and third will be product development as well, going into.

other use cases where we have products that are even better for those use cases than, than the

[00:24:18] Taylor Holiday: What does I want to, I want to stick on this a bit. Cause this will be fun for us as marketers. Cause I think this is a fascinating topic. What does your gut tell you is going to happen? What do you believe if you had to guess at the outcome of the test, what do you believe it's going to tell you?

[00:24:31] Dimitri O: Honestly, I really don't know what I hope that is going to tell me is that there is something to be said, a sort of validation that The old Adagio in marketing is in like, you have to communicate broadly and brand marketing and above the line it works. And I do believe that when you get with your brand at some point that effectively it does work.

The big question is, are we there yet with the brands? Are we well known enough that we can actually work on what you mentioned before that you would do all that prepping work so that you are top of mind the moment that you are in a moment of saying like, okay, this is the moment where I need to buy earplugs for me, for myself, what is the brand I'm going to buy?

It's going to Up until now, we definitely were not there yet. We are growing into that by the end of 2024, will we be there in our biggest markets so that this more, more above the line marketing works that it, that is for me the big question Obviously I hope that it does because when it does it basically opens up an entire realm of possibilities

[00:25:39] Taylor Holiday: question I have, I don't think it's just about like, is the business big enough? I think the other question is, do you capture enough value from each customer such that you can afford to be constantly investing in their presence? Right. So a classic example of this is like insurance, right? Like my kids can sing you the, the Geico jingle.

From YouTube ads. They're 10 years old. They're not in market for insurance. You might say that's a waste of money Geico over the course of a customer's lifetime will capture enough value to begin investing in them at 10 years old. That's why the business gets so big is because you can spend all this effort in creating awareness off of a single customer and still make that a profitable exchange.

The, the, the concern I have for you in a lot of e commerce brands is the cost of awareness. Becomes too high relative to the value capture and that becomes this compressed ceiling on growth for consumer product generally. So I think part of it is like, there's a, there's a tension between the product development portion for you guys.

That's that enables. The entire investment in growth. It's sort of the old Henry Ford. It's like whoever can pay the most for the customer wins. And I think that the reality is like the cost of awareness does rise over time. It just, that, that is a fact that is really hard to offset. You can offset it for periods with cool moments and virality and these different elements, but.

Over time, it's sort of like gravity in the sense that if you can't offset that by increasing the value you capture off of each customer, it's really hard to continue to grow at the same rate. And I think you're seeing this in the public markets a lot. Like I was just looking at the reports from Canada goose just came out and like their year over year growth rate is basically stagnated.

Like it just gets to a point where in order to maintain profitability. When you get to hundreds of millions in revenue, eh, three to 4 percent annual growth is sort of what's there for you, you know, and we're seeing this. And I think it's, it's why there's so much downward pressure in the public markets on consumer.

I don't know. What do you think about that idea?

[00:27:37] Dimitri O: I think I think there's a lot of truth in that if we don't manage to change our business model or changing our business model, change our value proposition and actually increasing its value and, and, and expanding it across more, more products, more, more categories, I think there's definitely a limitation to what you can, to how you can grow purely on a, on acquisition.

Obviously, it's why we open these expansion markets such as Japan, China, India, etc. We do believe that there's a lot of untapped market over there, which we will which we will, will develop in the next years as well, but in the Western market, our home markets. There's still a lot of development to be done there.

And there we, as a, as a, and their product development, I think is really the answer to to the question marketing can only get us so far in terms of retargeting and reengagement of of customers, it's about developing better products and similarly as to what Apple does. I don't want to take Apple as the example for everything, but they do launch a new iPhone every year, every year, and a good chunk of people do buy a new one, although.

Do they really need it? Not really. So, There is something there for renewal, but also expanding the product product product range that you have products today, today, what we do. And I like to go back to our, our, our vision and our mission statement there, like giving everyone the, the, the choice. The choice, the freedom to choose how to hear the world is something they can do in a variety of levels. And the level that we have today with our passive earplugs are very simple. We have basically two levels. It's one of our products or the switch that combine different products into one, but it's still passive.

It's still relatively dumb. You can do a lot more expanding into higher value products, products that do a lot more, but there are obviously, we need to be smart on how we approach that. We're not going to Apple, Apple

[00:29:32] Taylor Holiday: but yeah, so I think There that's, that's what makes me excited and confident about you guys is that whatever's true about the core product line and the marketing mix relative to it. I think that you guys are, you've built a platform around this idea of living life at your volume that really all of a sudden the brand meeting isn't associated.

And I w I don't know if you guys have dropped earplugs out of the name, but I imagine at some point loop. Yeah. Loop is loop is coming, but, but the idea is that I think there is such a platform. And also we're talking about. Like the size of you guys are, which is still really large, right. Is there's still a lot of runway.

We haven't even talked about retail. You're talking about regional distribution. So there's still a lot of meat on that bone. I just think so many of the conversations that we have on this part are oriented around the marketing mix relative to. com value capture. And how do those things relate to each other?

And that, that becomes.

I think generally in terms of where it goes, but tell me about like the test, what is the structure? Like, are you guys using incrementality holdout studies? Like what is the, what is the, what is the hypothesis and what are the tools you're using to answer it?

[00:30:43] Dimitri O: There's a variety of hypothesis what we try to do and that's, especially with these tests, quite a challenge. It's try to have as little variables in the mix as possible. So typically, what we're gonna do is split them in regions and over time. So there will always be one test running simultaneously, one in Australia, one in New York, one in UK, one in Germany.

And then we play with that. Some of them will be about incrementality. Indeed, some will be about trying to unlock new audiences in new new regions. Some will be okay. If we add a layer onto onto the funnel, what does that do? Some will be purely on creative. If we elevate the narrative from a relatively product focused narrative to a brand focused narrative.

What does that do in the in the entire mix? Where does connected TV play into a, into this? What if we work with prime and actually we connect the entire realm from one to one, where you see even on impression based, what leads to a, leads to conversion. So it's gonna, it's gonna be a role of different tests.

And I have a team of three people almost full time working on that, just that on the planning and the execution. Comes on top on top of that. So it's it's, it's very broad. And again, if you like one year from 

[00:31:59] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, I would love to, because the thing I struggle with is obviously everybody's engaged in this right now. And Even the challenge I have about the questions we're trying to answer as marketers is that we're always obligated to presuming a relationship between a historical result and a future outcome.

Where let's say you run these tests in a geo in a period of time and get a definitive outcome out of it. Well, you're now left going, okay, in March of 2024, This happened in this way. What does that mean about July of 25 and how connected are those ideas? When you talk about trying to isolate variables, the problem between the two in my head is that there's infinity variables between here and there to try and assign to and so I think that in some ways I feel deluded into a pursuit of a truth that doesn't exist.

And I think that that is the tension I wrestle with all the time versus trying to apply a more intuitive sense of. High quality brand experiences that create moments customers care about. And I wrestle with those two worlds all the time. And I'd be curious, like you're obviously a very data driven guy.

You don't come from a classical marketing background, right? Like I think you were in energy procurement before you started, but, and you obviously care about brand and the ethos of that. So what wins in your brain, Demetri, the qualitative or quantitative, and how do you think about the challenges in answering those questions definitively?

[00:33:26] Dimitri O: I think there's a lot of truth in both approaches. And I think there's different insights to be drawn from the different analysis. When, for example, we look at, at direct attribution, it can tell us something about how does one creative do versus the other one, but it cannot tell us like, what is the role they are playing in our channel mix.

And for that off you, you go to MMM models and, and, and more predictive analysis and, and there we're learning a lot. We're setting up different tools, trying to test and see what, what gives them predictability. But I'm also a very strong believer. Of very simple post purchase surveys. They give so different insights that are very, very difficult actually to even link with what attribution is telling us because they are looking at a window that is much more broad and they're looking at beyond click.

And I think that is a, that is a big truth that a lot of performance marketeers are forgetting actually to to, to really look at and to try to bring these two together. And I think there, it's typically where we're, we're, we're missing. gut feel to some extent on trying to merge these two together comes into into play.

And there, I truly believe that data can fuel intuition and can train intuition. And it's something that every performance marketer 

[00:34:42] Taylor Holiday: So you, you would encourage people to just basically soak in all of the data points to try and inform the inspiration that you have sort of a classic Ogilvy, like good information informs good inspiration. Right? Which is to say that reading how customers interpret their own behavior may not be true of their behavior definitively.

But it does tell you something about who they are and what they care about in a way that you could utilize, right? Same way that understanding what the last click was in a funnel tells you something about customer journey. It doesn't tell you the whole story, but it's another insight that you begin to absorb in trying to piece together that spaghetti puzzle in your brain.

[00:35:19] Dimitri O: And I think there's another component to that as well, which is and that is getting more and more difficult for us or the, the, the biggest challenge to resolve is trying to spot what are early signs for life that predicts future success. As in, you can do an above the line campaign for a couple of weeks.

And typically you're going to see like a sort of bell curve on what the impact is going to be in the beginning is going to be high, and then it's going to have sort of a long tail that it dies out. What are the signals that we can pick up in these first couple of days that are going to predict what the rest of that curve is going to look like, and that is something obviously that we'll have to.

learn and fail as we, as We go, but that will allow us to optimize because there's two things, right? There's one thing of doing the campaign and in hindsight looking at, okay, does this work? Yes or no. But if you want to really apply the performance marketing head to these kinds of campaigns, they're also basically from day one.

So to speak, you want to try to optimize already. And so spotting these early signals is going to be crucial in order to do that. And there, I believe they're also keen on hearing your thoughts. I think that AI can in the very short term play a big role into that. It's going to be key about capturing all the signals and, and structuring them properly.

And then we can do the analysis and see what it actually teaches us.

[00:36:35] Taylor Holiday: We have a client who has a tool that basically takes social engagement around sports topics. And. Allows an AI to analyze the volume of analysis or a volume of engagement around a topic that generates a set of designs related to the topics of conversation that then sets up on a website with an inventory projection around the volume of sales of that topic.

Object based on that conversation. Now that kind of information absorption into definitive action of potential commerce value, I think is like a huge unlock for AI. And it, it like sort of gets me to like the way in which you talked about, you mentioned something, or when you think about audience expansion, where if you think about something like neurodivergence and like that community, that language is fairly new in culture.

Right. Like the way there's some trend related to how much people are self identifying in that way. That begins to be in some ways, I think there's a set of signals that could absorb the actual volume potential for your business in the future in that category related to a set of inputs and that kind of data absorption into predictive potential, I think is really, really powerful for brands in the future.

Because I think over the last four years, more than anything else, what I feel like I have seen Is that the best businesses with the most efficient marketing are riding on the back of some cultural wave. And so we can look at this and we can try and create demand. This idea that we are out generating net new awareness for this problem in a way that, or there's suddenly a cultural zeitgeist around an idea that when you're in that pocket, the efficiency in that moment is so much better.

And so it's like, how do we get. The connection between manufacturing physical objects and selling them more deeply and intimately connected to that. I think it's part of where AI is going to be really powerful.

All right. One of the last things I want to talk to you about, cause we've talked a lot about marketing tactics, but one of the other things I've really appreciated about you is your approach to team and people. It's something that you are endlessly curious about. So one of the things I love about you and Martin both is that you're the smartest people in the room.

Everywhere you go, but you also ask the most questions and you always approach every interaction with what can I learn from the people that I'm around, irregardless of whether I have more or less experience than them. And so you do this thing where you constantly reach out about just like random topics all the time.

And so what I'd be curious, like, where did you develop that skill? It's a common one that I see amongst great leaders. It's just like endless curiosity. And to tell me a little bit about how you think about building and managing a team of people towards the goals that you have.

[00:39:20] Dimitri O: That curiosity, I honestly, I think it's something that is Baked in quite deeply in who we are as, as people. It's also why, or one of the reasons why Martin and I are such good friends, because we've known each other for over 20 years and we share that, that passion. I think it's been amplified by the studies that both Mike and I did.

I'm a civil engineer. Martin is is, is an economic engineer. Basically what you learn there is ask question and try to do proper root cause analysis. So I think that helps helps a lot and both Mike and I have always been much inspired by the big companies, the big success stories, reading stuff like entrepreneur and the fast company.

And these, these have always inspired us and made us curious about how did these people do it? And then we'll read about them. We'll. Let's do their TED talks. We, we, we read their books and then we try to apply that. And as you develop some skill in an area, the source start to become aware of how unskilled you are in that area, which then drives another wave of, okay, learnings.

And we want to talk to people and, and where we are with Loop now, we're at the level that we get to talk to people that are super, super skilled. Inspirational for us as well, such as yourself and a lot of other people that, that we consider our our advisors. And it just, it's, it's like a spiral that, that spins faster and faster.

And the more you learn, the more you see what more there is to learn. And the more that eagerness has come. So it's something that we don't do super deliberately. It's, it's just there. It's, it's, it's very fundamental to our, to our nature. 

[00:41:02] Taylor Holiday: I don't know. Maybe there's something about also when your background isn't definitively in the thing that you're in, you've always begun from a place of humility where you're just like, I'm, I've been learning since the beginning. There's no expectation that I know more than everybody else. And so your disposition from the start is, is that way.

And I've found that from people who sort of switch industries where it's just like, I started by asking a lot of questions. So I just kept asking, you know, and I just kept going because I needed to figure it out because I, It's not like I sat in a classroom where we're taught a bunch of things about, about this way.

So there's something about that, that I've just, I've loved with you guys. You've never been afraid of, of, that.

[00:41:37] Dimitri O: I think there's a lot of truth in that.

As well. And, and it's a typical debate on, on, are you going to hire experience? Yes Yes.

I know. And sometimes it's Interesting. to put someone who is smart, but inexperienced in the field, Into a new role and just see how they're going to do it. And ideally they're not just smart, but a little bit lazy as well.

So you're going to find efficiencies that are going to traditional way of working in a quiet, 

[00:42:03] Taylor Holiday: a fascinating idea. So yeah, we used to talk about this a lot that especially people who come from one brand. Okay. So if someone came from a brand experience into CDC, we actually call what they have experienced debt. It's actually something that they have to overcome because they all, they see the solution to every problem as the thing they did in this one space.

And it's actually almost never applicable in the new space that they're entering. And so it's actually, they're the hardest people to hire. And I think they, they, it often is the worst career. Trajectory to try and transcend, because especially if the thing was really successful, you just presume that I did something really well.

And therefore that thing will work again, but you're in a novel environment. That's really hard. So that, so that's a good jump off for a team building and even recruiting and hiring. So smart, lazy people. I don't think that's the normal attribute set that you would define is what you're looking for, but what, what do you, what does that practically mean?

When you're looking for the team that you've built. And the other thing, if you could go into is, I know Martin's talked a lot about the, one of the things that you guys care deeply about is actually impacting the lives of your employees at the end of this journey. And how you're thinking about that from the equity structures and different parts of your team that, that like story for your community, for your town, for your city, even really matters to you.

So maybe touch on those students, who are the people you look for and why those attributes. And tell me about the mission that you have with your team.

[00:43:18] Dimitri O: What are people that we look for? It starts with culture fit especially in the fast changing environment, such as ourselves, we need to find each other quite easily. We work also centered in hub. So we have one here in Belgium, in Amsterdam, in New York, in in the Bay area and in and in Shanghai.

So if we want these people to collaborate in fast growing and fast changing environment, you, you need to have that really, really clean cultural fit. We also do C CATs, so cognitive aptitude tests because there is a level of intelligence that we look for. It's not a direct correlation as in the higher the C CAT, the 

[00:43:54] Taylor Holiday: What's it called? Seek. What's it called? 

[00:43:56] Dimitri O: but they're 

[00:43:57] Taylor Holiday: Huh?

[00:43:58] Dimitri O: a C CAT.

It's a cognitive aptitude and an test, if you like. a bit different, but something, something like that. And it's, for us, it's a bit like a threshold. You have to be above a certain certain bar because then you just see like people. are stronger in analysis. They get faster to the core issue.

They, they pick up information faster. They see the connections between different things that are going on. It just makes life easier and work easier for so many, so many people. So there's that. And then we look at our five constellations. So well, our values, we call them our consolation because there are our guiding guiding principles, but it's about ambition.

It's about making things happen. So drive for action is very important. It's about staying curious. It's really, it's, it's literally one of the values that we have. It's about thriving together. So about this collaboration and doing good in the world. And the last one that we added was keep it simple. And this is one that we felt that we really needed to to add into a great 280, something, something like that a year ago.

This time new year probably were hundreds. So when the team scales. At this space you're going to see that a lot of process are going to mean and communication becomes a lot more difficult and more stakeholders are being involved, etc. And so that focus on keeping it simple is actually one of the most active things that we that we need to do to do.

Whereas. In the early days, it was something that came natural because we just didn't have any resources to do complicated things. So that is definitely one of the big shifts that we saw in the last, let's say 12 months that, that we needed to to refocus the team on a little bit. And what was the second question that you asked?

[00:45:38] Taylor Holiday: So Martin and I had a conversation when I was in New York with him about sort of the vision to helping make all your employees rich off this experience. Like that literally part of your ambition. And he, he also related it to affecting the community of Antwerp, like the broader, like that. You guys see it as, Hey, we Built something really special inside of a niche community here.

We want to transform the lives of our people in the surrounding towns and see more businesses come out of it. And so that was a little bit of what he's talking about. And I'd be curious if, how that comes to life for you.

[00:46:08] Dimitri O: A hundred percent. And I think there are different perspectives to that to that story. First of all, we truly believe that. Entrepreneurs, businesses driven by entrepreneurs are the things that really change the world. We see it in all industries. We see it in all regions. There's a lot that can be said about politics and yes, they are changing the world in some way.

They're not necessarily improving it always. Generally speaking for 99. 9 percent of the entrepreneurs out there. It is about having a positive impact on the world. So for us, the question is how can we generate, create more entrepreneurs. That is basically what we try to achieve because we think that's going to be the way to move this this planet forward.

If we then consider about what are all the basic, basically driving forces behind behind the spy that is getting bigger by the day. Well, we think that everyone that drives the growth should always also be rewarded for that growth. And a very typical set up. You're going to see that the founders have a good chunk and then you have a lot of investors on board and they need a big, big chunk of that of that pie.

And typically what's left over is really the crumbs for people. We think that should be the other way around. Actually, the investors play crucial roles at specific points in time in a story of a company, but they make sure the only thing that they do actually is allow the people that form the team. So actually execute on the strategies and those are the ones that make it, that make it happen.

And so it's only logical for us that the entire team from the lowest to the highest in rank actually contribute through our stock option plan. And this is something that we installed a couple, a couple of years ago in the U S it's more common, but in Europe, it's quite unique to give it actually to the, to everyone the company, because we think that, and same goes for hiring.

Everyone has their role to play, obviously with different maturity and different impact and different responsibilities, but everyone has their role to play. Otherwise, who wouldn't hire them? So let's give them a piece of the pie 

[00:48:15] Taylor Holiday: I couldn't, I couldn't agree more. I think that there is an absolute. I think ethical truth that the people who give their life to creating the thing should benefit from the realization of the value. And there's so much time and energy that goes into it from every person to the greater, you know, to the totality of their capacity.

They're offering themselves the fullest part of our lives to it. And I can't imagine like part of what keeps me going in so many ways is the opportunity that there's a moment in which all these people I care about. Benefit in a meaningful way that was transformative. And in my very first company I worked at, I was given a small piece of equity.

That didn't amount to much for me, but it completely transformed my understanding of the distinction between capital and labor and what I wanted for myself. And Oh, how does the money flow and who gets it? And Oh, I could be a part of that. Like it just, it altered the way I understood my business career entirely.

And so I think the more that you can, even, even if the money itself doesn't become transformed it for every individual, the mechanism, the mechanics of it, the understanding I have to get a K one and I have to file taxes and what does that mean and why is that happening? Like it's all the pathway. To understanding the system and its potential for you.

And so there's so much value in it. So that's so super cool.

[00:49:30] Dimitri O: I think that that's great. The way that you express fully fully agree with that. It's a learning school for everyone as well. And that is basically for Mike and me, that that would be the most beautiful outcome that we have in a couple of years from loop is that we see 10, 20, 50 startups emerge from that.

And that is also why. Martin mentioned that, that innovation hub ID that we have, we are from Antwerp here. We feel a bit left alone between Paris and Amsterdam, Berlin and London. We feel like, come on, there's gotta be something that we can can do here as well. We have a couple of great DTC brands here in Belgium as well.

So, so why not? Try to, to give back, to pay it forward, to help them grow and, and in the way that, that it's the support that we would have liked to have five, six, seven years ago. And, and means could be one thing, but just a place to get inspired, to learn from the best to, to, from people that have gone through those issues a couple of years ago with their own sweat money.

I think that is super valuable and it's basically what I would have liked to have. 

[00:50:29] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, for sure. Well, man, Hey you continue to be an inspiration. It's so fun to get to catch up with you. And part of why I've been trying to drag you both onto this podcast is because you guys are just hidden gems in this space. We got to get you into more events on more stages. For the sake of the mission you just described, which is like, you are one of the authentic people that care about the humans that you interact with, the product, and you're so thoughtful about the way you approach it, Corey, there's a moment here that I think is my perfect embodiment of Demetri that you're not allowed to cut out, which is when I asked him the question about what he thought, his hypothesis about the test, it was like a six second pause.

And that to me is you, sir, which is like, you think deeply about the things that you do. I, at my worst, I jumped to answering things way too quickly and would be happy to give my opinion, but everything you do I've experienced is incredibly thoughtful. So thanks for being that inspiration and building an awesome business that we all can learn from.

[00:51:21] Dimitri O: It was a awesome match. And with you again, Taylor, always a pleasure. It's a two way street very very clearly. So I appreciate it a lot and thank you for 

[00:51:29] Taylor Holiday: All right, buddy. Take care.