“Brand is the bridge between how much your product costs and how much your customer is willing to pay.”
But what if you could measure that “bridge” objectively? In this episode, Richard and Taylor talk about Taylor’s controversial new formula for quantifying the value of your brand.
Then, Richard has a conversation with Jules Vertrees, CTC client and founder of Verve Culture, a brand that sources beautiful home goods & gourmet foods from artisans around the world.
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Richard: [00:00:00] This episode of the E-Commerce Playbook Podcast is brought to you by semetrics. Get clarity on what channels are driving the most revenue for your brand beyond the first purchase, and send data directly to Facebook so they can find more of the right customer. Start your free email@example.com. That's S EEG, M E T R I C s.io, or check the link in the show notes.
Hey folks, just wanted to say a couple things before we kick off the episode. This week. We have a doubleheader. First up is my conversation with Taylor about whether or not you can quantify brand. But afterward we've got the first pause of a new segment where I chat with a CTC client about the nitty gritty of marketing and entrepreneurship.
In this case, it's Jules Ries. She's the president and co-founder of Verve Culture, a brand that. Beautiful home goods and gourmet foods from artisans around the world. So stick around for that conversation in the second half of the pod. But first off, let's get to my discussion with Taylor.
Hey everyone. Welcome to the E-Commerce Playbook Podcast. I'm your host, Richard Gaffin, [00:01:00] director of Digital Strategy here at Common Thread Collective, and I am joined as I always am by Taylor Holliday, c e o of Common Thread Collective. Taylor, how you doing today?
Taylor: Doing well, sir. We're toggling back to the philosophy world here at Ted, a touch uh, after sort of ping ponging between philosophy and finance.
Richard: Yeah. And actually, so this is an interesting one because this concerns an attempt to transform, let's say, philosophy or something that's unquantifiable into something that's a little bit more down to earth. So last week, I know you talked to Ezra a little bit or you rather you kicked that conversation off with the discussion about the importance of brand.
And in this current environment, being brandless, being purely commodified, like that just won't work anymore. And the thing that matters most is brand. So that's what the conversation today is going to be about and what we're framing it with. Is a sort of a game of defend that tweet and Taylor on March the 20th, which will have been last week, Monday, when this comes out, tweeted the following and I'll read it out.
Brand is measurable. off already
Taylor: Just definitive. Yeah.[00:02:00]
Richard: brand is measurable, period. Here is the calculation awareness times sentiment, times customer, l t v equals brand. So awareness equals the number of people who know who you are. Sentiment equals, on a scale of one to 10, how positive are those people's perception of you?
then customer. L t V of course, is the medium median customer spend over five years. So maybe it was kick it off, just asking why. What was the impetus behind tweeting this out?
Taylor: I am thinking all the time about why some brands succeed and some brands don't. Okay. So we work with, and in an agency over the course of a decade, you work with thousands of brands. Some of them have wild success, some of them have virtually no success, and I will watch every day the same group of humans, okay?
Same. Deploying the same strategies, the same mental capacity, the same [00:03:00] tactics on different brands, and producing wildly different outcomes. And so when I look at what are the variables that contribute to success, people are constant in that scenario. But the outcomes are still really different. So it's not just people.
Now, I'm not saying that there's no impact there, but I'm saying that the same quality of people can produce different outcomes. So that's insufficient on, its on its own. I think product is obviously a big piece of this where I have seen products that just have a great predisposition, but I actually think all of these are subsidiary to a third thing, which is, especially as I have gotten into, as CTC has matured and we've gotten the opportunity to work with bigger and bigger, more and more well known brands. You begin to recognize the immense power that they hold. And I'm gonna describe that power just simply as the ability to efficiently acquire customers relative to their competition. And so what I start to, to think about is if I had to measure that, because there's been a lot of debates lately on Twitter and socials, otherwise that brand is not a thing [00:04:00] you should worry about and you shouldn't talk about it.
And it's like ephemeral and it's not real. And so stop talking about it. And I just think the exact opposite is true. I think it's like the most important thing to try and understand and to start, to begin to measure. And so I, I. I used to think it was just CLV that like that was actually the best measure of a brand was how much money they spent with you.
But in thinking through my own life, that's probably insufficient cuz there's some things that you buy once, like maybe a private jet that you would net, that's not like a recurring purchase, but maybe that's the total value. I don't know. So I just started thinking about, okay, what else would go into it?
And this was my formula that I believe if we could run this calculation for every brand in the. That we would see a distribution that probably maps to what we would imagine are the best brands of the world. You'd see the Nikes, apples Cokes, Toyotas Way on the far right, and then you'd see fledgling startups you'd never heard way on the left.
And I think the distribution would be really good and it would p correlate really [00:05:00] positively with their Facebook Pro prospecting bro ass. That's my hypothesis.
Richard: No, that makes sense. And I think it would be cool to, at some point we should do a post just doing that, running that through this formula, through the ringer to see if it makes sense. But so there was a couple, as we go through this, there was a couple responses to this particular tweet, which I think are interesting.
so the first is from Fran Soine who replies a sentiment needs a probability of actually turning into a. I'm aware of Tesla. My perception is neutral. My inclination to buy one is zero, thus CLV doesn't matter. also there might need to be a measure of aware right people to which you respond. I don't think that's necessary.
So maybe unpack that a little bit. Yeah.
Taylor: So I actually think that sentiment is more of an indication of your likelihood to purchase than you realize. Okay, because let's just use Tesla as an example. There's lots of contributing factors that go into whether or not you're in market or likely to make a purchase for a Tesla.
Some of 'em you may not be totally talk cognitively aware of, but let's just go through it. A few examples, like one is do you need a car? If you have a fully functioning car, whether you like Tesla [00:06:00] or not, you're not likely to be a customer in that moment. Right now, I am not likely to be a customer of Tesla.
I have two functioning working vehicle. I'm not looking to buy a car anytime soon, but my sentiment, I think, still matters cuz someday I may be ready to buy a car and at that moment it's gonna matter. Second is I might not be able to financially afford it like at this moment today, but maybe in five years my financial standing might be different.
And so suddenly that sentiment now has an overlap with likelihood of purchase. That still, I think, makes me, if I have a positive sentiment, a more likely customer and a person I would rather advertise to than someone who had a negative sentiment about me to begin. So I think that, when I say, when I responded and said, I don't think it matters, I think that you are applying on top of that a personal sit circumstance that I think sentiment is actually a better awareness and sentiment are actually a better indication of purchase potential than you're giving credit for, given the right circumstances.
Richard: And also I think in this scenario too, he's talking about taking himself on the individual [00:07:00] level, when actually, like on aggregate, there are plenty of people who need cars and would actually be actively in market. So maybe that doesn't, it would apply. Like maybe that would be interesting if there was some brand with a lot of awareness, positive sentiment, and for some reason nobody needed the product.
I can't think of what that would
Taylor: Yeah, exactly.
Richard: that would be the case, then maybe that would be valid
Taylor: And, yeah that's a really good example. Like maybe. . I don't know, maybe the product is like the Olympics or something that's I don't, like what is my actual, where you don't actually make a purchase interaction with it, but the monetization of it is separate or something.
Look there, I think this is like my least favorite thing about some of the way that people engage Twitter, which is like big, broad, general idea, really nuanced, specific edge case response and it's yeah, there are infinity edge cases where this probably breaks down. But my belief is that if you plotted the respondents here, and I get it, my job to go prove this.
And I think there are some ways that we could actually do this that would be fun. Like we could come up with a proxy metric for brand awareness, like branded search volume. So if you did like number of monthly search queries [00:08:00] for that person and use that as input number one. And then we'd have to figure out the sentiment one, like if there was an index of NPS or something, we could maybe insert that and then median clv, but we don't have those data points for all these brands, so it'd be really hard to actually get here.
But an individual brand could do it for themselves. It's funny, like in the office the other day, we were like joking around me and my brother, Luke and Tony, and we. Tony has, s e m rush on his computer, so you can see how many search volumes there, so how much search volume there is for each of our names.
And so we were like comparing and saying oh, I'm X times more famous than you based on the number of people that search your name or whatever. So I think that's really what I'm saying is that like how many people could identify. Your brand, they know who you are. They could name your product, they could show 'em the logo, they could identify you whatever you want.
That's a really powerful thing that I think really matters in the amount of education that you have to do to sell them a thing. It's just like you, you have, you're starting from a, a little bit further down the road.
Richard: Yeah. It's like the the famous accused score in Hollywood, which is nobody, they don't reveal like the recipe. It's [00:09:00] secret ingredients, let's say, but coming out of it, you can say definitively. don't know what it would be today. Timothy Shama is the biggest male
And there's a way to and then that, Hollywood agencies or whatever, make business decisions based on Q score. And so I think one thing as I was thinking about what's the, what would be the purpose of this? What could you use it for? Traditionally it's used to evaluate, right?
Put a goodwill number as they call it, against the value of a brand. But I think for those of us who are like running e-commerce businesses or CMOs for e-commerce businesses, I think this is an interesting maybe indication where you need to do some work. And. By which I mean if you have a, let's say a relatively low score compared to somebody else in the same space, I don't know who you'd compare yourself to.
You can then conclude from that, that working on brand building is something that is to us. And here's the number I can point to show why that might be the case. So I think we should maybe spin this into a conversation about like, how do you do that? Maybe starting with what is brand?
And then what can you do about it?
Taylor: [00:10:00] So again, if we take brand, let's think about this mathematically. So let's accept my equation for a Let's just say that brand is the output of these three things, right? Then you very quickly can get to a much clearer set of actions about how to improve your brand, right?
So if we go to the first category, brand awareness now this is about how many people can you get to become aware of who you are, right? So this is just volume. Now impressions matter, right? And so this is a thing that. in our world we have lost view of the idea that a lot of people seeing us interacting with US matters.
And I, I just think that's not true, that it really does matter. And that Now not all impressions are equal. So I think that we should still be trying to arbitrage the cheapest quality impression, high quality impression that we can get. Or Gary Vanerchuk talks a lot about cheapest attention, right?
So he would take it a little bit, step further in terms of the amount of Response that you need from the person on that impression to really qualify it. But the idea is you wanna find out the best ways to get as many of those as you can. And that's still a valuable thing to do. And brand [00:11:00] lift studies, I think, from both Google and Facebook are attempts at doing this, right?
This is where you'll get those questions about, have you seen this brand? Have I actually created awareness? Of who you are. And so they'll show a series of people ads, they'll have holdout groups, and then they'll ask a question in their feed of Hey, do you remember seeing this ad over this period of time?
Or whatever. Or do you have an intention to shop for this brand or given the consideration, would you shop for this brand? These are all things that you can actually measure and get track of. And I think especially brands that are in the, let's say north of 25 million range, should be a part of their process.
On the awareness side. So that's category one, right? Category two is around sentiment. And I think this is another thing that all the time, we do this all the time at, in a service business, right? Like we call it the Pulse at ctc, we're constantly asking our customers a series of questions on a scale of one to five to get a sense of their experience of us and their feelings about us, right?
Because that's what's gonna come out when someone asks us. Ask them about us, right? And so that's gonna help to either [00:12:00] propagate and create advocacy or a detractor, right? On the NPS scale, you can think of that as those are the two sort of categories. They're putting people in, advocates or detractors, right?
And so whether you use nps, whether you use some sort of survey, I think a sentiment analysis about. Both the po, the non yet customers, and then the customers themselves are, is another valuable data point that I would work towards. And then if you have negative sentiment, what can you do to resolve it?
How do you create a more positive sentiment about your brand? That's experiential, that's, in terms of just the value to cost ratio, expectations and delivery. There's all sorts of. To do that, but I think that's more about the alignment of the brand promise that you make which is a thing to consider.
And then the third one, clv, we, we don't need to go, there's a million infinity tactics to improving that, but you can see how the equation gives you an obtuse idea like brand and allows you to be practical above about measuring it. And there's a really cool company. I know I'm going long here, Richard.
I'll let you back in one second. Called Tracksuit. Our track star [00:13:00] tracksuit, I'm gonna look this up real fast, tracksuit that they're, what they're trying to do is basically give you an ability to assess this all the time in an ongoing dashboard. It's called go tracksuit.com, a company out of Australia.
I've talked to them a few different times and they basically, in the same way that they do polling data in the United States, Political candidacy are taking a series of in-market customers in a product category and asking them questions about you, both sentiment analysis and awareness analysis on a recurring, consistent basis to give you a definitive tract awareness and sentiment over time.
And I think that's gonna become. The kind of thing that, and what we're working on and what I've talked to them about is could we take that data and run a corollary to Facebook performance to see if improvements are connected to each other in any way that would validate that idea. And so I think that kind of work is super interesting and stuff we're exploring.
Richard: Yeah. No, I think it's the ability to reclaim the idea of awareness as important via creating measurable metrics around it [00:14:00] is definitely interesting because I think that's certainly a thing that's been missing at or rather in the e-commerce world for a while. Is the idea that like, People simply knowing and feeling something about your brand is important, right?
All that matters is are they gonna buy today? Which obviously is important for a lot of reasons, but it is easy to lose sight of the long term effect of a lot of people being aware of your brand. and then I think too, yeah, it's interesting. I think it'd be interesting to dive deeper into how you measure the sentiment score, because one thing that's sort.
Missing, at least explicitly from this for me, is that idea of, it's not only feeling positive or negative, but like the sort of subcategories of feeling that exist, right? Which is does it look good , does the branding whatever I'm being sold? Like particularly for brands that aren't aren't household names yet.
lot of the brand consideration there, the sentiment is like, does it looks like they took or does it look like they take care right, with their brand? To make it look right, make it dialed in, and [00:15:00] that kind of thing?
Taylor: So you're saying that you would like to see some consideration or question regarding. Does the brand connect to your idea about the brand? Like how would you phrase or what you expect out of this product category or what you're looking for out of a car brand, basically does this meet what you're hoping to see out of a, category
Richard: I guess that's right. A and what you're, you already pointed out that, I guess that is cons considered, but I think like when you are calculating the sentiment score, which let's say is the final score in a series of calculations around not just like surveying people to see how they feel about the brand, but also thinking about maybe.
The nuances to it. So you can think about the levers that you can pull. Because I think it's easy to say that oh, or negative sentiment about a brand revolves around. Do people look inside themselves and think, huh, I like them, or, huh? I don't. It's more what are the like little intangible things that are making people more inclined to be drawn to your brand and that kind of thing?
I guess I'm saying like, where's the creative element,
Taylor: so I think a good [00:16:00] example of this. There's a brand that was born out of, stay with me for a second. Cause this is, I'm gonna wade back into the N F T world for a second, but it's, I'm gonna pull it back out. Do you remember poolside fm? Like the, it was like, it started as a music channel that was just like, Sort of a poolside fm it was just like a way to play vibey music on a channel, and they began as this cool internet music product.
And it was, that was just really all it is. It's like you would throw on poolside FM if you're having a party and you want some good vibes. And it's rather than picking Spotify or Pandora, it's like this very specific subset of things. Okay. That turned into an N F T project called Vacation.
And that is like a, if you look up vacation Inc, you'll see that the whole vibe is this very like retro, almost like n it's like eighties vacation style like hot pinks and blues, like this very specific brand vibe.
That they created around this NFT project. And now they've released sunscreen and they [00:17:00] have a perfume, and they created this whole N F T project that launched this all. Okay. And so it's this brand that before product existed, there was brand, right? There was an identity that actually preceded product.
And now the idea that they could. Hotels, they could sell towels. There's a whole set of things that fit within the vibe that began as a music player that turned into an N F T. That now opens an opportunity for a network of things. And by all accounts, it's funny because my one of my good friends, Dave Char, who's been on this podcast, he and I will argue about this a lot because I see it things. Sometimes from the product lens, and I'm like, sunscreen is a horrible product category. They've gotta be doing terrible. And he sees it very much from the brand category. And he is you're missing the forest through the trees. Like you're getting hung up on this thing and by all accounts are doing really well in this moment.
And I think that right now, this to me represents a potentially more interesting [00:18:00] direction of what it means to build something that matters. My sunscreen is better than every other sunscreen. Look at the features and benefits, margin, et cetera. That's gonna be tough. And I think that there's something deeper here that begins to play out that has at least higher upside, I would argue, than just something that's product isolated without the brand.
Richard: Definitely. Like I think one thing they're pointing out is that this brand has a magical ability to overcome a lot of business woes, let's say, or drawbacks. So you point out, for instance, yeah, sunscreen is maybe a terrible. business to be into based on X and Y thing. Certain product costs, whatever it happens to be.
But if you have the brand behind it, it doesn't matter cuz people will pay you enough money for the product to cover over a whole number of hills.
Taylor: And another big thing, and it's funny, so Sheen Edma, who used to work at CTC and now is now head of growth at Bobby I think she's experienced this a lot at Bobby, which is a really fast growing company, which is that like part of what also enables growth [00:19:00] is pr and PR is having a story worth talking about and having a story worth talking about creates free impressions, which creates volume and awareness, which drives to more ad efficacy.
And so the other question is not. What is the brand and is the sentiment positive or negative? But is it worth talking about? Is it interesting? So there's also, I think, or novel or something in a way that's going to spread because it's a story to tell, and I think that some of these brands. When you don't have that, you're grinding out on a paid basis every impression and every interaction.
And there's no halo organic flywheel. There's no virality, there's nothing that supplements it. And eventually that just degrades down to nothing. And I think that's a lot of what we're seeing is that the, just the absence of anything interesting is not a good business to be in.
Richard: Yeah, it's fascinating. This is a bit of a digression, but there's a one thing that really got me thinking about. A lot. Initially it was, if you've ever been [00:20:00] on Netflix, you watch a reality TV show called Terrace House, which is, set in Japan, or a, it's a Japanese reality show and it's just Big Brother.
They come in. But of course it's a lot more polite, let's say, than an American version. But one thing that's interesting is every one of those kids on that show, it's like, They're between like 21 and the oldest guy's 30 maybe. And a bunch of these guys go in and out. Every one of them owns a apparel brand of some kind.
They have some small brand and all it is, they all are sourcing shirts from the same guy, whatever. And they just say, create a logo and they put it on there and they sell the merch. And that's what they do. And that's their whole business model. Now, whether or not they're specifically successful, I don't know, but the idea there that you're selling a logo, There's a lot, there's a lot of power to that.
Going on this vacation website, I can already tell you I will probably buy one of these simply because being associated with somebody that's pulling this off so well is I think subconsciously
Taylor: It's you, right? It, and a brand often is a way for brands to align themselves with individual's identity. It makes [00:21:00] it clear what you're saying about yourself by buying their product, right? And so I think that you as somebody who you've, you see yourself as a brand connoisseur and appreciation for that.
It's almost like your purchase is a hat tip to the designers. It's like an acknowledgement that you've built something here that is clear and you communicate something in a way. Worth saying. There's another, one of my favorite brands right now is a company called Aku. Okay? This is another N F T project, which I know I'm, everyone's gonna be like, you're you and your NFTs, but okay, so think about my.
Mission statement at CTC for the last 10 years, help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams, right? So this idea of dream language has been a huge part of my reality. I'm also a former baseball player, right? Who's got little kids who I want to help have aspirations. Aku is this story built by Micah Johnson, who's a former MLB baseball player, turned artist who's built this reality around this young black boy who wants to be an astron.
The whole universe he creates is about building dreams and empowering kids with the capacity to dream that they could [00:22:00] be anything, right? And there's all this merch and NFTs and this whole story being built around it that's gonna turn into a movie and all these different things. And I've bought more merch from this company then any other like random clothing brand in the last while.
And it's all because it all says, These like almost childlike drawings and they say, build worlds around dreams. And I'm just like, yeah, that's that's me, right? And it connects to a brand I want for myself and an identity statement that I'm creating. And so in that his ads are more effective to me.
And I think that's really the key of what it does, is it cuts through the noise of who is this? Why does it matter, who's it for? It aligns positively with a sentiment from me such that I'm far more likely to purchase connecting all those.
Richard: Yeah. It's like the Mutual friend in brand guru Evan DeWalt often says like, why would you wear this? Or for your brand, why would you wear a hat? Isn't he how he Why would you wear your brand's hat? Why would somebody wear essentially like what I was saying with the [00:23:00] Japanese kids on the reality TV show.
Why would somebody go around wearing a t-shirt with the name of your brand on it? And I think that's like a fundamental question to ask, and if you're thinking about your target audience, the people for whom the product is most useful or whatever, and then think about what kinds of shirts they wear, that becomes an interesting question, particularly when you think about the aesthetic of your brand, but also the way that you live it out and you communicate with your customers and all
Taylor: Yeah. I love that. It's such an interesting thing rather than I know at a classic brand thing is like what media sites do they consume? It's what are, what's on the t-shirts like of the, of that they wear of your customer is a fascinating. Exercise in identity statement. Cause our apparel, like even this, like this is such a great example.
So I'm wearing Jack Henry. Okay. So Jack Henry, Kyle Baruch, founder of Jack Henry early CTC customer back in the day, just a fan. They opened a salon in my neighborhood and they're doing this like experiential, it's now their office slash resell store slash a salon. And I got my haircut there and I was like, this is just.
So I bought a t-shirt cause I was like, this is just everything [00:24:00] that is me. It's Costa Mesa. It's an entrepreneur that I have a connection to in a building, an omnichannel experiential retail store. I love all of that. This shirt now represents something more than just a company that sells cosmetics.
It's like, like, it's, there's a thing there that I begin to identify with that is very clearly you can learn about me by understanding the who Jack Henry is and what the shirt would.
Richard: Yeah. No, I think it's definitely important too, like when having these conversations to remember. I think that. , the solutions to these problems are not, you're not going to reason your way to them. I think we, maybe we brought this up a couple, two, three weeks ago, but this idea that like the problems that you need to solve just in sales generally, but especially when thinking about brand is like you're not solving logical problems.
You're solving psychological ones, and so approaching them. With that mindset before you go out to solve them, I think is really important. Because I think of a bunch of people were sitting around in a boardroom thinking like what is the coolest shirt that we could wear or that we could produce for our brand to get people to wear it?
[00:25:00] You're not gonna come out with anything. You have to be able to think and be your customer and then of create something out of that. I think that's really important.
Taylor: That's right. So I think that and I get, I also want to like, just acknowledge why if you're a $3 million brand trying to figure out how to make cash tomorrow, this conversation sounds shut up. That doesn't help me solve this very acute financial issue. But. I really do think, and someone like Ezra, who I look up to a lot who's been around this for so long, or even hopefully a little bit me, can say to you like, Hey, I've actually been there.
And I know that even in that most acute moment, the obstacle might be the way, the thing that is actually least intuitive might be the thing to go for, which is like to really step back and ask yourself, why does this thing matter in the world so much so that everybody would need to talk about it? And what if I tried to create experiences like.
Would that actually be the mechanism? Might that actually be the path out? Because I think it's sometimes we get into a very deep rut of [00:26:00] sameness and we want the sameness to produce an outcome that's abnormal and it's just really hard for that to occur. And it's probably not like a small landing page optimization tweak that's going to really unlock the thing that what I really believe you as an entrepreneur are after.
Which is a really awesome brand that produces really great financial outcomes For you, it's, it can be deeper than that.
Richard: Yeah, and especially I think at that smaller level too, all you're trying to do really is stand out above the noise, right? In that sense, brand becomes super, super important. And again, I'm thinking here from maybe from a purely a creative or design perspective, that's part of it.
But it's like how are you going to comport yourself as a whole, as a brand in order to make your fill in the blank product that probably a lot of other people make? How are you gonna make that stand out? And the answer to that question is like, thinking about your brand now because it's going pay I think that's, yeah.
Taylor: And it, yeah, it, it weaves [00:27:00] into, there's so many great definitions of brands. Another one that Evan uses that I like a lot of, which is your brand is your culture on its best day. . And I think about that a lot when I, again, going back to Jack Henry, and this is a good thing to wrap on, is I walk into their salon slash office and what is it's lived like it, it's a real thing.
And so that authenticity of who they are and how they've structured this experience aligns with the product, aligns with the Facebook ads, aligns all the way through in a way that I go it actually reinforces the authenticity reinforces to. That this is a thing that is trustworthy and that I want to align with.
And I think that's it's every piece of who you are. You cannot manufacture. Like we used to joke, we used to work with this customer that was a very old school sports brand, and they, we would joke that they could never call themselves innovative and. Have the office that they did it just, it wouldn't work because that wouldn't align and be honest.
And so they should not try to be, that. They should try to be something else. And so I think there's this really foundational starting point that is worth considering in who you are [00:28:00] and how that shows up. That leads to all these other things we're talking about.
Richard: Part of one of the reasons we wanted to talk about this is because this attempt to of create a new metric that then guides you towards very specific action steps and points out the issues you might be having.
and then actually I will say Taylor, you also teased this in that very same Twitter
Richard: We're actually expanding on that and we wanted to give you guys a little tease or a little sneak preview of building this metric that we're calling g. Which is growth quotient, which is maybe we can call it I don't know, uni unified theory of your brand's potential to grow quickly.
And so we're gonna be rolling something out here really soon, which sort of breaks that down. Everybody will be able to go in, figure out their GQ and so forth. But yeah. Taylor, I don't know if there's something you wanna expand on
Taylor: So if I were to think about my and C'S role in the world going forward, is I think we have an opportunity to be an e-commerce anthropologist, right? Like where, part of what I think our job in the world is to do is [00:29:00] to take advantage of the fact that we get to analyze and look at so many different things and try and answer the question why did it.
Okay. This is really important. Why did it work? Why is the brand growing the way that it's growing? What are the commonalities amongst the brands that grow really fast? Those that grow really slow. And so Richard, myself and the rest of our data team, we've been spending a lot of energy around this question to try and say, what would it look like to begin to assess or to come up with a.
To identify the kinds of brands that grow really quickly and grow continuously and produce it not, and when we say grow, we don't just mean top line revenue either, we mean produce, profit, and grow enterprise value over time. And I think that we're on to something really interesting with this, and we're going to keep evolving it and we're excited to roll it out.
It has hat tips to the anti-fragile playbook, if you've ever read that from [00:30:00] C T C to some of the other stuff that I've developed on our growth strategy training to just watching more and more of the brands that we have, especially over the last three years that have grown, not just on the back of Covid, but after Covid are continuing to produce wonderful results.
And the good news is that there are a common set of things that. That can be quantified, that can be measured to give you visibility into your gq. And the funny thing is, like iq, like intelligent quotient doesn't just, doesn't guarantee success in any more than I think GQ would. But it's an indication of the potential of success in a very real way that I think is gonna be a helpful indicator for you.
Your team to think about what kinds of things are out there to improve upon. So we're excited about this. And it's all con this brand thinking, this thinking. It's all connected to this same idea of trying to really dive into the history of e-commerce, past president future to figure out what makes something work and how we can provide you insight into it.
Richard: Yeah. And so we'll have a future [00:31:00] episode where we break that down a little bit more closer to the rollout of G GQ itself. But we're really excited to show you guys. That's gonna be a super useful tool for everybody.
All right, everybody. Welcome to the first ever pause of a brand new segment. We're calling me to c t c client. We'll workshop the name, that's the least where we're starting at. But basically what this is an o is an opportunity for everybody out there to get to know the people behind the brands we work with, to hear some entrepreneur stories and to get a sense of what the business journeys look like of people who work with us.
So for our first segment, I'm really excited to be joined by Jules Ries, who is the co-founder and president of Verb. And so her brand has been a C T C client since September of last year. And she's been working with us on the paid social side. And yeah, we just wanted to dive into the work that we've done together and where you started and where we are now.
So first I'll say, Jules, welcome to the podcast. We're so glad to. Thank you Richard, and I didn't know that I'm your very first client on the show. That's exciting. This is, [00:32:00] yeah, this is the first one. And yeah, you come highly recommended from from Maya and Nay who are connected to you on our side.
Jules: So I'm really stoked for you to be here.
Richard: Yeah. So let's kick off the conversation then just with some. Just some information around background. So obviously we'll get into the business itself, but tell me a little bit about yourself, where you're from, and then how did you what was the, maybe what was the journey or the story that took you from wherever you started to founding Frv culture?
Jules: To talking to you on the podcast today? Yeah, so my background, I'm Australian, number one. I've been in the gift and product development merchandising industry my entire career, which is a long time, like close to 30 years. I'm living in Colorado, and I have worked my entire career working with international brands, getting them launched and building their brand identity here in the usa.
So my company, Verv culture started in. We launched it in 2015 and it was a [00:33:00] brand that was really born from our desire to work with artisans in different cultures around the world. So we were very sick to death of. Mass production out of China, which was what my entire career was built around. So Verve culture was really born as a passion project and was based on my co-founder and my personal passions, which is food travel, entertainment.
People, that kind of thing. And we launched Verve really based on the experiential side of gift giving and the product category that we loved. So our approach is to create home goods and gourmet products. by culture rather than by product category. So at Verv we have a Moroccan collection, a Mexican collection, a Thai collection, and we've just launched our Italian collection, which is really cool.
So it's a really different approach about experiential doing things with your family and friends. We're all about telling [00:34:00] the story about food items and cooking tools. From different parts of the world and really telling the story and educating and inspiring our customers
so do you have a favorite collection right now? Our first was Mexico and it's still probably my favorite. Our best selling products are the, is a citrus juicer. And it's a product that you see all over the, the street markets are all over Mexico. And I just love it.
And it's tortilla presses, what a great thing to do with your friends and family and your kids make making homemade tortillas at home and there. There's just so much vibrancy and color in the Mexican culture that I just love telling that story and all of our packaging and information about each product that ends up with the end consumer is all about that culture and it's really storytelling and quite inspiring.
Yeah. No I'm going through the questions page right now. This is awesome. I'm a huge proponent of having or making homemade tortillas. Oh, yeah. Or even getting the ones that are uncooked from the store and they're cooking them yourself. It really changes everything. Oh, yeah. And man, using one of these presses to [00:35:00] create a little masa tacos would be amazing.
Yeah. So easy. But then, also Moroccan. It's super easy way to cook that most people don't know what it's all about. So we just, our mission is to really explore these fun different cultures and different things we can do in the kitchen. That's awesome. Okay so tell us a little bit then about what the growth story's been for this business.
Yeah and maybe that includes going through ups and downs, struggles, whatever, but tell me maybe the period between founding and joining ctc, what were some of the, what I'm interested in is what are the ins and outs, the specifics of this business maybe that are unique to you that you had to navigate as you've been building?
Sure. We launched in 2016, as I said, really as a passion project. It was a kind of a side hustle for my co-founder and I, and my co-founder, by the way is my mother . We started this together. We've actually worked together for almost 30 years, so we've been business partners successfully for a long time.
But we started ver in it was actually the end of 2015 as a [00:36:00] passion project. Just wonder if this has, And our first customer that I presented the idea of artisan made product, built in the country of origin and all about the storytelling. The first person I presented it to was my buyer at Nordstrom, and she wrote an order on the spot.
It was, I. Was blown away. It was just amazing. So we started really small first order in Nordstrom in 2019. We realized that, after a couple of years of side hustle, we thought, you know what, this really has legs. So we closed down our consultancy business, which was with all the international brands.
And we just went full on into the culture and just full-time. There was a team of three of us, so it was very small. And we joined on with a growth incubator out of LA in 2019, and we'd heard this whole thing about, what's it called? Oh, direct to consumer. That was a real thing and that was like our growth potential because our background was purely business to business and wholesale.
So we. partnered on with a growth incubator in [00:37:00] 19 did new website. We got on this Shopify platform. , all new photography. We worked with them about our storytelling and what our messaging was to the end consumer. And did all of that just in time for this little world event that happened.
The Covid lockdown. Oh yeah, of course. So when Covid hit, it was, it was perfect timing for our brand because people weren't traveling. So whether they're, they, really craving that cultural experience, they couldn't through travel, they were, stuck in their houses. They were bored with their regular repertoire of recipes.
So we were. For the first time and we were available to be shipping directly to people's homes. And we have, these tie for two cooking kits, which are little cooking kits for two people. From an organic farm just outside of Bangkok. And they're amazing. And COVID really helped us grow during that.
That was really fantastic. It put us on the map, which was great. And today still we're only 20% D to C. We're 80% wholesale. So [00:38:00] that's quite interesting. But we've had since our inception in, 2016 consistent growth, but the last three years have been really quite substantial. With Amazon, we did had an 80% growth last year in Amazon, which is just incredible.
We've gotten into the corporate gifting. World, which has been insane for us. And what a great corporate gift. A, a product with heart and soul that comes from, a, an organic farm in Thailand, or a, a hand painted set of bowls from Morocco. It's really, it's different.
It's interesting product that, that people are really resonating with. Yeah. That's awesome. So it sounds like it's been. , it's been pretty much up until the right, for the last three years for D two C and com e-commerce, it's been going really well for you guys.
But in that journey, have there any been any specific struggles that you guys have come across or what's maybe the biggest struggle been in terms of making. Anybody that owns a business has struggles. But yeah. Wholesale or e-com same thing. I think everybody's had struggles with, which is supply chain.
It's been a [00:39:00] nightmare. Yeah. You asked, which is my favorite culture of all of them. It is personally just Mexico, but it's also really easy to get product up across the border. It's a truck. We don't need a a ship. We have a free trade agreement, so we don't have horrible. Tariffs.
So that's been really great where we can actually pretty easily get our product across the border and keep our warehouses full and ship on time. That's been great. Our Thai collection, that's been a struggle getting it, out of Thailand, just the cost of shipping. It's been really rough.
And Richard, one of the, one of the mission. Within Verve culture is to really help the artisan producers. And by doing that, we need to have a really reasonable perceived value for our product. We don't wanna overprice that. We wanna get a lot, we wanna sell a lot, so we're placing orders with these suppliers.
. So with all of these increases in shipping costs, it's been rough for us. So we've had to really absorb a lot of that margin head. . So that's probably the biggest challenge has been the supply. Yeah, that makes sense. So relative to other businesses you've worked for or been [00:40:00] involved with, is this one more challenging in terms of supply chain just because of like the breadth of different types of countries that you have to source from?
I imagine that would get pretty complex. It is complex and it's challenging, but that's also what gives it the uniqueness. It's not just a bunch of bland product off a production line in China, it's every culture that we have has its own essence and dna and feeling like, . We just launched Italy and it's all about pizza and pasta and it's a lot of olive wood product and it looks so different than every other collection.
And we love that, that's the way the brand has really evolved, that Italy is, obviously it's different than Thailand and Mexico is obviously different to Morocco. Yeah, it's challenging, but hey, that's what gets me up every. Yeah, there you go. Okay. So what, what made you decide then to partner with CTC when that came about?
Again, as I mentioned at the top, you guys joined us in September of 22. So it's been about six-ish, seven months. So yeah maybe talk me through like the set of decisions or events that led up to you deciding to partner with us. Sure. Yeah. So I, I mentioned our background is very much [00:41:00] in wholesale and business to business and e-commerce is just very new as a whole new market for us.
And we are a women's small team, women's run company, self-funded. We take our business very seriously, but we also know when we don't know, and we, it's a whole new market and we needed expert help in this whole world. I actually. Started listening to the e-commerce playbook. Got loved it. Hey, fabulous.
Good job. Thank you. And after couple of year or maybe a year of listening to her, we thought, why don't we just reach out to these people and see if they wanna handle our paid social. And we'd had a couple of agencies, work with us and work on our paid social. Once we got our new website up and running and you get what you paid for and we just outgrew.
Some of the other agencies that we had worked with. So we reached out, we had a meet and greet, and I think we signed that week. And since then it's been wonderful. We have an awesome media buyer with Maya. We love her. And so it's only been, what, five, six months and our roaz grew from a two to a three.
So we were very happy with that. [00:42:00] Still not as high as we'd like Maya . Exactly. But yeah, no, we're very, very happy. We've got, a team of experts that are helping us with our creative direction, for example. It's very different when you're selling wholesale. You're talking to a buyer rather than talking to your end consumers.
So it's different. Yeah, that makes sense. What, if anything or if there are any specifics around like what your experience was with previous agencies versus ctc. Like what are the things that set this experience apart to you? I think it's probably more just on a personal level, just listening to you guys in my car, on my podcast , driving through the Colorado Rocky Mountains and learning all the goddamn acronyms that there are in this industry.
Like I seriously so many acronyms and you guys are just spurting them off. I, for me, it was just a level of confidence. Really believing that you guys knew what you were doing, you, that you've done it before. You've done it for your own brands, you've done it for a wealth of different brands.
You, you've done it in different industries. And just me [00:43:00] having that confidence to put my baby in your hands and my, it's expensive, and add budget for a company like our size it's a responsibility. So we really wanted to, be sure that we trusted our partner, and we do, we definitely do.
Great. No I appreciate that. I'm glad that all the all the acronyms are working. I, it takes a while to get used to it. And I remember when I started, it feels like it's easy for people in our business to of treat e-com. Like it's I dunno, particle physics or something like that.
It's not that complicated, but there are a lot of acronyms hiding it. There is, my husband listens to it with me sometimes. He's what are they talking about? It's he's in the ski industry, so Yeah. It's like over his head. Yeah. No, I'll get that feedback too. It's you guys sound great, but I didn't understand a word
So one thing that's come up in conversation is that your business hits a lot of the marks for an anti-fragile business. And for those of you out there who need a refresher on what that is we'll link a, an article in the show notes that'll remind you of the different characteristics.
But there's several [00:44:00] specifically that we can call out. Opex as a percentage of sales, I believe cost of delivery a number of other things around inventory management. Jules you had mentioned that your business hits a lot of those marks, so why don't you talk us through the ways in which you're managing those costs and those characteristics as a business.
Yeah, I think it's interesting, Richard, a lot of e-com businesses out there start as an e-com. They're, digital, digitally vertical. And we did not, we started as a wholesale business and then moved into retail. And I think that that us being an omnichannel, cuz we are, we're we sell to retailers, we drop ship for retailers and we have our own.
Shopify store that gives us a really great amount of flexibility when something like Covid happens. 99.9% of our business was selling to retail stores. They all shut down. Then we've got our E-com that, that really came up when everybody got out of lockdown and, didn't want us, home shop on their computers anymore, and they went back to the [00:45:00] stores.
We had that. So we have flexibility to adjust, which, which I think has been really interesting for me being that I never had any e-com background whatsoever. Thank God we got that fancy website in 2019 when we did. And when I say fancy, it was not that fancy. We're actually gonna do a brand refresh and we're moving on to Shopify Plus this year, which is Oh, exciting.
Really exciting. I'm super curious what the audience's category in that can do with our media buying, for example. But yeah, I think being omnichannel is, has been a lifesaver for us for. Great. Speaking of the website why don't you give us a little plug here for VER culture? Yeah, it's what do you want the folks to know?
It's culture verve culture.com. V e r v e culture.com. And from there you go, you shop by culture basically. So from there you can shop by Mexico or Morocco or Italy, whatever floats you boat. And then you've got the different storytellings within each culture. With Mexico it could be glassware or you.
Cocktail making or [00:46:00] tortilla press making, or Taco Tuesday. So there's lots of different categories within each culture. Awesome. All right, Jules. Thank you so much for being our Guinea pig for this first for this segment. Really awesome to have you on. Lot of valuable information, but yeah, thanks for being on the pod.
Awesome. Thanks for having me, Richard.