Episode 125

Selling Product Subscriptions and Understanding the Power of Villains in Marketing

Ryan McKenzie - Tru Earth
June 24, 2020
SUBSCRIBE: iTunesStitcher

Learn how Tru Earth is disrupting the laundry detergent space by selling subscriptions and understanding the power of villains in marketing.  My guest in this episode, Ryan McKenzie is a marketing and eComm wiz.  He built his first online business in his 20s and after some extreme wins and some humbling losses, he found his eComm game.  In this episode we uncover some of Tru Earth’s keys to success including 

  • 3 types of offers that get shoppers to subscribe to auto replenishment. 
  • How to structure pricing and discounts for subscriptions
  • Blair Warren’s amazing 4 keys to persuasion (literally one the best marketing quotes I’ve ever heard) and how to leverage it for your business
  • How finding a “villain” can make your marketing more powerful and help you build a closer community (hint: villains don’t have to be people)
  • How to approach ad fatigue and new creative development for Facebook
  • How OMG Commerce is helping Tru Earth leverage Google Shopping and YouTub ads
  • Plus more!

Mentioned in this episode:

Blue Ribbon Mastermind

“Building a StoryBrand” Book by Donald Miller

The One Sentence Persuasion Course by Blair Warren

Ryan McKenzie - Co-Founder at Tru Earth

Via LinkedIn

Via Facebook

Via Twitter

Via Instagram


Tru Earth - Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent Sheets

Via LinkedIn

Via Facebook

Via Twitter

Via Instagram

Via YouTube



Episode Transcript

Brett Curry:

Well, hello and welcome to another edition of the eCommerce Evolution Podcast, I'm your host Brett Curry CEO of OMG Commerce. And today, I've got a friend joining me on the podcast. This is a dude that I respect and admire, and I've got to see his business explode in recent years. We actually met through a mutual good friend of ours Ezra Firestone. We're both part of Ezra's Blue Ribbon Mastermind.

Brett Curry:

So today you're going to be getting the inside scoop, the story from my buddy Ryan McKenzie, co-founder of Tru Earth. You'll hear all about Tru Earth and the innovation. If you were watching the video you just saw a flash of the Tru Earth product. We're going to get into that into some marketing tactics, some brands storytelling. Ryan has an amazing marketing mind and some amazing marketing skills. We're going to talk about some of those fun things today and get to hear his story. With that Ryan McKenzie, how you doing man? Thanks for coming on the show.

Ryan Mckenzie:

I'm good man. Thanks for having me. It's always nice to see your face even if it's not in person, you know?

Brett Curry:

Yeah dude, I appreciate that. We were talking about how we're both pretty young guys where in our own heads maybe we're getting a little gray.

Ryan Mckenzie:

And really good looking, really good looking.

Brett Curry:

Very attractive more than above average whatever. That's what we tell ourselves. But yeah getting a little bit of salt and pepper going on here so I guess, I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing but it's real, it's happening. So yeah, man. We're going to mainly focus on Tru Earth through your e-commerce business and how it's been exploding and the innovative things you guys are doing. But you have a really interesting background in direct marketing, and media, and magazines, and subscription box all kinds of crazy stuff. Can you give us the 90-second rundown of how Ryan McKenzie became a marketing superstar and then we'll dig in into Tru Earth.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Overnight marketing superstar 20 years in the making. I started messing around on the internet in the late 90s and I've always been super entrepreneurial. One of our business partners, Kevin Hinton and I have been friends since kindergarten and we've literally been scheming in some form or another since probably kindergarten. We were doing lemonade stands and trying to sell bracelets and all sorts of stuff like that. Then the internet started becoming mainstream in the 90s and we went from trying to make an application, or an app, or software back then for bike trails. We were doing websites and trying to sell ads. Then we had a media company and we're doing a huge email list of like a million subscribers in the early 2000s. We were doing newsletter ads, CPC stuff. Then we got-

Brett Curry:

Have you always been in Vancouver?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. I've always been in... Oh, I actually only lived in Vancouver for probably a year of my entire life but the rest of it has primarily been in a suburb 20 minutes from Vancouver.

Brett Curry:

That explains the bike trail angle lots of hiking, lots of outdoors.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. I'm literally looking at mountains and the ocean or an inlet to the ocean from where I'm sitting right now. Vancouver is wild. We started doing well in selling advertising using networks, not actually direct sales. Then getting into the affiliate side of things. That led... I felt we had a ringtone subscription service for a while started as affiliate, then we had a service and then that got shut down. Then Kevin and I built this platform called InfoBarrel which it's still alive but-

Brett Curry:

What's it called again? Info brow?

Ryan Mckenzie:

InfoBarrel.

Brett Curry:

Barrel, okay.

Ryan Mckenzie:

It was really big in the article marketing days, but sorry.

Brett Curry:

Dude I remember those days. Article marketing that's actually, quick side note quick history on the host here. That's how I got started online marketing as an SEO and my first claim to fame an SEO is I got a client of mine to rank the top 10 for the search term brochures and all I used was article marketing. That ranking did not last.

Ryan Mckenzie:

It was real man.

Brett Curry:

Well, for a while it was legit.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah, like 2006 to probably 2010 that was a really great way to rank for things. I actually had an SEO agency in that time frame too because that tactic was amazing. But anyways, we launched this site InfoBarrel. This platform was like a Squidoo or HubPages and we shared 75% of the revenue with our users. It got big. There was something like eight million searches a month at some point. Then Panda and Penguin all those Google updates hit and kicked our ass all the way back to-

Brett Curry:

That was gnarly man. Those days it was the wild West and then Google put the smack down and then man the pain, the blood in the streets, in the SEO community and then that thing went hit.

Ryan Mckenzie:

It was bad. When our ringtone subscription got shut down and we started InfoBarrel, we went from making... We were 20 something making 100 grand a month. Then it got shut down and we had literally no income. I had to go start selling cell phones at the mall. I thought I was this entrepreneur that was going to be retired and I'm like, "Let's spend the money wherever we can. I'm 25." I just thought that it was-

Brett Curry:

A billionaire in a couple of years.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. We were planning getting a Lambo... It was stupid crap that I probably, I don't know. I'm glad I went through it just for perspective, but the low is really bad. It was really bad and I had some good debt but anyways I climbed out of that. Actually got out of that was doing long storing at the same time while we were trying to support all this. We met Brad in the middle of InfoBarrel and we had no money and I'd left our other warehouse but we were working in my garage and it was so cold. Kevin was shivering and then Cooper's pretty warm. He never gets that cold, but it was cold. He had an ad out for a social media guy and they had an actual office space that they're building whatever. I went down and they're like, "Oh, you're a great fit. You can rent it out." And I'm like, "Whoa! Well there's this one problem. I actually don't have any money."

Brett Curry:

Is that going to be an issue is that going to cause problems or? I can't because I pay rent.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Can I wash dishes? They were really cool about it. This is actually how I met Brad. He was one of the co-founders of Tru Earth and my business partner. And he's like, "You know what? Listen, I get it. You guys know what you're doing. First month you can stay for free and as you guys build your business back up, we'll just move your rent up to where we're supposed to be." Yeah, it was amazing.

Brett Curry:

arrangement.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. Every time I tell that story, I get tingles because if Brad hadn't offered that at that point in my life, that probably would have been it. This wouldn't have happened and I don't know what I'd be doing right now. A couple of years later we were still just working independently from each other. We were renting the space from him and we were helping them with some of their stuff with one of the magazines and he asked if we wanted to do a merger with these magazines and this other company with magazines. And I'm like, "Well, I could probably figure out a way to make money with those." That was that.

Ryan Mckenzie:

We partnered up with these other guys. We took on, bought a couple other magazines and then they decided they wanted to stick with just magazines, a couple of years in we partied ways. We started getting more into the e-commerce side of things and blending magazines with e-commerce. At the time when we had that breakup, again, it seemed pretty scary but it was probably the absolute best thing that could have happened because it allowed so many other doors and windows to open.

Brett Curry:

Yeah that's fantastic. Let's do a quick detour and talk about magazines and traditional media, and building on media in general. Where do you think that fits in the scheme of things right now for commerce in general, but for e-commerce and how has your background in magazines and in online content stuff, how has that influenced you with Tru Earth?

Ryan Mckenzie:

I've tried to get every single keyword or rank for everything, or just drive any traffic that's relevant on a really broad scale to a vertical in the path. It works okay but I think from a content creation standpoint, I think there's a lot of value because if you can make the content align with your core values, your brand story, what you're about. That content not only provides an avenue for discovery of your brand when people are looking for content on the topic but it also provides additional value to your users, allows you to stay relevant. It allows you to tear down beliefs that may be incorrect or don't align with your brand and then rebuild them with the belief systems that they need to have in order to support you, or want to support you, or to want to be in your tribe.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Then obviously any platform is always stronger when there is an audience. As far as I'm concerned, you don't want to be spread so to where you have 40 different mediums that you're delivering content on and you're not really focusing on any of them. But whether you're creating micro content for Instagram, or Pinterest, or whether you're creating these long form value filled articles to get SEO traffic. I think whatever you're doing, just really... The easiest way to do it because a lot of people are like, "What kind of content should I create about my brand?" And then I usually say, "Well, what's your story? Or what's your brand core values?" Then they're like, "Oh, I don't really have a core... I just sell these things." And I'm like, "Well, okay first thing you got to go back. Figure out what those are, and once you know what that is, it's pretty easy to A, create content if you don't have the means to create it yourself or B, once you have the means to do it, it's very easy to choose topics to create content around because you already know what your brand is about."

Brett Curry:

Yeah. That's so good. Awesome. Well, explain to somebody what is Tru Earth and how did you get into this business?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. So Tru Earth, this is what the package looks like. This is the equivalent of 32 loads of laundry. I don't have a jug here-

Brett Curry:

It looks like it is if they're just listening, it's a colorful, bright but relatively small envelope can't weight probably much.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Eight inches tall maybe by quarter inch. I don't know.

Brett Curry:

Yeah something like that, yeah.

Ryan Mckenzie:

This is 384 loads so this is like a week worth at the Curry House.

Brett Curry:

Exactly.

Ryan Mckenzie:

But that's a year for the average family of four-

Brett Curry:

Was it like two three loads a day, some days it's true, it's crazy yeah.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah, and this is what the actual strip looks. If you can see it, it's like, I want to say about four inches by two and a half roughly and that replaces... In grams that weighs over three grams which is like a 10th of an ounce. A load of laundry is about 30 to 40 grams typically so an ounce to an ounce and a third. The reason why this is as effective as regular laundry detergent is because it has the same amount of something called surfactants as traditional laundry. But we've basically between two layers so it's the same efficacy, if not better than majority of laundry detergents with less than... Liquid detergent is 4% of the part carbon footprint.

Brett Curry:

One detergent is 4% of the carbon footprint. What do you mean? Explain that.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Whether people believe in climate change or not, the amount... When you transport liquid laundry detergent, if each load is 40 grams and there's 32 loads that's like 1,260 grams which is 2.2 pounds, 2.3 pounds roughly per bottle. This, oops. This package which you can't see, if you're listening is 90 grams which is like three ounces. When you put together an entire truck of liquid laundry detergent, you might only be able to get out of... By the way it's a smaller truck. You can get 100 bottles in there. With Tru Earth you'd be able to get 1000 packages, or probably more actually in that same space. Each package uses less overall fuel which in turn means less emissions to move it across the world.

Brett Curry:

Awesome. You're saving, you're eco-friendly in terms of the size of the packaging, the weight in shipping it. The waste that's there, or rather the waste that's not there when you're using the product. It's one of those things that I know in some of your ads, and we'll get into this more in a little bit, but they show just the extreme amount of waste created by those plastic jugs that your laundry detergent comes in. So you eliminate that entirely. It's either big jug of stuff or little strip and little strip is as effective or more effective. You say it's only 4% of the footprint of laundry detergent, did I understand that correctly? There's lots of like a mathematic there are lots of math.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah.

Brett Curry:

It was exciting, but I was lost a little bit.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. It's even better than a pot is about 25 grams. We were still way better than that but it's basically better. I had somebody reach out to me yesterday from this climate change project and he told me that we have the most eco-friendly laundry detergent with the smallest carbon footprint on the planet.

Brett Curry:

That's amazing.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. The other big thing you mentioned the jugs, there's 700 million laundry jugs a year that end up in landfills and out of all the plastic jugs actually get recycled, only 20% of them actually get recycled because of the demand for the product that comes... The output of the recycling. So even when people think they're recycling, chances are it's just going to the garbage.

Brett Curry:

Got you. You're solving a real problem that is only effective if the product actually works too. People won't keep buying it if it doesn't work. It does work. It's a fantastic product. I want to talk about a few things here. We're going to use some marketing tactics and some marketing angles in a minute, but one thing you do well, and I think part of this comes from your background with magazines and subscription boxes and understanding how that world works. Subscriptions, so you sell a consumable, a lot of listeners sell consumables e-commerce products. What are some of the mistakes you see e-commerce companies making when trying to sell subscriptions? Then what are some of the keys to success there?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Well I can definitely answer this because I definitely made some mistakes when we started this. I'll start with the mistakes. When we first started the only way that you can get this product without a subscription was if you asked on an ad and we messaged it to you because we did a really big minimum viable product launch on this. We just wanted to see if we could... We thought we're going to sell 150 in the first month. That was our number-

Brett Curry:

150 units or 150 subscriptions?

Ryan Mckenzie:

We only had subscriptions yeah.

Brett Curry:

Yeah.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Basically we started off, you can only get a subscription. There's the two different sense. That part is you could probably get away with only offering subscriptions but where we dropped the ball was not thinking about the actual needs of each individual because a single person that's living by themselves has no need for 32 loads of laundry every single month. We didn't offer any other options, or we did, again it was only through customer service but for three months. What we're seeing is our attrition rate.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Our attrition rate was still pretty good, but our attrition rate was fairly high and we're causing a lot of dissonance in people because by the time they got to their third package, if they're a single person, every time they look in their cupboard and they see three packages of Tru Earth they're thinking, "Shit man, I need to cancel this subscription." Then they don't do it or whatever and every time they go to do laundry, it reminds them then they start getting this negative feedback loop and this negative connotations of my brand. And they're like, "Oh well, you know what? I'm not going to go subscribe to this again because it was a pain in my ass to actually deal with it."

Brett Curry:

Yeah. And they're doing this to be minimalist in a way. To reduce the footprint and to reduce waste and now even though the part is very small and it fits in the drawer or whatever, it's still it's piling up so to speak and that goes against the story and the brands too.

Ryan Mckenzie:

100%. One thing that I learned that's huge and I never really considered this before with my other subscriptions because it was like the other ones weren't consumables. We basically allowed people to choose their frequency. Like monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, or annually. There's a whole bunch of different ways that you can pick now. We also allowed them the option to do a one time purchase. The way that we framed it, we're still getting approximately 67% of people are taking the subscription offer over the-

Brett Curry:

The first time.

Ryan Mckenzie:

The first time.

Brett Curry:

67%. Interesting.

Ryan Mckenzie:

And I can tell you why.

Brett Curry:

Why do you think that is?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Great question Brett. From the beginning, we've made the price point significantly more desirable on the subscription. We don't offer additional discounts for whether you buy monthly, or bimonthly, or quarterly whatever. We want people to be happy to use the product and we also want to make an impact. But what we did do is since the customer acquisition costs... For us to be able to advertise a completely new product, we have to spend a lot of money to create awareness because people aren't going to go into a grocery store, see a product they've never seen that looks different than everything else and just buy it for fun. We made the-

Brett Curry:

It looks like a radically different laundry detergent, but it's a radically different approach using this little strip. That feels like it wouldn't work.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah, and I think that was my perception when we were starting the brand too. Before I had tried the product I'm like, "Man there's no way that's going to clean our clothes." When I used it I was like, "Boy, I was wrong." But yeah. We price anchor very heavily. If you want to buy the product out of the cart one at a time, it's 1995 for a package and if you want to get it on a subscription it's 1295 and they both include free shipping. Some grocery stores have it and we have a minimum price that people can sell it for which is above the subscription price or at least advertise that. People see it like, "Oh, I'm going to use laundry detergent anyways. If I can pick the frequency then I'm going to get it. And there's no contracts, I can cancel it at any time."

Ryan Mckenzie:

It just makes sense to save 37% or whatever that number is. And it's more convenient really. I'm never going to... It's never going to be 11 o'clock at night and I have some event in the morning and I'm going to have to pick from stinky shirts because I know I'm not going to be pouring an empty bottle of laundry detergent in the wash and cursing it for being out. Yeah that was the secret sauce.

Brett Curry:

Do you think the savings that a consumer gets when they subscribe is really important? Obviously the convenience factor is huge, laundry detergent, you're going to always wash your clothes. You don't want it to think about it. It really is those two things, cost savings and convenience. There's a lot of products that can't do a 37% discount, right? For Subscribe & Save because that'd be too much of a discount for them. How important do you think your discount is? Do you have any thoughts on what the sweet spot is for a Subscribe & Save, to use Amazon's language, but the subscription discount. Let's answer that first.

Ryan Mckenzie:

I've got a couple of products that are discounted 15% and some people take it. But it definitely seems from my experience that 25% or better tends to do well and if somebody wants to switch subscription, what I would suggest doing is pick a price that you want to sell your subscription for. Maybe it's 5% less than your current one-time purchase price. Then start shifting the price of your one-time purchase up over time. Obviously, AB test make sure you're not screwing yourself or something like that. But I would be willing to bet that you will see more people take the subscription as you stretch that difference in price.

Brett Curry:

Well, it makes sense. I think and I appreciate you saying test it, and if you're going to increase that one-time price, do it gradually over time especially if you're going from one-time purchase and you've got no subscriptions, making that transition will be tricky because you're at 67%. Is that right of subscriptions?

Ryan Mckenzie:

About that yeah..

Brett Curry:

Okay. Love that. What do you do? Are you doing anything innovative or interesting? If someone does make that one-time purchase, maybe they remain a skeptic they want to make sure it works, or they're not sure how much they'll use. What do you do to get that one-time purchaser to convert to hopefully become a subscriber?

Ryan Mckenzie:

I have this really sloppy active campaign automation. I'm not even joking. We're actually moving to Klaviyo or we're in the process of moving to Klaviyo. We basically have... We've created a four or five different emails that I think they trigger roughly every... The first one comes after 30 or 60 days I can't remember. It's been a while since we set it up, but they're just basically different messages. We're always sending the same thing, just trying to hit them from different angles. "Hey, you're probably running blue on laundry detergent now, I just wanting to check in. Here's some different options for you." Maybe you want to try a year. If you like it, maybe you want to stay. Maybe you don't want a subscription, but here's all the other options that are standard. Not standard, but your typical emails for trying to re-engage a customer.

Ryan Mckenzie:

However, we do monitor which ones perform the best and then like... One thing our email copywriter's doing right now is he's taking our most popular emails and then trying to re-create them. His name is Andrew by the way. Andrew but use different lenses to talk to that same topic but from different perspectives which everybody doesn't respond to the same types of messaging. Some people respond to discounts, some people respond to the story, some people respond to a reminder because they like the product and they were skeptical. Really it's a matter of writing a few different emails that will offer the benefits from different angles and just following up with an automation.

Brett Curry:

Yep. I love it. And I love how you outlined that. Some people respond just because they need a reminder. They love the product, they love using it but they need a reminder that, "Oh yeah, I could subscribe and that would save me more and it would be more convenient." Some people will respond to the story. Reminding them of the impact they're making by purchasing this product and all the goodness around the story. Some people they respond to a discount. And so you got to lay out that discount. Really understanding those three segments, speaking directly to those three segments, automating that. Totally, totally makes sense.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Oh, sorry. I'll just say one last thing tied to that too. I won't go along here, sorry to interrupt you. But I think a lot of people think that. There is a pre perceived notion that your list doesn't want to buy more of your stuff. Not like all of your stuff. They need different products or whatever. Our buyer list is in a freaking scene, even though it's full of subscribers, we'll send a promo with the exact same product to everybody who's already got it. Not even necessarily promo, but we'll talk about whether it's how many balls are we've removed from landfills or just an update on our story.

Ryan Mckenzie:

We're not even hard selling. And we sell so much, it's like people are buying the product for their friends, people, re-uping and getting more there's... Just because people have bought... Let's say you sell protein powder. If you sell protein powder and you know some people are going to buy more protein powder because they just bought protein powder. People are crazy. They know they're going to eat it. They got friends that are going to eat it. People like to talk about the things that they think work. They want to offer them more of what you've already sold them.

Brett Curry:

Absolutely. I love that. I think, especially with consumables and at the time of this recording, the world is opening back up. To a large degree we're not post pandemic, but we're post quarantine. I still think there's always this desire for some people to have enough. Maybe stockpile is not the right word or whatever, but people like to have... They've got enough of something. I've got a little bit in reserve here. And I think that's true with most consumables. Laundry detergent as well. So even those emails, just telling the story, reminding people, "Hey, here's how many bottles we've kept off landfills." That causes them to purchase more. They want to have more on hand. They believe in the mission. And so yeah. Never underestimate the power of an email that's well-crafted even if it's not a sales message in generating new sales.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah 100%

Brett Curry:

Yeah very cool. Let's talk a little bit... I want to get into a couple things. I want to get some marketing tactics in a minute, but let's talk about brand story. I think that's the best transition right now. How do you approach brand's story and how are you working your unique story into emails and ads and really all that you do?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Cool. I've blended a few different things together but my friend Kylie, we work with her to come up with-

Brett Curry:

Jenner, or?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Not Kylie Jenner.

Brett Curry:

Not Kylie Jenner. Okay yeah.

Ryan Mckenzie:

But she worked with us to come up with our... the feel and the avatar. We already knew who our building was. If you don't have a brand story, the easiest thing to do is get Donald Miller's book named Brand Story.

Brett Curry:

It's so good.

Ryan Mckenzie:

It's so good, I've been telling everybody about this. It's not rocket science. He even has worksheets you can go through like, "Who's your villain? What's the guide or do you use unique mechanism?" I can't remember all the details of his exact program, but it is dummy proof man. You just need to figure out who your villain is. We only have one villain because if you have multiple villains, we're not Batman here-

Brett Curry:

Talk about that just a little bit because this is an interesting concept and it's very powerful in a lot of ways, but why do you need a villain when you're telling your brand story and who could that villain be? I think a lot of people when they hear the word villain and they have the wrong picture in their mind here but speak to that a little bit.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. Blair Warren has a book called The One Sentence Persuasion Course and basically this is... People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies. People-

Brett Curry:

That is so powerful. Can you actually read that again? I'll put that in the show notes and this can be used also in the nefarious ways. We're going to talk about the good ways to use this, but if you look at successful politicians and people that are even very manipulative in what they do, they're masters what Blair Warren lays out there, so go through that one more time.

Ryan Mckenzie:

And their name might rhyme with Trump.

Brett Curry:

Awesome.

Ryan Mckenzie:

I don't want to call out anybody out though-

Brett Curry:

but it's possibly true, yes.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Here's the quote again, it's by Blair Warren and he has a book it's really good, it'll take like an hour to read, but this is how it goes. People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies. StoryBrand basically helps you figure out what all of those things are.

Brett Curry:

Yeah, yeah, yeah exactly. And the villain in the case of a product may not be a person, right? We don't need the villain to be a person perse. If you're selling a mattress, the villain is a poor sleep, or it's a mattress industry that's been lying to you and pulling the wool over your eyes and tricking you for a long time. So it doesn't have to be... This doesn't have to be a nasty mudslinging campaign like politicians do, but there needs to be a villain. You need to be fighting against something. It could be a concept. The villain could be climate change or just pollution and landfill whatever overwhelmed things. There needs to be a villain, right?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah.

Brett Curry:

Have you guys identified and clarified who your villain is?

Ryan Mckenzie:

We had a couple of different villains when we started. We still have them both but we don't really... Obviously it's climate change. Oh sorry not climate change. The plastic, laundry jugs, and... what's it called? The carbon footprint, but we lean more on the jugs. We created the Tru Earth Movement, which is small changes lead to big impact. But our big thing with that is how many laundry jugs we've kept out of landfills and we're around a million now.

Brett Curry:

Beautiful. That's so that's so tangible though. Different people will make different associations there. Some people will say, "Man that's impacting climate change and I feel so good about that." Other people will say, "Just good for pollution. I feel so good about that." Whatever the case may be. But identifying the jugs it's visual, it feels tangible. If you were to go with something conceptual, I think it's a little harder to get people excited. I think that was a very smart choice.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Thank you. What's really cool about when you tie the villain in and you create some form of movement. We have this and we're also doing another thing where we're donating laundry ships to... We just donated 300 grand or 150 grand worth of Philadelphia food share and we've got one going to LA right now and some going to Ghana. We're sending it everywhere. Basically trying to take our operation give back. When people buy things, the biggest reason that they get post-purchase dissonance or buyer's remorse is because this thing it was expensive and they're not sure if they're going to like it or... It's usually tied to not really having any connection to the product outside of just wanting it.

Ryan Mckenzie:

When you can make your brand fight a villain, help a cause, lift people up and then you make it so it's not about the brand achieving those things but about the customer achieving that and being part of that. They're not buying the product now. They are buying into the movement and it's a lot harder to feel shitty about saving the environment and helping kids in Africa than it is to feel shitty about buying a laundry detergent that cost a little bit more than tide.

Brett Curry:

Right. It's so true. That goes back to Story Brand and Donald Miller's concept of the hero of the story is the customer. The hero of the story is the customer feeling like I'm making an impact. I'm part of a movement. I'm helping kids in Africa. I'm keeping landfills clean. They're the hero, you're the guide. You're the guy that helping them in the process helping them achieve what they want to achieve.

Ryan Mckenzie:

And that's easy to forget. That's easy to forget. I don't know how many times... I don't read that many emails anymore where I've written it. "Oh, we're so happy that our team is dah, dah, dah." I'm like, at first I was like, "Oh, sweet. I'm going to make them board the team." And then afterwards I'm like, "Shit, it's not a boat, it's a team." They're a part of a-

Brett Curry:

That's the part that it feels like it's so much about you, not about them.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. It's like we want to thank you for contributing to these 1 million bottles. Because of you, we're able to achieve this. When you ask them to share the movement with other people, they get to brag that they contributed to this as opposed to that they're associated with the brand that contributed to this. That's like a paradigm shift in people's brains.

Brett Curry:

And that's where if you can do those things that Blair Warren talks about. We're highlighting the villain aspect, but when there is a true villain and when you're also helping someone achieve their dreams and all those other things that's when they're more likely to be an ambassador. That's where they're more likely to refer. That's when they're more likely to say, "Hey, there's a discount now, or whatever, I'm just going to buy some for friends. I'm going to buy some, I'm going to give it away. I'm going to get other people in on this movement as well." That only happens if you have a brand story well executed. Does not happen if you're just about price. You guys have done very well at that. Other tips or suggestions, things you've done well, things you haven't done so well as it pertains to brand story?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. Obviously everything's a work in progress and I'm really good at starting stuff and my follow through is not as good as other people's. Which I try to involve other people that are good at follow through. But I think a lot of people get hung up on perfecting all of these pieces before they actually start implementing it. That's going to hurt you worse for actually implementing some of these elements into your overall business. What I've found and... Your brand story may actually change and some of these elements may change over time, especially if you're running Facebook ads or YouTube ads and you'll notice that different hooks wind up performing better than other hooks. It has to be dynamic. If you're Procter & Gambl or somebody like that, you obviously can't be dynamic and agile with all of your marketing messages and stuff like that. But when you're a disruptor brand or people like us, you can be agile. You can change some of these things based on performance. Yeah people might-

Brett Curry:

That's our advantage, that's what we should be leveraging and taking advantage of. So embrace that.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. You find something that works really well, maybe swap another piece of your brand story out for that if it makes sense. I find the longer I sit on things, the better chance... I'm looking at my Trello list right now. I have to-do and then I have to-do today which was basically my new list of things that I had to do because I couldn't but they're both like fricking 50,000 pages long. And I know that 90% of that stuff is never getting done because I sat on it. The same goes with the story stuff. Learn from your ads. If you need a tactical thing to test what's the best hook, go and create a Facebook ad with your target audience. Then use a dynamic creative and use whatever one image but put five different headlines and see which one Facebook resonates best with. Or split test your headline on your site and split the... I mean, there's so many ways that you can find out what the best thing is.

Brett Curry:

It's never been easier to test and you have to test because you're going to find things that will surprise you. We do a lot of YouTube ads and full disclosure, we run Tru Earth's Google and YouTube campaigns.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Highly recommend them.

Brett Curry:

I did not pay you for that, but thank you for that. But we had this tried-and-true call to action that we've been using all the time in our YouTube ads. We just started testing a new one. Learn more was the call to action that seemed to work best and that little call to action button on YouTube. Now we found, shaken it up a little bit makes the difference. It does vary a little bit client by client, but it's one of those things you don't ever stop testing. The reason we landed on learn more is because we had tested a whole bunch and learn more was the winners. So we're like "Well let's just do that." Then we forget to test again for awhile. And then we start testing and we're like "Oh my goodness, this other CT is actually working even better."

Brett Curry:

It's been super interesting. Yes, you got to keep testing. It's never been easier to test than it is now. Let's talk about what are some things you've learned... Let's look into Facebook a little bit because I know that's how you got started and I think that's a great place to start for a brand like yours because it is so different. It is so unique. People aren't just searching for something on Google just like it. They need to see it in action before they go search for it. How did you start on Facebook, early lessons, and how has your approach on Facebook changed from when you guys launched?

Ryan Mckenzie:

I've been doing Facebook ads since 2014. The arbitraging clicks to Google ads but I mean it's my... Facebook evolves really fast. I used to be able to crush sales with posts, engagement objectives or different objectives. And it's just gotten really efficient with purchase objective. But a common problem I think I see a lot with, and I actually talked to about something similar to this on a Perpetual Traffic a couple weeks ago but one thing I see a lot is people complaining that their ads burnout. Where they become less effective over time and it's super true. I've got an ad it's absolutely doing amazing and it'll do amazing, I'll just pour gasoline all over it and it does great until it doesn't. It sits in this area where your returns aren't that great.

Ryan Mckenzie:

I always struggled to constantly put creative on what and how to test it and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I got tired of my ads burning out and we basically set up a really simple standard operating procedure where we have every week I have somebody on my team. I've always found that Facebook ads are difficult to standard operating procedures because everything changes so quickly. But every week, every Monday a guy on my team goes and takes... We do a lot of micro-influencer stuff but they'll go on and they'll take five different micro-influencer photos and they'll create 10 different ads from those with our two best copies. One is really story focused and one is really benefit focused. I find that different people respond to each others differently.

Ryan Mckenzie:

I've got winning ones we can split test that copy somewhere else with winning creative but basically every Monday five of those and then we take one video creative that we've made and we test that again with those two things. If any of those wind up being winners and hit certain numbers, we extract them and we put them in our big boy campaigns whether it's the retargeting or top of funnel or whatever it looks like it'll work best. Before I would be testing creative once a month and I would probably find out... I usually find something good once a month, every two months. But it was really... You get in this head space that you've just chewed up all the audience or you've... Facebook ads are getting worse, they're getting more expensive. Yes, they're getting more expensive blah, blah, blah-

Brett Curry:

There are getting to a certain degree of that.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah. But you can counter that. Whatever your best TPA is, if you hit an ad that really resonates with people or whatever there's definitely the 80 20 of ads. The rest of these ones might do... 80% of them may do well, 20% may do terrible. 50% of them may perform enough to keep them active. Then there's going to be a 20% that do well and there's going to be a 4% that are absolutely mind blowing. That you are going to get a line of credit and drain your bank account to make sure that this ad gets seen by as many people as possible. There's not a winning ticket out there to magically win at Facebook ads or Google ads or something like that. But if you're not testing, you're going to burnout your ads and you're not going to find anything that's attractive. If you don't know what to create for ads, the actual creative, the two things obviously, pictures of people holding your product are great as it has got a love demo love which is like testimonial, demonstration, another testimonial.

Brett Curry:

It was originally a test of that's usually how we but love demo love is great too. That's more Ezra and then his lingo, which I like. But yeah, that's a fantastic that works on YouTube, but YouTube ads works with Facebook ads such a great template. I think it underscores some of these you're saying. We get upset that ad costs are going up. We get upset that creatives wear out quickly, or we can just embrace it and say, "This is just the way it is." How do we build this into our standard operating procedures? How do we get really good at testing and deploying lots of creatives and weeding out the losers and pouring more gas on the winners. Because your competitors probably won't do that. They're going to be just as frustrated as you feel like you are. So rise above that and do what it takes and you guys do that very well.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Yeah, thanks.

Brett Curry:

Any surprises, any takeaways as you've gotten your SEO background and Google and you're really into Facebook ads, but as you guys have done more and more with Google and YouTube, any interesting takeaways or insights or things you've observed on the Google and YouTube channels?

Ryan Mckenzie:

Like Google search or YouTube ads?

Brett Curry:

Yes, both. Take your pick on which one you want to talk about first.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Before I worked with you guys, and this isn't a plug for Brad though I would definitely recommend Brad and his team. Google shopping I had never... I didn't even know how to set it up because it's complex. It's an effective tool. There's a whole lot of wins tucked in there for e-commerce which reminds me, I should probably get you guys in touch with some other ones, but I was really surprised by that. YouTube I find has been fickle. You and I tried it before with another brand and my creative probably sucks because the creative on YouTube is different than the creative on Facebook.

Brett Curry:

It's quite different. There's some interesting correlations where if you have video that works on Facebook, then you can probably get YouTube ads to work too. But it's usually not the exact same creative. It usually needs to be tweaked some. There's been a few cases where we can take creative directly from Facebook and run on YouTube but that's very much the exception not the rule.

Ryan Mckenzie:

The one ad that done well for us with you guys didn't do exceptionally well on Facebook. I guess really it's the same with virtually any platform and why it's tough to be a media buyer on omni-channel media buyer and be really good at it is because every channel the way that people consume it's a little bit different and the customer that's living there is a little bit different.

Brett Curry:

The algorithms are a little bit different. So how you can influence that and optimize that it's going to be different.

Ryan Mckenzie:

The cool thing I really like about YouTube from watching what you guys have done is how you can take that search intent, not even necessary what they searched, but there's just so many different angles that you could access when they're part of that whole Google suite that you can't get through Facebook. When Tru Earth started seeing success with what you guys are doing on YouTube, first I was like, "Alright, is this going to last a week and it's going to die?" This was in January and it's funny because at Blue Ribbon. Brett and I were both at Blue Ribbon, we were in a temporary that's what it was, right?

Brett Curry:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ryan Mckenzie:

Wherever it was, I had a lot of people saying... There's not a lot of people that I found that have been able to be successful with YouTube and I don't know what the reason is, but everybody told me that your creative burns out in a week.

Brett Curry:

That's true.

Ryan Mckenzie:

We're at six we're at six months I think almost now and the main creative still the same.

Brett Curry:

Right. Yeah. That is one key difference between YouTube and Facebook. On YouTube if you find a winning ad, it may run for longer than a year. The reason for that, and you talked about audiences. If we're looking at intent-based audiences, so audiences based on what people are searching for and things like that, those audiences refresh all the time. I'm searching for this today, so now I'm on your list but then I'm not searching for later I'm off the list. You're always getting new people on those lists that you're targeting and that's one of the reasons why those ads can keep working on YouTube. Sometimes we'll be testing and tweaking some things but yeah they definitely have a longer shelf life for sure.

Ryan Mckenzie:

That was... I really like... I think a lot of people are very dependent on Facebook. I think if you want to be on omni-channel brand, if you can figure out YouTube or have somebody like Brad and his team figured out YouTube for you, it just gives you a little bit of breathing room to not have to completely base your entire business existence on one platform.

Brett Curry:

Right. Which is really never a good idea. Obviously I love YouTube because that's what has been the focus of my professional life for the last four or five years or so but it is a good idea to diversify. Depending on your business model, your product and a variety of things your audience, there's a ton of scale on YouTube. We have some clients that spend more on YouTube than they spend on Facebook, and a lot like to spend that spend more on Facebook than YouTube depends on a variety of factors but yeah diversifying is definitely a good idea for sure. As we wrap up this has been fantastic. Thank you for being so open and honest in sharing. What's next for Tru Earth and obviously you may have some super top secret stuff you can't share but where are you guys going from here?

Ryan Mckenzie:

We're looking to get a new office possibly with a bit of retail. We have a warehouse with retail. It's going to probably be a few months away provided COVID rise but we're trying to ramp up retail pretty hard. We're starting to push a little bit more in Europe and stuff like that. But really trying to get the product all over the world so we can eliminate plastic jugs from landfills as a team.

Brett Curry:

Love it. Yup. Fantastic. Love the message of the product of the brand. How can people who want to learn more about Tru Earth or more about you? Where can they find you?

Ryan Mckenzie:

You can find more about Tru Earth if you go to www.tru.earth there is no dot com.

Brett Curry:

That will lead to

Ryan Mckenzie:

And you could find me... I'm on Twitter. I don't really post that much but Rye McKenzie, R-Y-E M-C-K-E-N-Z-I-E or on Facebook. My Facebook business pages is facebook.com/theryemckenzie, same as Twitter but with a the in front of it because somebody else took my name.

Brett Curry:

He's an imposter. They're trying to be like Ryan Mckenzie. I'll link that in the show notes as well so you check that out at OMG Commerce and click on the podcast and you'll find it there as well. Ryan Mckenzie ladies and gentlemen, Ryan man thanks for taking the time. It's been a ton of fun. Really appreciate you coming on.

Ryan Mckenzie:

Oh my pleasure, man. It was very generous to have me on the show. Appreciate it.

Brett Curry:

Awesome. Thanks fantastic and as always thank you for tuning in. We'd love to hear feedback from you. What would you like to hear more of on the podcast? What would you like to hear less of on the podcast? We'd love that review on iTunes. It helps other people discover the podcast as well. With that until next time, thank you for listening.



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