More than 50 million people consider themselves content creators, sharing everything from their hobbies, daily routines, and thoughts online. Thanks to emerging business tools and increased influencer marketing budgets, many are able to secure brand deals and turn influencing into a full-time gig.
Now, a subset of creators is capitalizing on their personal brand in a new way: launching product brands of their own. We’ve seen this with YouTuber Emma Chamberlain’s coffee company and TikToker Charli D’Amelio’s fragrance brand. But even influencers who aren’t as high-profile as these two are getting in on the action.
The trend makes sense: successful creators have a built-in and loyal audience to advertise to. But a large following doesn’t guarantee business success, especially if venturing into product categories in the increasingly crowded food, beauty, and fashion markets.
I’ve identified three steps creators should take when launching a product: find the right niche, nail down logistical details to launch, and finally, build a robust distribution strategy to ensure growth.
1. In a crowded landscape, consider unique sectors
As it stands, creators are largely operating within the food, beauty and fashion categories, which can make it harder for new entrants to compete. Branching out into less crowded and niche areas, or at least taking a starkly different approach, is a smart move.
Influencer Tessa Barton founded her own photo editing app, Tezza, in 2018. It’s been downloaded over 10 million times, and more than 350 million photos and videos have been edited on the platform. Instagram influencer Dani Austin Ramirez is another example of this approach. After experiencing hair loss, she conducted extensive research into scalp health and eventually launched Divi. This scalp serum helps those suffering from hair loss, whether it’s due to postpartum, an illness, stress, or another reason.
2. Get up and running with direct-to-consumer sales
After creators solidify their product or service, they need to work through logistical details to determine how they will get their product or service into the hands of their followers as consumers.
Often direct-to-consumer is the best mode of starting to sell and test out a product. But there is a lot involved with getting a system set-up to do this. Luckily, several start-ups are popping up to help creators get up and running.
Pietra, founded in 2019, specifically helps creators start their own brands by taking some of the more difficult logistical issues off their plate. The company connects creators with suppliers, handles order fulfillment, and provides an ecommerce shop to start selling online.
Products on Pietra include everything from leather goods to fragrances to food products and nearly every other type of ecommerce brand. Examples of creator-built brands that Pietra supports include Suckerz, an organic, low-sugar candy founded by Kasey Stewart and Tiana Haraguchi, as well as Smoke Roses, organic smoking products by Charly Jordan.
For creators in the fitness space, Headline portfolio company, Playbook, connects creators with an audience who will pay for their exercise training and technique content. The app allows athletes, trainers, yoga teachers, and fitness influencers to film and post workouts, engage with their fans, and track performance.
3. Grow your brand through an omnichannel approach
Operating as a D2C business can help creators get started and reach their followers, but like any company, in order to continue to scale, it’s critical to get in front of new consumers. One way to do that is by partnering with a third-party retailer, whether that’s a legacy retail store or a start-up.
Many of the most successful influencer brands have taken this path. Emma Chamberlain’s sustainable coffee company struck a deal with Headline portfolio company, Gopuff to sell her products through their app. ITEM Beauty by Addison Rae is now sold in Sephora. And the D’Amelio sisters’ clothing line, Social Tourist, is in partnership with Hollister.
If the goal is to become a brand that grows and sticks around, creators can’t ignore the reach and marketing made available to them when working with national retailers and platforms.
Winners will prioritize multifaceted distribution
We're entering an era in which creators don't just make a living by promoting other brands, but by creating their own products. At the same time, consumers are looking to buy from personalities they like, trust, and relate to.
While the market is ripe for opportunity, developing a well-thought-out and versatile distribution strategy will determine creators’ product success. This era of commerce’s top winners will be the ones who create a competitive product and pursue many ways of getting their products into people's hands.