Sometimes, I wonder what life without the internet would be like. For one, I wouldn’t have been able to scale my last company, Fetch (a digital agency that became the growth partner for game changing internet companies such as Apple, Facebook and eBay). Secondly, my co-founder Elliot, (an investor in over 80 companies including Elvie, The Nue Co, Mindful Chef) would have had far less interesting businesses to support.
Thirdly, we wouldn’t have social media. I can think of some benefits to that - but then again, we wouldn’t be able to start every Friday with this video.
But most significantly for us, it wouldn’t be possible to embark on our new venture, Charlie Oscar - a new-era group of digital native brands - where we plan to scale high potential brands into household names.
The Nike’s, IKEA's, and L'Oréal's of tomorrow are going to be digitally native. And we’re partnering with founders and creators to build them. By investing our group’s own capital (we’re not VC, or private equity), plugging in our data science lab, and layering on our growth expertise, we’re creating a new playbook for scaling digital brands.
Because the game has changed. New rules need new tactics. Being internet-first as a brand is no longer an option. It’s the default.
The US saw 10 years of e-commerce growth in 3 months and UK online retail grew by 40% in 2020. The road to becoming digital-first has been fast-tracked. We’re seeing the steady collapse of traditional retail - Arcadia Group, Debenhams to name a few. Shopping has been disintermediated and democratised, and we can buy anything from anywhere, accessing quality for ever more competitive prices.
Fuelled by low-code tools (Shopify, Stripe, Segment) and more democratic routes to funding (Clearbanc, Kickstarter), millions of new brands have arrived on the scene. Facebook CPM’s are 7X more expensive than they were in 2013. Organic reach is down, and in an online world that trades on attention, a brand’s competitive set includes social platforms and publishers of all shapes and sizes.
In an age of click bait, exposé documentaries and company ‘takedowns’, trust is at an all-time low. Customers are voting with their wallets and putting their loyalty in individuals over companies. With this, and a new wave of infrastructure supporting grassroots creators (Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, Patreon, Cameo, Substack, Stir) the modern-day challenge of staying culturally relevant can only be solved by championing and involving the everyday person.
Think about the way music has evolved to be TikTok-friendly. How meme culture influences everyday lingo. How Twitch streamers have larger fanbases than celebrities. Brands can’t be built in boardrooms. Trends aren’t dictated by ad agencies. The voice of the customer is louder than ever, and influence happens bottoms-up.
Plug into our data science lab to get deep insights into what drives revenue.
Social commerce. Influencer marketing. Live streaming. Podcasts. Making this work alongside your traditional marketing channels, successfully tracking and measuring ROI, and feeding this data into new product development is no mean feat. The data and tech stack needed for a well-oiled brand machine isn’t as simple as it used to be.
In a cluttered, internet world we believe the winning formula for any brand on route to scale has 3 elements:
Data science is the bedrock on which great internet brands are built. It’s the foundation for repeatable, scalable growth. Standard web analytics and CRM systems give you a snapshot of what is going on, but they don’t tell you why and where to double down. Having deep behavioural insights on user behaviour - i.e. whether email open rates drive lifetime value, or which marketing channels result in higher average order values - can be the difference maker between good growth and great growth. Data also sparks inspiration. Any creative campaigns you work on can be razor-focused, because you’ll understand your customers on a fundamentally deeper basis. Ethical data capture and analysis is key.
Having said that, I’m yet to meet a computer that's creative. In a world where everything looks the same, it pays to turn left when everyone else is turning right. Your customer laughs, cries, loves and dreams - so laugh, cry, love and dream with them. Building an emotionally-resonant brand goes beyond the products and features, and there is a significant shortage of real creativity coming from brands on the internet. Therein lies the opportunity. Can you imagine John Lewis’ TV campaign saying “Open for Christmas, 15% coupon if you refer a friend’.
Community means switching the relationship with your customers from transactional to conversational. Your customers are your biggest asset so treat them well, take them on the journey with you. Brands aren’t built in a vacuum, and collaborating with others - your customers and the wider creative community - is where so much of the magic happens. People power brands - in every sense of the phrase - and it’s why Charlie Oscar is a group. A collective of people, founders, creators, advisors who are all running the same race.
We're ready to get to work building the household brands of tomorrow, and we're excited for you to join us on the journey.
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James & Elliot.