How do we define a microbrand?
The main characteristic is its small-scale. The brand might be known only at limited geographic locations or it might be selling niche products that a limited number of consumers are using.
Imagine selling delicacy cheese 🧀 from a small Swiss canton or producing custom rows of keys 🎹 for 19th century pianos…
Whatever your product or service is, you will find your consumers with the help of internet and hyper targeted marketing 📈. This gives the microbrands a bigger impact than one might think.
If proper online marketing has boosted microbrands like Cali’flour pizza crusts to the top of Amazon’s sales rankings, then should we all rethink our business plans 🤔? We wish that life could be that simple! Microbrands, or in other words direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies, are having tougher competition than ever before.
This is the place where companies like Smart Brands Laboratory jump in. With their know-how in the field, they have created a micro niche brand development model that scales them through a series of growth methodologies in branding, multichannel sales, sourcing, and digital marketing efforts.
In the light of ‘attack of the micro brands’ we talked with Tomas Unikauskis, the CEO at Smart Brands Laboratory.
The Interview with Tomas
Alien just landed on the Earth and your task is to explain to this totally clueless creature “What Smart Brands Laboratory does?” Go!
Smart Brands Laboratory is in the business of understanding people’s behavior. We’ve developed a proprietary niche brand scoring algorithm that identifies products that people around the world need, how they get what they need, and what the most efficient ways are to meet that need. We now own and manage 5 niche brands in the home & kitchen, vegan, pet, and sports product categories.
The source of your company’s success is the micro niche brand development model that you have created. What source of scaling magic is this? How does it differ from anything else on the market?
The primary objective of niche branding is to deliver a highly relevant message along with a value proposition that resonate closely with a narrowly defined audience. Our goal isn’t to build large brands that speak to masses and deliver products that are great for everyone. We’re driven by an eagerness to identify a subset of people that have a few specific things in common and speak about what matters to them. That’s the main competitive advantage of our business model.
Smart Brands Laboratory works with niche brands that have huge undiscovered potential. How do you find these unique labels? Do you agree that if a brand is too niche, it may die from lack of audience?
Even if you have the best brand of trombone oil in the world, every month there are only 300 people around the world looking online for trombone oil. Our niche scoring model determines when a product developed for a certain audience is not a viable standalone business.
Looking at Smart Brands Laboratory’s DNA and that you help brands scale across multiple sales channels and geographies. What are the main markets you focus on?
Smart Brands Laboratory’s primary sales markets are the USA, Canada, Mexico, the EU, and we’re about to launch in Australia. We’re also laser-focused on choosing the right marketing mix in each market. For example, the demand for certain vegan products has been growing steadily in the US for the past few years, whereas it has only recently picked up in Germany.
The market is more and more tired of big corporations and instead turning their face towards microbrands. How do you see this microbrand explosion evolving?
The rise of direct-to-consumer brands started almost a decade ago. They utilized undervalued traffic strategies such as social media ads and influencer marketing. They spoke about a single problem and presented a clear-cut solution to that problem. DTC brands spoke in a way which resonated with their audiences and social media advertising algorithms facilitated delivering that message to these audiences efficiently.
Also, customer behavior appears to have shifted towards experimenting with new unheard brands more frequently. A nationally known brand used to be the main driver for customer confidence. Now DTC brands that utilize user generated content, influencer marketing, and online product reviews can deliver the same feeling of confidence and convince new customers to purchase their products.
In the light of these niche branding and newly found customer confidence factors, more brands will continue to enter the e-commerce space. However, one of the main challenges for these brands will be determining the right product-market fit and balancing customer acquisition costs with their lifetime value. I think microbrands have a better chance at striking the right balance due to substantially lower competition in these niches. This is what we’re after at Smart Brands Laboratory.
Even during these unprecedented times, Smart Brands Laboratory is actively hiring and looking for new members – currently to the Sales, Marketing and Product development teams. Who are you looking for? What is the mindset that unites your current employees?
Since inception we’ve been inviting people to join the team in hiring sprees whenever we hit a significant milestone. We’ve doubled our team a few times already and we’re currently preparing for our 3rd round of hires. We’re looking to grow our product development and sourcing team to launch even more brands next year. We also want to expand multiple traffic strategies such as SEO, SEM, paid media, affiliate, and influencer partnerships.
Regarding mindset – I’d say that it’s very important to be open and sincere with your peers when you’re working in a startup environment. The ride is bumpy, everyone has their ups and downs. It’s never easy. All these things are way more comfortable when people approach challenges with an open mind.
Here are some examples of out job openings that are active at the moment:
- Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
- Content Marketing Manager
- Influencer Marketing Manager
- SEO Team Lead / Senior SEO Manager
- Affiliate Marketing Manager
How do you find the talents to hire? Do you publish a job offer or what % of hired candidates has been sourced and headhunted?
I would say that a lot of people have come to us organically through word of mouth and conversations at local meetups. In addition, we post all open positions on MeetFrank and reshare them on LinkedIn. So far, we’ve hired over 50% of our staff through MeetFrank’s platform without using other headhunting services.
What are Smart Brands Laboratory plans one month from now? What does 2021 look like?
Analysts predict that 1 out of 3 gifts in the United States will be purchased online. We expect a wild fourth quarter this year! I’m sure 2021 will be another year of growth for the company. We’re looking to grow our niche brand portfolio and open new sales channels.