Aishwarya Iyer started Brightland, an olive oil company, in 2018 with the idea of describing the products like wine and marketing it like a beauty brand.
“Beauty leads the way in terms of talking about benefits, packaging — the shine and glimmer that beauty’s able to do, food just isn’t able to do that. Maybe there are some standouts!” Iyer said on the Modern Retail Podcast.
What’s more, many DTC beauty brands rely on less traditional revenue channels, like big box retailers. Over the last few months, large wholesale sales have gone down for Brightland — so it’s had to focus much more on digital sales and smaller retail partnerships. “Everything’s kind of moving back to this quote unquote normal place, save for the larger retailers still because they still probably have inventory on hand,” Iyer said.
Growing in wholesale’s place are digital sales, according to Iyer, as well as and inbounds from gift box companies.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Taking tips from the beauty industry
“I quickly realized that food led the way from a clean food movement and beauty followed. But beauty leads the way in terms of talking about benefits, packaging — the shine and glimmer that beauty’s able to do, food just isn’t able to do that. Maybe there are some standouts, but I felt like there was an emotional disconnect. So I looked closely at what beauty brands were doing and applied that. Now we have more food companies going the direct-to-consumer first route and then adding wholesale partners (or maybe some don’t even have wholesale partners). But traditionally, they’ve been focused on big retail, getting into Walmart and Target, so the website is a bit of an afterthought, usually. Whereas by the time I started researching and building Brightland, you had so many beauty brands that were digital first. The way they talk about benefits — it’s the same serum! — but they talk about it so well. And olive oil in particular is 4,000 years old and has incredible benefits that have been studied even by the FDA. This isn’t throwing meaningless words out there.”
Big wholesale is still down due to the pandemic
“We quickly saw a $23,000 to $25,000 disappearance. But on the flip side, people didn’t want to go to stores and on the digital side we definitely saw an uptick. That was March into April. Wholesale was pretty quiet. And starting early April, we started getting a lot of inquiries from restaurants who were building out pantry programs. We’ve gotten a number of gift box companies that want to work with us. A lot of companies — since you’re not going to the office anymore or you may not be able to meet for a quarterly party or get together — are sending more corporate gifts to their teams. And now we’re seeing a lot of stores starting to reopen around the country. Everything’s kind of moving back to this quote unquote normal place, save for the larger retailers still because they still probably have inventory on hand.”
Gaining new customers without going all in on digital
“Digital acquisition has never been the primary way we’ve acquired customers, and I’ve been adamant about never having one channel dominate (especially a third-party channel). When we launched we were 100% boot-strapped. Because of that, we did not use paid acquisition as a primary marketing channel. I started using it as retargeting. I wanted to add it as a supplemental thing, and that’s what we did for the first year. We’re still very much in the early days of understand what we think about it, and I’m still wary about devoting too much space to it.”