Why Dr. Squatch took their commercial to the Super Bowl

Each year, millions of sports fans flock with bites in tow to bear witness to the most-watched sports event on television: the Super Bowl. Even if you are not a sports enthusiast, you probably watch for the ads, half-time show, or even just show up to the meals.

If this year's Super Bowl was well underway, Jack Haldrup, CEO and founder of Dr. Squatch, had a slightly different viewing experience than many. Haldrup was going to unlock an achievement that's typically reserved for his bigger, CPG competitions: he was going to watch Dr. Squatch's first-ever Super Bowl commercial.

Dr. Squatch is a California-based men's natural soap and personal care company. When you think of pure soap, you may think of this type that is found at a farmer's market. However, Dr. Squatch has changed that. (And, ironically, a visit to a local farmer's market to discover a soap that would not worsen or agitate his psoriasis was a part of Haldrup's first inspiration for Dr. Squatch.)

"It was not about just re-creating that product," Haldrup states. "It was always about making it more available to men who hadn't been exposed to the solution and explaining why natural soap is a much better choice."

Dr. Squatch has flipped a narrative on natural soap for guys. Their catch-phrase,"You are not a dish. You're a guy," highlights the often-overlooked harsh chemicals and non-natural ingredients found in men's soap. They have also expanded beyond soap and introduced organic hair care, deodorant, toothpaste, and more into their product offering. The branding and positioning of Dr. Squatch is, in itself, a lesson in marketing mastery. One that has gained the company over $100 million in earnings in 2020 and over 350% year-over-year growth in the previous 2 decades.

A couple weeks after the match, I talked with Haldrup and Josh Friedman, Dr. Squatch's chief marketing officer, to discuss why they chose to go all-in their first-ever Super Bowl commercial and the way it has propelled the brand into a brand new and surprising universe of chance.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Before we discuss your Super Bowl commercial, I know that this is not your first success with viral videos. What was your first experience with video advertising?

Jack Haldrup: Our first movie was definitely an inflection point for us. In 2018, we realized we had to get more invested in movie advertisements but were not quite certain how to approach it. We tapped a branding agency called Raindrop, which had done plenty of classic branding work with firms such as the San Diego Symphony, to work out the perfect approach with us.

Given our limited budget at the moment, we believed, how do we get the most from one video? The first thing we did was deconstruct some of the favorite viral movies at the moment. When you look at these, you realize there is a certain formula and narrative arc, so we worked to interpret what that meant for our particular brand. It was also a wonderful chance to take the brand vision that was in my mind and bring it to life .

We spent about $15-$20K on a single movie, which gave us a massive return on investment considering what we spend on movies now.

It was a fun, organic process that was really formative for the business. From the very first video, we have managed to refine and enhance our method to get even better, with the exact components --even down to using the exact same two actors in lots of our content.

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Did the initial video really go viral?

Haldrup: Yeah, it went"viral" And what that means is we managed to be very efficient in the advertising dollars we put behind it. We could continue to spend more money on the ads while driving incremental revenue every time.

And in 2018, YouTube was a fairly young advertising platform so we were really able to gain from being an early entrant.

Let us talk about the Super Bowl commercial. Was this a goal you always wanted to achieve or were you sitting around a table and thought"You know what would be cool? A Super Bowl commercial."

Haldrup: [Laughs] Perhaps a little bit of both. We felt as though we had some advantages based on our experiences in the past, but as a marketer, additionally, it really felt like a large achievement we always wanted to reach.

Josh Friedman: It is every marketer's dream to have something like a Super Bowl commercial. We'd talked about it previously but more as a fantasy or a joke. If you asked me a year ago, it certainly would have felt like a joke, not something we would really be able to perform.

When did you make the call to go all-in on the commercial?

Friedman: Three or so months prior to the Super Bowl, we weren't likely to do a commercial. But we noticed that there was lots of uncertainty leading up to the match. Advertisers began to drop out because they did not think viewership would be high and that is when we began to get interested.

With advertisements becoming available last minute, we thought we could find a fantastic deal on an advertisement for the greatest marketing moment of this year. And that turned out to be true.

Even at a lesser cost, how can you justify the spend on something like a Super Bowl commercial?

Friedman: The rationale for why we really ended up doing so was a few explanations. We saw it as a significant opportunity to drive brand awareness. Approximately 100 million people watch the Super Bowl, which means that you may reach a large, engaged audience in 1 go.

The second motive was to build brand credibility. It is definitely more nuanced, but we felt confident that we can lean on it at plenty of different ways from recruitment to new partnerships. The press coverage we could get was a significant success in this respect, which was exciting for the brand.

Third, we did anticipate some short-term worth from the ad concerning a sales boost. We already get a good deal of traffic to our website, so we did not anticipate a Black Friday amount of earnings, but felt confident we would see a direct effects.

Last, we thought that a Super Bowl commercial would really energize our staff and our client base and build on the momentum we have had as a company.

Haldrup: We also felt like we had an edge over some of those standard advertisers because we could shoot our articles as late as January of this year. We did not know whether we would use that content to the ad but it was a very low risk since we can use it for additional advertisements.

Traditional advertisers will generally procure the advertisement spot and then spend countless dollars on producing the advertisement. Since we had learned how to approach video content for YouTube and understood what resonated with clients, we had an edge. We could build from the content thoughts that we knew worked and added a twist for the Super Bowl, which ended up working well.

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What measurement systems did you have in place for the advertisement and were you happy with the results?

Friedman: We quantified and monitored performance in a few ways. One of the first things we wanted to measure was revenue lift--both on the day of the match and for the next weeks. On the afternoon of the match itself, we saw about 100% earnings growth. The week after the commercial aired, we measured a 15-20% growth in earnings.

Ultimately, we were focused on driving brand awareness and media coverage, both results that we were quite happy with. In addition to that, we had interest from prospective retailers and potential partners after the match, which I think speaks to the objective of brand credibility I said.

In general, we seen the commercial as a major success and we are excited to have the chance to introduce Dr. Squatch to many more people across the nation.

With the growth in traffic, did you encounter any site issues after the ad aired?

Haldrup: [Laughs] It is funny you mention that. Everyone was texting me before the advertisement, saying"I trust your website tech is great." And we're saying, well, our website already gets millions of visitors every month and we are with Shopify, so we're not overly worried.

Throughout the match, I had my Shopify app open the whole time because we did not know just when the ad would broadcast. When it did air right before halftime, we saw it spike and spike with no website issues in any way, which was exciting to see at real time.

Have you got any guidance for up-and-coming brands which may be seeking to test in the video advertising space?

Haldrup: For brands only beginning to scale, if I had been in their shoes, I'd be focused on these newer, emerging platforms. That's where you will likely have an chance to discover exceptional growth opportunities, and possibly even go viral.

So now that you have climbed the Mount Everest of advertising, what is next for Dr. Squatch?

Haldrup: We actually frame our aims in three to six-month timelines. Our next phase is all about placing Dr. Squatch on the map. We are focused on continuing our expansion beyond our present stations and looking to new ones, like retail and international.

We believe that Dr. Squatch is ready to take centre stage as a top men's personal care manufacturer. We have already proven we can grow in the electronic space in the U.S. and are eager to help men lead happier and healthier lives wherever they store and where they live.

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