In a highly-competitive sector, Tomahawk Shades and Today’s Business created an award-winning affiliate campaign to grow channel revenue by 77%.
The US sunglasses market is the largest in the world, valued at over $4bn in 2020. Global conglomerates like EssilorLuxottica dominate the market, owning household names such as Ray-Ban and Oakley as well as major retailers like Sunglass Hut.
But in 2012, twin brothers Andrew and Ryan Shapiro decided to launch Tomahawk Shades and target a gap in the market for stylish, affordable frames. Starting as a student project selling to friends and family, the brothers quickly recognized the growing demand for their product because of real, trusted recommendations.
That insight formed the basis of Tomahawk Shades’ marketing approach: Establish credentials through the voices and experiences of trusted authorities. So in conjunction with a series of high-profile sport star endorsements, the brand hired digital marketing agency Today’s Business to help take this approach to the next level.
Monetizing brand awareness
As Tomahawk Shades was a newer player in the space with relatively little equity, Today’s Business’ immediate goal was to figure how it could establish better awareness for the brand. But without a huge advertising budget, the approach had to be tethered to real-world outcomes – converting awareness into profitable sales was a must.
So the agency decided to manage content partnerships via the affiliate channel as it allowed Today’s Business to tie these objectives seamlessly together. And with a clearly defined strategy, a series of stretched but attainable targets were set:
- Double the number of sale-active editorial content partners with a specific focus on menswear and fashion sites
- Target high-end and luxury fashion publishers to help increase AOV from affiliates by 20%
- Achieve at least one positive review from a high-profile men’s fashion magazine
- Contribute to the wider company goal of increasing ecommerce revenue by 10%
- Grow revenue derived from affiliate partnerships by 50%
“[Tomahawk Shades’] goal from the beginning was to find ways to increase revenue without dumping a ton of money into ads. As they were very limited with cashflow at the time and needed to find a way to increase customer acquisition, brand awareness and revenue… we started talking to them about affiliate marketing.” Joe Sanfilippo, Today’s Business
When sliding into DMs is a good idea
Most advertisers launch a new strategy with a set idea of how to achieve it. There is a defined path to success and that is especially true in DTC where the approach is often paid social tactics promoting targeted ads.
However, with an objective of establishing both brand awareness and sales from editorial content, Today’s Business understood it needed to be savvier in its execution.
Using tools like SEMrush, the agency first compiled a list of top-ranking articles and websites. It then overlaid this with additional datapoints to create an active database of editors to target.
Identifying contacts is only half the battle, though. With dozens of brands vying for a coveted feature, Tomahawk Shades needed to stand out.
So, Today’s Business interviewed several freelance fashion writers, acquiring valuable insight into the pitching process and how to get noticed by decision makers. The main takeaway? Keep it short, simple and have a unique angle.
Armed with this insider knowledge, the teams created 45-second videos modelling the sunglasses and highlighting key USPs. Addressing the prospective partners personally, the videos were directly messaged on Instagram for a high-impact, immediately-delivered pitch. And it worked – this DMing strategy helped build a relationship with many editors including Andrew Amelincxk at Insider, who subsequently featured Tomahawk Shades in his ‘Best Polarized Sunglasses’ article.
Additionally, Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Shapiro made a concerted effort to personally speak with as many editors as possible, making himself available for interviews and providing a direct line of communication to senior management. A large product sampling campaign was coordinated, too, sending over 200 pairs of sunglasses to content creators. Today’s Business also setup its own in-house processes, giving staff the training and autonomy to prospect and pitch potential sites, further expanding Tomahawk Shades’ contacts.
This all hands, guerrilla marketing approach paid off. One year after launching the campaign, Tomahawk Shades saw a 77% increase in channel revenue – making it the brand’s most effective sales channel. This increased affiliate marketing’s share of Tomahawk Shades’ total ecommerce revenue by 12% and doubled its ROI.
Additional results included:
- 250% growth in the number of sale-active editorial content partners with a specific focus on menswear and fashion sites
- 31% increase in program AOV, a rate matched by the growth of AOV specifically from editorial content partners too
- Placements and reviews secured in high-profile sites Insider, GQ and Men’s Health
Together, Tomahawk Shades and Today’s Business proved a clever content strategy can be highly successful for both brand awareness and as a revenue driver, even for a challenger in market. And the affiliate industry agrees, recognizing the businesses at the inaugural US Partnership Awards for Best Content Partnership.