Vacation by Poolside Fm's viral launch shows DTC brands how to do things better
Mastering the viral launch strategy: Vacation by Poolside FM
In April, Poolside FM, an app and internet radio station that transports you back in time with its 80’s aesthetics and upbeat beachside music, crossed over to the physical product realm in the form of a new sunscreen brand—Vacation.
Vacation’s launch is rife with clever marketing strategies cloaked under Poolside FM’s perpetually laid-back approach.
Key ingredients to their marketing campaign include nostalgia, social sharing, and organic buzz-building. Let’s explore their launch strategy in detail, shall we?
Sunscreen and layers of nostalgia
It never occurred to Marty Bell, Poolside FM’s founder, that the “sunniest spot on earth” would grow as big as the community it is today. Seeing the community’s organic growth and tens of thousands of website visits per month, he felt it had more potential to monetize.
This prompted an idea: The community the brand had built up could parlay nicely into a physical product launch.
“The product deals we’re always offered are things like a beer brand collaboration or a swimwear collection. I never thought about sunscreen as a product category, but as soon as it came up, it was so obvious,” Marty said in an interview.
Enter Vacation, a “leisure-enhancing” sunscreen line: a water-resistant, SPF 30 formula. It's specially formulated to minimize streaking on all skin tones and exudes scents of coconut oil, banana extract, and aloe vera with nostalgic notes of chlorine, pool floats, and swimsuit lycra.
“We spent a long time breaking down what people like and dislike [about sunscreen] and we worked with several formulators to get the sunscreen right, but I think the fragrance was really the thing that we wanted to make sure we got absolutely right,” Dakota Green told WWD.
True to Poolside FM’s branding, Marty saw sunscreen as something that can evoke layers of nostalgia the same way the brand’s website does. The goal was to make the sunscreen-slathering experience at the beach fun; not a daunting obligation.
“No other product has this visceral ability to transport you to a specific time and sunny, happy place quite like sunscreen. It’s normal to associate sweet flowers to spring, dried leaves to fall, and snow to winter. And when you think of summer, salty air and sunscreen is the winning combination.”
To get the process rolling, Marty teamed up with Miami-based entrepreneurs Lach Hall and Dakota Green, both of whom were working for a sunscreen company at the time.
“We thought: there has to be a better way to make a sunscreen brand that’s better for you and the planet and is also updated to fit in with what we believe are your most indulgent, fun moments. We wanted to create a sunscreen brand that would look good next to your martini and make sunscreen fun,” Lach Hall told WWD.
“After chatting with them, it immediately just clicked. They shared my obsession for rich, nostalgic brand worlds, and this idea for Vacation by Poolside FM began to take shape pretty quickly,” Marty said.
Together, they started to think about a launch strategy.
Marketing via virtual business cards on Twitter
In April, it seemed like Vacation Inc., a Poolside FM Company, got busy with mass hiring according to Twitter buzz.
What was happening with these virtual business cards with off-the-wall job titles like President of the Mini Golf Club Council, Watercraft Buoyancy Expert, and Gourmet Buffet Garnish Expert?
The virtual business cards are how Poolside FM successfully told the world about their entry to the Direct-to-Consumers (DTC) arena.
This was also part of Vacation's viral launch strategy: People scrambled to the brand’s website to claim their virtual business cards, submitting their email address in exchange for silly job titles they could share on social media. More than 10,000 people signed up in just two days.
At the same time, Marty and his team grew a sizable list of leads they could market additional products to later on down the road. Business card claimers also got early access to pre-order the Vacation sunscreen (and will be the first to know about new product drops down the road).
Marty shared that they had about "10 other ridiculous ideas," but ultimately chose this approach because it gave some validation to their existing community. Plus, the idea had a bit of background story. It stemmed from an old tweet he posted in 2020:
According to Marty, the business card strategy was only meant to make Poolside FM fans a part of the Vacation brand. However, it was a nice surprise that over 2,000 people posted their cards on Twitter, including prominent entrepreneurs like Alexis Ohanian and Chris Sacca.
The strategy was more than just a publicity stunt: Poolside FM’s goal is to make every social contact with a consumer enjoyable. “We thoroughly believe that if we’re reaching out to someone that’s signed up and given us their cell number or email that we have to deserve to interrupt their day,” Marty said.
Judging by the positive reaction they received, Poolside FM managed to hit their mark.
The drop-style product launch
Product drops are the go-to for many brands launching a new product right now.
They can help brands cut through the noisy world of retail, but can also be hard to pull off. What seems like a spontaneous, fun marketing approach is actually riddled with meticulous planning, market research, and a whole lot of work. Furthermore, the success of a campaign is directly related to how a brand spreads the word about it.
In the case of Vacation’s launch, it worked.
Looking forward, there will be another limited edition product drop in mid-May, laying the cornerstone for the complete line reveal in early June.
Lessons for DTC brands
A look at Vacation's successful product launch reveals some lessons DTC brands can learn from. Let’s look at a few.
1. Leverage emotion in marketing.
Emotional marketing isn’t new. Countless studies have cemented the influential role emotions play in consumer behavior. Your brand resonates more with your audience if you make it more relatable and experiential.
Vacation tapped into nostalgia, sending the target audience down memory lane. That sunblock cream your mom used to slather all over you and your siblings before you took a dip in the ocean springs to the mind warm childhood memories.
2. Stay consistent with your branding.
If you want to maximize your potential, you need to ace your branding, and it needs to be consistent. It’s proven that brand consistency can result in a 33% increase in revenue.
The hip, fun, and nostalgic vibe of Poolside FM is apparent in Vacation, so it’s not surprising that followers of the web-based radio station were able to connect with the Vacation brand right off the bat. Marty shared that they worked with reputable companies and freelancers to get the website, social, and marketing all in a place that consistently reflects the brand.
3. Create and nurture a community.
Customer communities can increase customer loyalty and often help lead to higher conversion rates. But aside from revenue generation, these branded communities can also help run a business more effectively. In fact, 96% of companies believe that customer collaboration is valuable to the marketing department.
“Vacation is a brand built from the ground up for the fanbase of Poolside FM, so we naturally want that community to feel that they’re a big part of it. What better way than to have them on board as honorary employees?” Bell said.
Even at the product launch stage, Poolside FM managed to incorporate the community behind it.
Learn from this successful launch
It's impossible to predict if and when a marketing campaign will go viral, but by knowing your audience and delivering a unique, fun, social-fueled idea is one way to increase your chances it will happen.
Take it from Marty and Poolside FM: They combined a variety of effective marketing tactics into one powerful campaign, so it’s no surprise Vacation’s launch has been such a success.
It certainly helps if you have an established presence and community built up first, too. Poolside FM’s audience of nostalgia-loving fans were a powerful springboard for this new product offering, and having those long-standing relationships helped fuel this launch.
The lessons here are vast, but one thing is for sure: Great things are in store as Poolside FM expands its product offerings in the coming months (and people are excited about it.)