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One of the biggest struggles of being a small company — especially one in a niche market — is drawing eyeballs to your site. Even with PR efforts and paid events, it’s challenging to build a retail presence that truly sticks — a one-off ad starring Kylie Jenner can only go so far. To be “sticky” with consumers, you have to invest your money wisely in advertising to build trust and brand awareness. 

Cariloha — a brand that turns self-replenishing bamboo into everything from bedding to apparel — understands the importance of building a strong retail presence. Building a solid brand marketing strategy has landed them some pretty impressive spots – from The Ellen Show to The Wall Street Journal.

Image: Cariloha

Re-Inventing Del Sol to Cariloha 

Cariloha wasn’t always a purveyor of bamboo products. In 2007, they were known as Del Sol, a brand that sold “island leisure” products such as watches, purses, sunglasses, and t-shirts that changed color in the sun. It wasn’t until 2008 when Cariloha’s CEO, Jeff Pedersen, made an important observation. 

While in their Cozumel retail showroom, he noticed a woman debating between a watch from Del Sol and another brand. That’s when Jeff realized that customers weren’t genuinely connecting with Del Sol’s brand and products. So, he and the marketing team put on their creative hats. Cariloha wanted to deeply connect with their customers so they didn’t view them as an option, but rather their first choice. And to do that, they had to stand out from the crowd by offering something unique, meaningful, and high quality. 

Instead of offering standard “touristy” products, they decided to take inspiration from the essence of islands ranging from Ocho Rios to St. Thomas. Using bamboo, they made 5,000 shirts out of their Southern California production facility and sent them to three retail showrooms. These shirts were an instant hit and sold out within two weeks. 

From then on, Del Sol transformed into Cariloha, an eco-conscious brand that blends island-chic style with natural luxury. Today, Cariloha continues to delight customers and has expanded to over 50 retail showroom locations in 16 countries. 

Image: Cariloha

Advice for D2C Marketers

Despite their rapid expansion, the Cariloha team knew that there’s still work to be done on the brand building front. And without the marketing budget of incumbent brands, they decided that they needed a quality marketing strategy partner to provide customized, proactive service: Enter AdRoll. Here are some key learnings Cariloha has adopted to increase its brand recognition: 

  • Beware of cookie-cutter campaigns. If you’re finding that your campaigns are only hitting minimum targets, it’s time for a new marketing plan that drills more in-depth into the whys and hows. For example, you may be using the traditional last-click approach to measure conversions, but do you know how impressions lead to sales? Do you have a way of collecting and analyzing data from multiple advertising channels to assess their impact?
  • Focus on brand awareness. Convey your brand story through brand awareness efforts to establish emotional connections with customers. People may be introduced to a brand and not convert right away. In Cariloha’s case, a standard customer isn’t going to purchase a set of $200 bamboo sheets impulsively — they’re going to first do their research, read customer reviews, and then check out other online sellers to compare. They might even forget about your brand altogether in the process, only to resurface weeks later thanks to a well-placed ad. That’s why it’s important to get in front of customers with storytelling ads until the timing is right and they’re ready to buy.
  • Take a consistent approach to digital marketing to help you better understand how to spend money. It’s common for marketing teams to work with a tangle of online channels. From paid search to affiliate marketing to display advertising and retargeting, keeping track of these channels can quickly get messy. However, it’s essential to view each tactic as part of an overarching strategic process to achieve your goals. Taking a patchwork approach to marketing can confuse both your company and customers, lead to inconsistent messaging, and damage your brand. Consider investing in an all-in-one marketing solution to keep your marketing efforts organized.
  • If you want clarity into how your campaigns are really doing, forget last-click — look at revenue attribution. Before, the Cariloha team was only able to attribute revenue based on people who clicked on or saw one of their ads, yet couldn’t provide any insight into their other channels. With revenue attribution, they’re able to gather conversions from different channels and blend them to get overall conversion data to adjust spend, optimize channels, and refine their campaigns across devices. 

For a list of other amazing small businesses to support, check out our D2C Shopping List!

Veronica Covdy
Author

As the Customer Marketing Manager, Veronica is responsible for building strong relationships with customers and amplifying their stories. Outside the office, Veronica is happiest when she’s exploring hidden gems in SF, eating her weight in cheese/charcuterie, and dancing at a show (preferably in that order).