Storytelling, Social Proof, and Influencer-Led Brands (with Oliver Bogner)

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GO Ventures and Mate Fertility Co-Founder Oliver Bogner on Storytelling and Social Proof


Vasa: (00:02)
All right, everybody. Thanks for joining us. We've got serial entrepreneur and one of the founders of Mate Fertility and GO Ventures, Oliver Bogner with us today. Oliver, thanks for joining us.

Oliver: (00:12)
Thanks so much for having me.

Vasa: (00:15)
It's a pleasure. Oliver, tell us a little bit about your history in CPG, and I feel like you founded pretty much 47% of all brands in existence. So, tell us a little bit more about that.

Oliver: (00:28)
Yeah, well, you and I have known each other for a while now, back to my days as CEO of a Brandable. We definitely have built and scaled some really exciting things that I'm really proud of. It's a bit in the wild world of consumer packaged goods since 2015. Before that, I spent most of my career actually in reality television. So, I was part of the development team that helped launch shows like Catfish on MTV, created and executive produced like 300 hours of reality television spanning My Five Wives on TLC to The Boonies on National Geographic Channel, which I just saw is currently trending on Hulu. So, a whole crazy gamut of reality television shows sold that business to a subsidiary of Discovery Communications back in 2015, and then started my business Brandable at the time.

Oliver: (01:21)
And at Brandable, we scaled a number of consumer product brands, spanning personal care and food, which is why you and I crossed paths. We've since exited a number of those brands. And I left that business in 2019, started my own agency, GO Ventures with a number of other really, really awesome CPG folks. And then I'm also co-founder and CEO with my younger brother of another business called Mate Fertility.

Vasa: (01:51)
That's a lot, man. The resume's a few pages, huh?

Oliver: (01:56)
It's been an adventure. Life has been an adventure, so.

Vasa: (02:01)
Tell me about how you went from reality TV to CPG.

Oliver: (02:05)
Yeah. So, reality television is all about storytelling, right? So, if you look at, and it's storytelling in a very kind of direct sense, right? So reality television, there's a million different channels to watch. You've got to figure out how to capture someone's attention as their channel surfing. And you've got to figure out how to hold them. So, oddly, similar to consumer packaged goods, right? You have to like get someone's attention to buy a product when it's on the shelf or one of your many, many Facebook or Instagram ads that you're seeing. You've got to convince them to try the product and then you have to get them to repeat. So in television, it's all about storytelling. I kind of use this internally. We say, KISS, Keep It Simple, Stupid. How do you tell a story to a customer? How do you tell a story to a viewer and really kind of clearly convey with that message or that product or that piece of content is.

Vasa: (03:04)
Yeah. We say something similar? It's KISF, Keep It Simple, Friend.

Oliver: (03:10)
I like that.

Vasa: (03:12)
But so in your past, you did something that fascinates me and you see it kind of a lot these days with Maxx Chewning and his Sour Strips and several others, I think, Heidi Somers has the Buffbunny Collection. I find it amazing that some of the more successful influencers are not doing brand partnerships, they're creating their own brands. Can you tell me more about how that was conceived in your mind and how you leveraged it to build your brands and exit?

Oliver: (03:43)
Yeah, so I think we were definitely one of the first players in the space when I started Brandable back in 2015, I kind of saw this trend happening and it came very organically to me and that these huge social media influencers had ginormous and dedicated audiences and that people were becoming well-known and well-respected not just for being famous, but also for like some sort of expertise. So, one of the more exciting brands that I created in my time as CEO and founder of Brandable was a brand called Craft City by Karina Garcia. And that turned into a monstrous kids crafting business for us. And a huge business across Target, Walmart, CVS, every major retailer in the country. And we took Karina Garcia, who is the number one, crafting DIY-er in the world on YouTube. And we built and scaled a tremendous crafting business with her really as our founder and visionary and face of the business.

Vasa: (04:50)
I love it. And how did you... So, you obviously you had to have had some sort of context or you had the strategy built out, but what I really love is not only did you take the influence and they have their own social proof built in, and she's the number one DIY craft influencer there is, and now she has her own products. How did you take that and bridge the gap between the online presence and drive trial and purchases in retail?

Oliver: (05:16)
Well, let's talk about social proof, right? Social proof is one of my favorite words. And I tell every brand I work with, I tell my teams across, GO, and I tell my team at Mate Fertility this every day, it's all about social proof, right? But the customer has to have a really good experience with you, right? No matter what you're selling, no matter what you're putting out at the universe, the end user has to have a great experience that has to generate buzz and momentum across press and people talking about you and influencers talking about you and reviews. And that's why I see this at GO like, we'll take a business that has a great Amazon presence, 10, 15,000 positive five star reviews and every retailer will immediately pick it up because that social proof is right there, right in front of you. That social proof is there.

Oliver: (06:07)
So, I don't know if I answered your question, but again, social proof is just a critical part. We saw that when it came to building the Craft City business with Karina Garcia, because who better to create a kid scrapping business than the number one crafting DIY-er in the world. It's the same thing. And this has been done time and time again. And some of the examples are kind of more relevant than others, but I have a cold email to Kylie Jenner's management team back in 2014 where I wanted to do a makeup line with her. So, obviously I didn't get that deal, but like, this has been done. People have executed it very, very, very well, and it's going to continue to happen.

Vasa: (06:53)
Yeah. I think that it's going to be way more prevalent in the very near future. There's a few small pockets. One that is interesting to me is the Maxx Chewning one and how well he's doing in Target. Exciting, very exciting to see these folks owning their own kind of communities and owning in that sort of way, but really leveraging it there.

Oliver: (07:16)
Well, it feels very authentic to the customers, right? So, like putting an influencer as a founder, as a face... This is their business, right? If we talked about this 10 years ago, we go, "Okay, celebrities are just creating content and on television shows and social media is becoming a thing." If you look at it today, their businesses, content, and community, and what are you going to do, sell them a t-shirt or you can actually sell them this kind of lifestyle that your brand plays a role in?

Vasa: (07:48)
Yeah, very cool too because even though it's candy and sugar, I believe, Maxx Chewning and those folks are IIFYM o, so as long as they could fit that in their daily macros, it's not like a cheat thing, so-

Oliver: (08:00)
I just think a pride in authorship is so important.

Vasa: (08:04)

Oliver: (08:04)
So, for us, when I was running Brandable, we always really wanted to align with influencers that have total pride in authorship. So, they really care about the product that we're putting out there. They genuinely want to be involved in a lot of the kind of key brand decisions. And I think that the more authentic and honest an influencer created brand can be, the more successful it'll become.

Vasa: (08:32)
Yeah. 100%. So, back at Quest, obviously I don't know if the audience knows, but I started my career at Quest Nutrition, my friend [Yoni 00:08:43], and Mike Curtis, they had this saying with influencers called, "If you show influencers love, they'll show you love in return. If you ask them for love, they'll ask you for money in return." So, I think enough brands kind of spoiled it for everyone where these influencers were like, "Yeah, I'm going to own my channels. And I'm going to bring this authenticity to an actual product." And it's good to see that happening.

Oliver: (09:05)
Totally. Yeah. I mean, I think that... I read some stat and I don't want to misquote the stat, but there's like an insane number of people on Instagram that have over a million followers right?

Vasa: (09:21)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Oliver: (09:22)
So, I think the number is like, well over five million people have over a million followers on Instagram, right?

Vasa: (09:29)

Oliver: (09:31)
And I know where I heard the stat, but I don't know what the actual stat is. It was on the HBO Max documentary, the fake influencer one, where they-

Vasa: (09:38)
Oh, gosh.

Oliver: (09:39)
... they created three fake influencers and got them brand deals.

Vasa: (09:43)
I've got to watch that because fake influencers has been a very costly thing. Not only for me, personally, but in the past with several brands I've worked with and just in my network where there are some really cool tools right now. We used to use one last year called Klear, with a K. And what that would do is pull up basically every influencers house file, or what their distribution of followers are across different channels. And then it would also show you on a scale of like one to three, how many of them are real and what the distribution is across geographies. So, for me, one thing we look at when we're growing social, or, it's a little bit tougher these days based on the new algorithm, but is the distribution of the ratio of followers. We have one brand that started out with 18% US-based followers, and they can only ship to the United States. So, any followers outside of that aren't really potential customers at least for years.

Vasa: (10:42)
And what we did was basically the displacement of those followers, where now it's 93% US-based followers and who we're speaking to, and what we're posting has the opportunity to ultimately become a purchase. And I don't really look at huge numbers, I look at... Net-new for me is... Net-new US followers, if it's a US-based company, or if it ships globally, then everything's fair game, but there's still some bots out there that you got to be careful of.

Oliver: (11:10)
Yeah, for sure. I mean, you live and breathe this world every day. And I'm a previous happy customer when you did a lot of consulting work for us over at Brandable, but I mean, no one knows how to build it kind of more engaged community than the you.

Vasa: (11:25)
Yeah. Appreciate that, man. Hey, so let's segue into the post-Brandable world. I am curious how GO Ventures and Mate Fertility came up. Tell me more about how that started.

Oliver: (11:39)
Yeah. So, GO Ventures was something that I founded with a number of other kind of ex-Brandable alumni. I left that business back in 2019 and quickly kind of reconnected with a lot of the sales team that was working for me at Brandable. And we just said, "Hey, there's a really unique opportunity here to better serve emerging brands." I actually initially set up GO Ventures to be my personal family office, to just invest in seed interesting brands. And then it kind of accidentally turned into another business. And now, it's 30 plus people, 50 plus clients, we did $200 million in sales last year. And we are servicing the who's who of emerging brands and helping them scale their businesses across Walmart, Target, and every major retailer in the United States.

Oliver: (12:29)
At GO Ventures, and it's exciting and it's growing. And we constantly have wins across the board. And we're really excited about at the momentum for our clients and a lot of our investments. And then the other side I'm full-time CEO of Mate Fertility, which is a business that I created inspired by my significant other's personal journey in the fertility space, founded it with my younger brother. And we're building up fertility clinics all across the country and trying to make infertility treatment a whole lot more accessible to a lot of people.

Vasa: (13:04)
That's amazing. One seems like a natural progression of working with the old sales team, and one seems like just a passion to work with your significant other. Question on GO Ventures, I love how you position it as almost a outsourced VP of sales, but you've got several of them. Has that been working for you? And to me, it's exciting you work with some great brands, you're crushing it on shelf. What sparked that?

Oliver: (13:34)
Yeah. So, GO Ventures, when I was CEO of Brandable, I saw firsthand how kind of not aligned the brand was with their specific broker, right? And we worked with a lot of great brokers when we were scaling Brandable to the heights that we were able to take it to. But the brokers weren't always aligned on our growth trajectory, right? So, maybe you'd have a Costco broker that would be focused only on what's right for Costco, where you'd have a Walmart broker that's focused only on what's right for Walmart, or you have a Whole Foods broker that's like telling you a whole bunch of other things. You have like an independent grocery broker, that's trying to do a million things. So, then you have a sales team that's trying to manage 10 different brokers with 10 completely different initiatives and different strategies.

Oliver: (14:26)
And then you're stuck with the brand to try to make decisions. So, we've really positioned GO Ventures for most of our clients, we run the entire country for them. We're their one broker partner. And we really sit as quarterback for what is the right sales strategy. So, if it's an emerging food brand, or if it's an emerging beauty brand, or we even work with publicly traded companies, we run the Coleman business a lot of the Coleman camping business. So, we have a wide range of clients, but if we take an emerging brand, which is really our favorite client to work with, we love working with an emerging brand that maybe has a ton of momentum direct to consumer, maybe they have some really exciting regional momentum at a Whole Foods, or maybe they just got kind of their commitment from a Wegmans or an H-E-B, and really kind of using that to set the right path for what the next one to three years looks like for them.

Oliver: (15:23)
So, if you're doing really productively and Erewhon, and you kill it on Amazon, maybe the next folks you should speak to are Whole Foods. And we can run that Whole Foods relationship. Maybe we should go kind of set a top to top with [Cahill 00:15:37] and build that Cahill relationship. Or if we want to go really big and it makes sense for the brand, let's go have a conversation with Walmart. And maybe Walmart's a year one player, maybe Walmart's a year two player, but for each brand, there's really a completely unique strategy that our team at GO Ventures can run. And that's because we have offices on the ground at every major retailer. So, we've got a big office in Bentonville, a team on the ground in Minneapolis, team on the ground in Boise. Austin, Texas, for Whole Foods, Chicago, for Walgreens and Ulta. So we're really servicing a wide range of retailers.

Vasa: (16:15)
Do you ever run into complications when you go into Walmart first in terms of pricing?

Oliver: (16:21)
I think every brand needs to think about Walmart day one. Ultimately, Walmart has in most categories, 30 plus market share. So, if you are going to be a brand selling products to Americans, you have to eventually have Walmart as a customer of yours. Unless you're going to go super premium, but if you're like a food or consumable, Walmart's going to be a place where you have to sell to eventually. So, I would always start with, even if you're not thinking about Walmart today, what is your Walmart pricing structure?

Vasa: (16:57)

Oliver: (16:57)
If we're going to go to Walmart in two years, how are we going to price it at Walmart? And then that's going to inform our pricing strategy that we take it to distributors that we take it to kind of regional grocery players, that we take it kind of to the rest of the universe.

Vasa: (17:11)
Amazing. And then obviously, I'm not in sales, marketing is my thing, but I do know that how you strategize your pack out in these different places, and learned, if you go in a big box, you'll probably go in or a club you're going to like an 18 pack. If you're a protein bar, not a two or a four pack, right? That's how you break it down and make it make sense.

Oliver: (17:31)
I think every brand... We tell every brand, even if you're not going to go into Walmart today, here's Walmart standard guide because you should be set up from an operational standpoint to eventually ship Walmart correctly.

Vasa: (17:42)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Got it. And then Mate Fertility, seems very exciting to me. It seems very needed. What do you got going there and what does next year look like for you?

Oliver: (17:56)
Yeah, so, my brain and my energy, and one of my greatest takeaways from Brandable and one of the brands that I'm most proud of is the business we built with Queen V. And Queen V is a business that was founded by my significant other. She's an incredible entrepreneur. She's such a superstar. And she built Queen V from the ground up. And it was recently acquired by, by Reckitt Benckiser who own K-Y lube and Durex condoms and Lysol, and a number of other brands. So, really excited for that journey for her. She leading that business as global director of sexual wellness marketing inside of RB. So, both of us have really been in the women's health and wellness space for a long time. When she first kind of experienced her own infertility issues, and us as a couple started experiencing them, our eyes were kind of wide open by just how broken the fertility industry was. And how we could fix it with a much better solution.

Oliver: (19:01)
So, the problem with fertility today is roughly 20% of the population suffers from some sort of infertility issue and is going to require some sort of infertility treatment to start their own family that does include the LGBTQ population. And the unfortunate reality is only 1.7% of the population today gets any sort of care. And that's because there's only 460 fertility clinics that are completely concentrated in top five markets. So, what we're doing is we're trying to open a thousand fertility clinics in the next 10 years. And we're doing that by putting a fertility clinic in every city in America. We're opening up one of our first, fully branded fertility clinics in Oklahoma city later this month. And we're continuing to open up a new clinic every single quarter.

Vasa: (19:48)
Wow. That's amazing, man.

Oliver: (19:51)
Yeah, we're really excited about it. And not only is it available, so from a kind of parenthood should... The ability to become a parent should be determined by your neighborhood, right? That's something we really believe. And we believe in our mission of fertility for all. We mean it, we believe fertility care should be accessible to anyone that needs it. So, we're putting it in your neighborhood but, separately, our pricing is anywhere from 40 to 50% lower than the legacy fertility clinics, and that's really because kind of this old guard, fertility clinic. All these fertility clinic groups have been unfortunately rolled up by private equity firms over the last 10 years. And you know what happens when private equity kind of enters category and really gets aggressive, the price is going to go up. It's not going to go down.

Vasa: (20:44)
That's wild. That's wild. I want to go deeper into this one. Is there any direct consumer play for you with the Mate Fertility?

Oliver: (20:55)
100% down the road. Yeah, we do see a path where we are going to build a very meaningful brand in the women's health and wellness and fertility space. We're just right now, very, very focused on establishing kind of our foothold with a phenomenal customer experience throughout our chain of fertility clinics. But definitely, in the two to three-year horizon that follows we'll be making a play back into the world of health and wellness products.

Vasa: (21:28)
Incredible. You have an awesome history of making things happen, man. I look forward to watching this as it goes, not only GO Ventures, but also Mate Fertility. I think I want to transition into our rapid fire questions. What do you think?

Oliver: (21:43)
Cool. Let's do it.

Vasa: (21:45)
All right. I got a couple of prepared for you today. These are always a little secret until the show happens. First question, if you could pair any influencer with any product and launch a brand today, who and what would it be?

Oliver: (22:01)
That's a really good question. I mean, I honestly, I think if Michelle Obama wanted to come out with a beauty brand, it would really resonate with millions of Americans.

Vasa: (22:20)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Oliver: (22:21)
I think that could be really cool. You just start Alicia Keys launch a haircare brand with Ulta. I mean, but Michelle Obama is like the ultimate influencer expert. I mean, she's had an incredible career and legacy. And I think if she were to say, "This is my positioning, this is the brand I want to build and focus." It could be beauty. She spent a lot of time in the White House focused on better nutrition for kids. Maybe it's a food brand. I think it would take a lot of market share very quickly.

Vasa: (23:03)
Great answer. Second question, three CPG brands you admire, challenger brands.

Oliver: (23:15)
Challenger brands, other good question. SmartSweets is on the top of my list. I think they absolutely have crushed it and will continue to crush it. The packaging is completely on point, they're in the right category. It needed to be disruptive. They have the right messaging. They're with the right retailers and I think that there's a long way for them to grow in terms of category expansion and kind of retailer expansion. So, that's one of my favorites. Another brand that I really admire and, of course, some of the challenger brands that I've been part of I admire but not non-brands that I'm not affiliated with.

Vasa: (24:03)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Oliver: (24:08)
I really, really admire what Welly has done. Welly launched at Target it's from Eric Ryan, the founder of Method and Olly, and he just finds these really sleepy categories to build a very, very disruptive brand in. And that's exactly what Welly did. I mean, you can't pick a more boring category than first aid products and the execution was just tremendous. And, again, I think there's no end in sight. I think they just expanded some distribution across CVS. I don't think they're in Walmart yet. Unilever just acquired a majority stake of it. And I think they have a very long future ahead of them. And I love that brand because it's just a great, great category to play in it's big, big, big category, and you can really see how that could just be a billion dollar business in a couple of years.

Oliver: (25:06)
I'm trying to think of what else in the household cleaning space. We have a lot of household cleaning brands at GO Ventures. So, we love a lot of our clients in that category. I'm going to go after the beauty space for a second. I'm going to talk about [Kevin Gold's 00:25:26] brand, which is magnetic. I don't know if you've seen that.

Vasa: (25:30)
Mm-mm (negative).

Oliver: (25:31)
It's the Lashnetic brand. So, I'm going to give him a shout out. It's a really phenomenal positioning. It's just a really, really good positioning. And it is a magnetic eyelash product, right? And they just executed it perfectly. It's going into a category like eyelashes that has not been disrupted in a while. Right? You have like these very old guard, fake eyelash companies, and they just attacked it in the right way. So, Glamnetic's the brand, if anyone wants to look it up.

Vasa: (26:15)

Oliver: (26:15)
But it's just Glamnetic. It was just attacked in the right way. And magnetic eyelashes make sense, right? They figured out how to put like a magnetic pigment in the thing you put on your eye before you apply the eyelash. So, the eyelash sticks much more effectively than just traditional glue, right? So, that like slight tweak on an innovation. And I used to say this when I was in television, it's all about slicing the onion in kind of a different way that's like a story that customers can really clearly understand, right? The thing that every customer hates about putting eyelashes on is the glue's like a mess, right? This solves that.

Vasa: (26:56)

Oliver: (26:57)
So, would that little piece of innovation, you can see how that can just really capture a lot of market share very quickly.

Vasa: (27:06)
Those are three good brands. Good shots.

Oliver: (27:09)
I don't know if anyone else has told you those brands, but-

Vasa: (27:11)
No, no, no. Those are good. I haven't asked that question before I asked that one specifically for you, because you have done a great job pairing influencers and building brands all the way through exit. Well, my last question is more of advice for the audience. A lot of startup founders listen to this, and when is the appropriate time for them once they're seeing success online to start building out retail?

Oliver: (27:35)
Immediately. I mean, if you have a unique way that you have sliced the onion, right, and it's resonating, we should talk to retailers immediately. You should reach out to my team at GO Ventures. They'll get back to you and set up kind of an introductory call. If you have figured out a unique way to slice the onion, you have to be the first one to tell the story to retailers because we live in a copycat world, right? And you probably see this pasta, every brand, it's like how do you decipher the difference between this brand and that brand because they all look the same. And they're all basically trying to tell you the same thing. So, it's like when it works and you know you've got a really, really good race horse there, you should engage with retail immediately because even if a Whole Foods or Target or a Walmart don't respond today, you really want to be the first person to tell the retailers this story from your point of view, as a brand founder versus if you wait and there's a copycat, someone's going to tell that story before you.

Vasa: (28:38)
Yeah. Good call. And the final one is how do we help these startup CPG founders? How do we reach you for GO Ventures? And how do we reach you even for Mate Fertility?

Oliver: (28:49)
Yeah, for sure. So, I'm always on LinkedIn (Oliver Bogner). You can always dab me on LinkedIn, messaged me on LinkedIn. If you're a startup brand and you want to talk to the GO Ventures team, we've got an exceptional business development team, and we've got a team of now about a dozen vice presidents of sales that will talk to the startup brand and figure out if it makes sense and what the potential retail strategy could be. So, you can reach us on our website

Vasa: (29:18)
Got it. And, Oliver Bogner, B-O-G-N-E-R. For those of you listening, looking to send all over a DM on LinkedIn. Well, that wraps it up for me, Oliver. I had a blast chatting with you. I appreciate you being on the episode and thank you for your time.

Oliver: (29:37)
Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Vasa: (29:40)
We'll see you next time.

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