In Episode 48 of Earned, Conor sits down with Daniel Landver, CEO of Digital Brand Products (DBP), the “talent-led” brand incubator that has helped launch powerhouse brands from today’s top creators, including ONE/SIZE by Patrick Starrr, Elaluz by Camila Coelho, Song of Style by Aimee Song, The Home Edit, and more.
To start the episode, Daniel shares which creator brand launches he’s most excited about, and reveals that DBP’s 50 brands at market are expected to achieve $250 million in retail sales this year. Daniel then breaks down what separates a $50 million brand from a $1 million brand, and provides a closer look into how DBP works with creators on brand operations, licensing, and partnerships. Next, we learn why the growing (yet largely unrecognized) power of the creator economy inspired Daniel to start DBP in 2015 as a division of influencer management company Digital Brand Architects. From there, we discuss how COVID-19 impacted the future of brand-retailer partnerships, and Daniel emphasizes the importance of an omnichannel approach. To close the show, Daniel shares the advice he gives creators who are considering launching their own brands, and reveals whether he thinks we’ve hit a saturation point with creator and celebrity brands.
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
“It's not the size of the creator alone that makes a business successful.”: Daniel Landver on What Separates a $50 Million Brand From a $1 Million
Conor Begley: What would you say separates the $50 million brand from the $5 million or the $1 million? Going in, are you like, “this one's going to be $50 million?" Or do you get more surprises than you'd expect?
Daniel Landver: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes you don't know [how a brand’s going to perform], and it just connects with an audience and grows exponentially. Sometimes you go into a project or a brand with a creator and you're like, “this is going to be a grand slam, home run,” and it's a total bomb. That's happened more than once.
There are so many ingredients in the recipe to make a business and a brand successful. So do I know what's going to happen? No. When we went into 2020 with a schedule of launches and then COVID hit, did we know that every retailer we were launching in was going to close? Of course not. But then how do you pivot, how do you figure out a solution to bring the business to market? Is it going on a Shopify website, or going direct to consumer, or is it still teaming up with that retailer in a different dynamic? Obviously events weren't on the table anymore, so there are always challenges that come up. That was a big challenge and a very unexpected challenge, but there are always things that come up along the way.
And really, it's not the size of the creator alone that makes a business successful. It [also requires] a good idea that's unique and compelling, and a creator who's really passionate and committed. People say it’s building a brand or a product, but it's really building a business. And building a business is hard, making money in a business early on is hard. And it's really about having the fortitude and the foresight to accomplish a really challenging goal.
Just because you're a creator doesn't mean that building a business is any easier. Just because you've built a great business and have a significant YouTube following, or Instagram following, or TikTok following, that doesn't necessarily equate to being a great operator or a great brand on its own. It's really about turning a corner and using different muscles, or partnering with people who complement those operational and capital aspects, to help make a creator brand or a celebrity brand successful.
Daniel Landver’s Advice to Creators Looking to Launch Their own Brands
Conor Begley: What criteria do you use to decide whether or not a brand is ready to launch? And what advice are you giving to creators about what they need to do to get there. When does it make sense for a creator to consider launching a brand?
Daniel Landver: So through Digital Brand Architects (DBA), we're very fortunate to meet many creators earlier on in their careers. DBA does a great job managing the talent they represent, in terms of, a creator will start with X number of followers, and DBA works with them for many years to build out their platform and their different media opportunities. And I like to meet with clients as early as possible and set the foundation, and there's no expectation or pressure for the creator to start a brand. Not all creators need to have brands. You have to have the passion, the willingness to work hard, and in some cases, you may need to take away from your core business. If you're a beauty influencer and you start your own brand, is that going to potentially take away from some sponsorships in those categories? Yeah, potentially it will. So you have to be willing to do that, and in some cases make those sacrifices for the bigger picture or the broader visions.
In some cases it's true that as creators grow, they get more comfortable with their audience, they hone their point of view, they find that unique value proposition that they stand for, or they come up with a unique idea that they want to engage with, or develop, or solve a problem that doesn't have a solution on the market yet. Saying, “I'm an expert in the beauty space, I rate a thousand products a month, but I've realized this is missing, and I want to solve this problem,” is a really good way to approach an opportunity. You could say that in any vertical or any category.
But also on a purely tactical level, it could take 18 to 24 months to launch a business, so I like to plant those seeds and say, “Listen, you don't need to do this, and you don't need to do this today. But just so you know, let's plant those seeds, let's put it on your radar, and I want you to be cognizant of the fact that, if and when you are ready to do this, it may take 18 months to bring to market. So please marinate on it, and whenever you're ready to discuss, we here at DBP are happy to brainstorm with you, help you figure out what the foundation for that business looks like, what the best structure for that business looks like, evaluate the pros and cons, multiple approaches for that business, and eventually help you bring it to market, and make it successful.” There's a huge commitment of time and resources, so you want to have a successful outcome.
You can watch the entire interview here, or listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. To catch up on our other 47 episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Milk Makeup, Gymshark, Gucci, and Summer Fridays, visit our Earned Podcast page.