Kanga Update: How We Turned Our College Project Into A Multi-Million Dollar Brand
This is a follow up story for Kanga. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
What’s up, ladies and gents! My name’s Teddy Giard, and I’m a Co-Founder & Head of Marketing at Kanga Coolers.
At Kanga, we invented an iceless cooler designed to fit around an entire case of 12 oz. beverages (12, 24, & 30 packs). Our customers are beer drinkers, tailgaters, outdoorsmen, and generally anyone pursuing a good time. All in all, we’re after the minimalist thrill-seeker who’s more worried about keeping the good times flowing than updating everyone on their social media stories.
Since 2017 our Founder & CEO, Logan LaMance, has had a deep passion for “keeping liquids cold.” This unique passion has led to numerous patented innovations in the beverage cooling space that have turned this college class project into a multi-million dollar company with exciting new products in the pipeline.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since we last spoke, a lot has happened in the world of e-commerce. Due to new data-sharing restrictions, we faced an entirely different scope of limitations regarding how directly we can target individuals and interest groups.
We have enlarged our social awareness by actively listening to our users as we grow as a brand. We're now at a point where our audience is our brand, and it's no longer us.
We knew months prior that this scenario was inevitable, so we decided to focus on what we could control: our content output and direct market communication strategies. We doubled down on all fronts through email, SMS strategies, print advertising, forward-facing prospecting advertisements, sponsoring college athletes with new NIL regulations, and organic social media growth and giveaways.
Given that this is an extensive list, I would like to point out some key features and give credit to the individuals who have pioneered these charges.
Email Marketing Strategies:
Pioneered by Kanga's Director of Public Relations, Matt Sweyer, Matt has taken a unique approach to email segmentation & communication as a whole. Using his talents for creative writing, event planning, and overall community awareness, he's tripled our email list through actively communicating with our audiences in a humorous and relatable voice.
Matt has personally created a consumer touchpoint that our audience looks forward to seeing. Aside from A/B testing design templates, structuring headers and captions to attain the highest open rate, and automating flows, he possesses a unique skill-set that's both analytical and creative, making our mailing list a fun and enjoyable marketing component driving both brand awareness and a reliable revenue stream.
SMS should be considered the "wild west" approach to marketing these days as it's new and continuously expanding the ability to touch consumers quickly and seamlessly. Pioneered by our Director of Social Media & Market Research, Josh Priddy, Josh has pioneered an SMS strategy from ground 0.
All in all, the open rate for SMS is higher than any other direct marketing tactic we've used to date. Despite the limitations of word count and descriptive wording you can use with SMS, its quick call to action form of communication has been our most profitable referral over the last four months.
Print is not dead and surprisingly more cost-effective than most would think. A mentor once told us that print advertising and packaging are the only forms of marketing with a 100% open rate which we've found to be true.
We've found that it adds the "WOW Factor'' through direct selling at trade shows and even brand recognition over time by designing product catalogs pioneered by our Graphic Design Intern, Jacob Smock. Living in an era that's almost all digital, a tangible token seems to add a component that consumers miss out on these days.
Given new data-sharing restrictions, it's harder than ever to target extremely niche demographics or interest groups through FB & IG advertising. With previous methods of quantity over quality in content creation, a lack of targeted material means advertising has to be more digestible to a broader audience. In other words, it has to be creative.
Sounds simple right? Well, when the advertising space is all of a sudden set to primarily prospecting clients and retargeting is left to your own doing through automated flows and channels, every brand in the world is trying to be creative.
Ultimately we've found it comes down to understanding your audience and investing in high-quality, engaging deliverables that REALLY have a hook.
Great practice for this principle is if you verbally describe your product or offering in a 30 - second manner, what would you say? Now take that explanation, break down every key characteristic that helped define the problem and solution, and force yourself to describe it differently.
There's a reason Geico has a gecko teaching you about car insurance. Why? Because it's different, and if others make you ask questions, odds are you're going to do your due diligence on a product or service, which is what an advertisement is supposed to do. Make you learn more.
NIL Programs (NCAA Sponsorships):
If you haven't heard that athletes can get paid, you're missing out! Recently we've launched the Kanga Cool-egiate Athletic Department, where we've sponsored athletes of all different backgrounds to spread positivity and fun energy. With our slogan "Collegiates doing athletic things." we're excited to put a fun twist on college sports and allow athletes to grow their brands, promote causes they're passionate about, and make money while doing it.
All in all, we are striving to make this program an example of how brands should treat strategic partners, more specifically individuals representing them as a whole. The program is just now taking flight, and we promise it will catch some eyeballs and do some good this year!
Organic Social & Strategic Giveaways:
Organic social and strategic giveaways are an area of brand growth that is often not valued enough. With the presence of social media and opportunities to create and share content at our fingertips, every company has a chance to interact with their audience and get eyeballs on their product offerings without paying a dime.
Understanding what your audience resonates with and continuing to deliver engaging and entertaining content is an involuntary way of saying "we're listening" and showing your customers that you care. Just look at Barstool; they've created an empire off of creativity and delivering audiences what they want to see.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
My biggest personal lesson has been the importance of appreciating other people's visions and seeking outside perspectives to manage creativity and produce brilliant results. When building a brand, it's way too easy to micromanage and structure a creative vision instead of allowing it to take its course.
All in all, the best way to pursue original creativity is to ensure that others feel heard. Nobody enjoys being micromanaged, particularly creative people
When working with creative people, you have to let them be creative. That's easier said than done when there are deadlines, other opinions, and expectations from internal and external individuals. It would be best if we all remembered that you either hired or outsourced work with another individual because you believe in their vision, you acknowledge their talents, and feel their ideas will contribute to your overall mission.
As a Co-Founder and board member, you have your goals and expectations clearly outlined for you at the beginning of every quarter. Still, it's your job to let the other people in your department do what they do best and find a way to repurpose their god-given skill sets and ideas to benefit the company and move things forward.
With online advertising shifting to suppress data sharing, millions of creative visions have been more present than ever by delivering relatable statements! The quality of creativity and having a defined purpose and brand vision are crucial behind every campaign or initiative that you compose as a business leader. In reality, if you're not working to benefit something bigger than you, you're working against the flow of life, not with it. In other words, listening is everything.
All in all, the best way to pursue original creativity is to ensure that others feel heard. Nobody enjoys being micromanaged, particularly creative people! It's honestly hilarious that most businesses try to box these individuals into a routine or business structure that works against the way their brain chemistry works.
Suppose we, as business directors, communicate deadlines, align on a vision, agree on a purpose, and allow others to take the process into their own hands. In that case, we'd be amazed at how much time we save as managers, the respect we gain as leaders, and how a singular output, when aligned & brilliant, can outweigh a numerical list of expectations and boundaries.
You have to allow creativity; you can't create it.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
As a business, our goal stands true to "Bringing fun and convenience to beverage cooling solutions and using business to promote a fulfilling lifestyle." All said and done; we want to allow people to Drink Different and have fun while doing it.
We have enlarged our social awareness by actively listening to our users as we grow as a brand. We're now at a point where our audience is our brand, and it's no longer us. Our story was inspiring, but that class project and Shark Tank airing happened 3+ years ago. It's our time to empower others to make a difference through serving others and forming a community.
By the time this article is published, we'll be on the brink of some exciting product releases and some exciting social campaigns. Until then, I have to keep my lips sealed. :)
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Some of my favorite books in the past year have been the following:
The Making of a Manager: This book's recommended by a personal mentor, Kyle Bergman, who founded his own companies Swoveralls & Sweat From Home. It's a great approach to forming business relationships and putting others before yourself. It amazed me how simple forms of communication can so easily be misinterpreted or misconstrued if not delivered clearly and effectively. It's also a great book to read if you look to grow into a managerial role or position.
Authentic: ** ** A memoir by Paul Van Doren, Founder of Vans, and how he used life experience to start his own company. Any story that comes from humble beginnings is an excellent reminder of how blessed we are to have the opportunity to pursue our passions and have a voice.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: ** ** This book may sound cheesy, but it is one of my favorites to this day.
Greenlights: ** ** A memoir by Matthew McConaughey that speaks relevance to self-awareness and how faith is the backbone to deluding fear.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I'll keep this part short and sweet, but here's my checklist whenever someone starting a business:
1.) Have you identified a problem? Have you researched it? Is it there?
2.) Have you identified a solution? Is it digestible? Is it tangible?
3.) Do you have a mission? Something that's beyond you and will take a community to grow?
4.) Are you doing this out of passion or with a desire to make money? Passion will work when money's not there.
5.) Do you have a team or group of individuals that complement the skills you lack?
6.) What's your timeline and end goal? Is it defined, and is everyone on board?
If you have these boxes checked off, it's up to you to put everything you have into this idea. At this point, it's really up to you to make this dream a reality.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are currently hiring and Operations & Logistics Manager! I have the application linked here!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Kanga has provided an update on their business!
Almost 3 years ago, we followed up with Kanga to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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