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Episode 13: Brand Building Insights Part Two

Welcome to Part 2 of our How to Build a Brand series. Last time we went over a few things to get you thinking about your brand, but on today’s episode Grant and I are getting into the nitty gritty and talking about the tools you’re going to need to build your brand successfully.

Remember, branding is always easier if you can inspire an emotional reaction or attachment with your product. But finding that product is easier said than done. Both of us have our hands in several niche businesses, and we have some pointers to get you thinking about what kind of product you want to invest your brand in and where you can find it. Sometimes you have to wait around for inspiration to hit, but in the meantime you can develop your domain, establish an SEO engine, and find a way to make social media work for you. Grant and I explain exactly how to do this with a little insight into:

  • How to accommodate shipping costs with your product
  • Focusing on consumable goods customers use over and over again
  • How to make your product stand out from the rest
  • Using social media to help your product stand out (if you dare!)
  • What to do when you can’t find the niche you’re looking for
  • Our production and shipping process and how we keep them speedy
  • The difference between standard listings and “Amazon Super Listings”
  • Using SEO to your advantage

Whatever you are choosing to brand, the tips we share in this second part of our How to Build a Brand series will help you advertise better, sell better, and maintain long-lasting and reciprocal relationships with your customers.

And stay tuned for our third and final installment of How to Build a Brand!

If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes.

Full Audio Transcript

Mike:   Hey, everyone.  This is Mike.

Grant:  And this is Grant.

Mike:   And welcome to this episode of the Ecom Crew podcast.  This is part two of a series that Grant and I have been doing on how to build a brand and why it’s great.  So last time, we kind of hit the, you know, starting points of building a brand and just some goods and bads with the brand and things of that nature, and this week we’re going to start to get really into the nitty gritty of, you know, building a brand and the types of items that I think are good for building a brand and some things you should be thinking about when building that brand.

So getting right into that this week, you know, the first thing I really want to talk about here is the types of items that you want to pick building a brand.  I think that this is really important.  Now, obviously, if you’re already in a niche that you’re trying to build off of or whatever because you already have a store in that area, that’s a totally different story and, you know, besides that, if you’re in a situation where you’ve always dreamed on starting your own brand and you had other ideas of things you want to be doing on your own, things you think you can be adding value to, this is kind of my list in a perfect world.  So, you know, always realize that that’s the situation.  And, you know, Grant and I are in the enviable position to be able to do that.  I mean the coloring book brand was one of those types of brands where, you know, it fits every one of my criteria, or just about every one of them, and the other brands that we’re launching behind the scenes here fit even more within the criteria, and of course, I know some of the things that Grant’s working on and they fit in all these things as well.

So these are things that we’ve actually talked about on other parts of the podcast before, so I’m going to hit on them pretty quickly.  But, you know, I think it’s important to be looking at items that are basically relatively light, relatively easy to ship, relatively small.  Obviously, again, these are things that you can make exceptions for in the right opportunity, but by using Amazon as that launching pad platform, you know, they have rates for oversized items and rates for standard size items and everything that we look at, we try to be in that standard size item category.  And even more so, I mean we’re looking at things that can fit really in a padded envelope.  And in the case of the coloring books, they even fit in a media mail, you know, they’re allowed to be shipped as media mail.

Shipping costs are a huge part of an ecommerce business’s bottom line and, you know, if you’re shipping large items, whether they’re light or not, it doesn’t matter anymore because of dim weight.  You know, it’s important to have products that are relatively cheap to ship and, you know, we’ve actually been designing our products now to fit in specific USPS boxes.  I mean we go over to China with the box and we show them the box and say, “It must fit in this.”  Like we’ll use greeting cards for instance.  I don’t care is a standard greeting card is 6” by 9”.  I want you to make it so it fits in this box.  You know, make it 5.5” instead of 6” or whatever.  No one’s going to notice the difference and it’ll fit inside this box and save us $2, $3 every time we ship it.  So I think, you know, the size of the item, the weight of the item, et cetera, really important.

The next thing is breakability.  You know, we look for things that are fairly tough, you know, when they’re shipping.  We don’t want things that are going to break easily.  I think glassware would be a good example.

The next thing would be technology-related stuff.  I mean I try to stay away from things that have a technology component in any way, shape, or form.  First off, if it plugs into the wall, I pretty much don’t want it.  You know, again, these are things that you can make exceptions for but the main reason behind that is that things that are technology related have a shorter shelf-life and, you know, that’s another part of the things that we look at.  We don’t want things that expire, that have a short self-life.  I mean you want to be in a good position where if one of these channels blows up on you in a bad way, that you still have another year or two to sell it through your own store or through eBay and eventually recover your money and, you know, make your profit back or make your original investment back and some profit.  So these are things that we look at that I think are incredibly important.

Now, the next thing that we look at is if it’s consumable or does it have a high chance for repeat buyers?  Now, again, you know, looking at something like an ice pack, it’s not consumable.  People can use an ice pack for years so, you know, we aren’t really hitting on that but we had an existing brand to build off of.  But something like a coloring book is consumable.  Something like a greeting card or a sketchpad or a journal, all the things that fit in the coloring book brand are consumable.  They are things that people, you know, will use up.  Things like makeup or bath soaps or, you know, whatever, if you can think of all these different things, razor blades –

Grant:  Coffee.

Mike:   Coffee.  Really good one.  We own just as an aside.  So, you know, things that are consumable I think are a really important thing.  That’s actually something that we will no longer, you know, discount.  You know, some of the other things that we look at, we’re like, “Okay, we’re going to be okay because it’s oversized.  We’ll go ahead and deal with it.”  But I want products that are either A: consumable, or have a very high likelihood of getting repeat business.  And, you know, like Grant said, coffee’s obviously another one, but like the coloring book business really fits all these different things.  And the reason for that is that it’s extremely expensive to acquire a customer and if you’re, you know, selling a $25 item, a $50 item, whatever it might be, and your acquisition cost is $20 to get that customer, which is basically all of your profit, if you have a consumable product where you can get repeat business, you can basically afford to acquire that customer at a break even or even a net loss knowing that, down the line, you’re going to get repeat business with that customer.  And I think that that’s really important.

So, and then the last thing I wanted to mention here is passion.  You know, just because something’s consumable, you also want them to have like a huge passion behind it.  And coffee’s a great example.  People are passionate about their coffee.  You know, I mean people are fanatical about their coffee.  People are passionate about coloring books.  I mean they’re really interested in it and people get really into coloring book parties and, you know, they just love talking about it.  And, you know, again, ice packs, no so much.  And, you know, it’s a lot more difficult for us on that side of the fence, on the ice pack side, because we don’t have that.  But what we found with the coloring brand is that people are doing the advertising for us.  I mean you always hear about how strong word-of-mouth advertising is, but you look at something like coloring books or our coloring brand and it couldn’t be, you know, more true in this case.  I mean people are fanatical.  We’ve gotten over 4,000 Facebook followers in the past six weeks, you know, since we launched our social media accounts.  We don’t have that many after Ice Wraps being a business for 10 years.  They were around I think when Facebook first came out and they don’t have that many Facebook likes, and it was a site that we obviously purchased so we inherited I think 1,000 Likes or something like that.

But the point is that these are very passionate fans and I think that that’s incredibly important.  So one of these things where I’ve been talking for a while, so I want to give Grant and opportunity.  Do you think I missed anything there, Grant, or do you want to add anything to some of the stuff I was talking about there?

Grant:  I was just going to add something to your most recently topic, which is the passion part.  And branding, I would say, is a good thing to consider if you have a product that essentially you can derive some kind of emotional enjoyment or emotional attachment out of it.  And a lot of that also is on the social media side and they’re really interlinked.  And I say this because it’s pretty much like Marketing 101 to say, “Hey, you know, go build a brand.  Brand, brand, brand, brand, brand.”  You know?  It’s better for it to be called “Kleenex” than “tissue” or, you know, whatever, or “Downy paper towels” versus “paper towels.”  That kind of stuff.  And, you know, this is all like pretty much Business 101.  Everyone kind of knows to build a brand.

The modern equivalent is, you know, be on social media, be on Facebook, be on Pinterest, be on blah, blah, blah.  But the reality is that for some type of companies and some niches, like social media doesn’t make any sense at all.  And I would actually say – this is probably going to be controversial but I would say for the vast majority of commodities out there, it just doesn’t matter.  Like, for example, in my niche, I often see Clorox advertising.  And I’m like, “What is Clorox doing?”  Like, yeah, you could probably use bleach, but do you really need Clorox on Facebook?  And am I really excited when I see a Clorox ad?  No.  I know of Clorox and when I need bleach, I’ll probably get Clorox.  But that’s because, you know, it’s a branded product but it doesn’t have any emotional appeal.  Like when I see a bottle of Clorox, I don’t suddenly go, “Well, that’s the clean bottle of bleach versus like the Costco bleach.”  It doesn’t have that affect.

Now, that’s because really, as a utilitarian tool, I don’t have any emotional investment when I’m using bleach.  I’m cleaning the floor.  If anything, it’s just something I do.  And I’m really trying to, you know, just get it done and get it over with.  Now, you add in like an emotional appeal to these products.  Like when Mike has coloring books, like, you know, running a little backstory, like a lot of people that are using coloring books use it for stress relief.  And, you know, think about the emotional appeal about that for just a second.  Stress relief, you know?  Everybody has stress.  Everybody needs to be able to, you know, get it out somehow.  What other things do people do for stress relief?  Fitness, drinking, smoking, exercising, you know, all these other things.  Those are all major, major emotional industries.  Fitness is a huge one.  Everyone wants to look good and be fit.  Smoking, I mean you could say it’s addictive, but it has an emotional connection to it, you know?

And so I’m mentioning this because like when I talk about, for example, my brand, which would be, you know, I’m on social media, too, here and there and I do these kinds of things and there’s a certain amount of appeal in regards to, you know, some cutting boards, but the reality is that at the end of the day, it’s kind of still a cutting board.  Should I be investing all of my time in social media?  And the answer is, you know, I should probably be on there but it’s really not my main focus.  It’s more of a utilitarian product.  When I get into like a $300 cutting board, suddenly it becomes far more an aesthetic or much more of an emotional type product than simply utilitarian because, at the end of the day, I could just get a plastic cutting board for $20 and I could chop meat on it, you know?  It gets the job done.

So kind of going back to my initial discussion, depending on what you’re selling, you should really be using that as the starting point as to determine whether or not you really have a brand-able product.  And going after that, should you be on social media?  I’m not going to name the name of a guy that messaged me on Reddit actually.  He found a post that me and Mike had made on there when we talked about Ecom Crew.  But he asked me about a domain he was running, selling – what are those radio-controlled planes in the air now, Mike,that’s so popular?  The –

Mike:   The drones?

Grant:  Right.  The drones.  So he had a website about drones and the domain, in my opinion, was pretty awful.  It wasn’t really a brand-able domain and it wasn’t really a good search term.  It was just kind of more like a play on a misspelling.  And anyhow, the guy wasn’t really making a lot of money, had, you know, maybe just barely five figures in sales and was trying to figure out what to do with it.  And I said, ‘You know, there’s nothing here that’s really going to give anybody an attachment to you.  There’s nothing here that’s going to give you an SEO value.  So really, the only thing that, you know, you’re building on is quicksand.  You know, you don’t have a brand here, you don’t have an SEO factory at work, and if you don’t have SEO and you don’t have a brand, what do you have?  The answer is nothing.”

So you’re either going for the SEO or you’re going for the brand.  And, you know, in a perfect world, you’re going for both and that’s where like the golden goose lives.  But for everybody else, if you don’t have either one of those, then you’re in a pretty bad place.  So that’s what I just have to say, which is that, you know, if you don’t have your product already, think about if it’s brand-able or not because if it’s not brand-able, you better have a damn good plan in place.

Mike:   Yeah.  And I want to have some fun with this real quick, Grant, because I was thinking about the Clorox and the bleach thing.  I mean what would you think about it if it was more of an organic or clean or green kind of thing, where I think that that probably would get more of a visceral, emotional response.  That could be brand-able, wouldn’t you think?

Grant:  Oh yeah, big time.  Like just look at the Honest Co.  I think that’s Jessica Alba’s company and their whole thing was that she came out saying that – oh, she’s a mom.  She’s obviously a huge celebrity and she’s got a lot of influence and she says, you know, there’s not a lot of products out there that are simply healthy and eco-friendly for the home.  So comes out with a company.  Like let’s be honest here, like everything that they make is probably completely unoriginal and uninspiring for most companies to make because, you know, that market exists out there for organic homewares and cleaning products, and she just slapped, you know, the Honest label on there.  You know, they might’ve had a little bit of R&D.  You know, I’m not going to take away from their secret sauce or whatever but they did a great job on the marketing.  They just came out and said, “Hey, you know, we’re using eco-friendly products,” and everything like that so people bought it and they’re doing really, really good.  There’s many different companies that I see on the shelves nowadays for organic cleaning and yeah, I think they’re definitely taking away from the cheese of Clorox and those other companies like that, and I think those guys – you know, I wouldn’t say that I know anything about their marketing campaigns, but I think if their focus is being on social, they’re doing it completely wrong.

Mike:   Yeah.  So I think, you know, the real point here at the end of the day is you need to have something that is brand-able by having that emotional response as kind of the trigger for that, and that’s something that, you know, Grant and I seem to really agree upon.  I mean I can definitely tell you from the brands that we’ve put together so far, the products we’ve been working on so far, that we’ve seen way higher success.  It’s way easier for a product where you can get your audience talking about it for you.

So, moving on from that, and again, we have another episode – we’ll link to it in the show notes – where we talk more about the types of ecommerce products we look to sell in general, which, you know, is applicable here.  So I didn’t want to take up a whole episode just talking about that but, you know, the real things that we added on here are brand-ability, emotional response, and something that’s consumable.  So we went on from there.  You know, we kind of talked in this last episode about once you pick your product, where do you go from there.  And once you pick your niche – and for us, we’ve looked at dozens of niches and we’ve identified literally dozens of niches that I think are good potential brands, you know, things that I would love to sell.  And, you know, it’s at the point where we have to stop and say no now because we’ve kind of filled up our pipeline with a number of things that we just – you know, if we get more brands and more things, we would just fail.

So, you know, you want to pick ones that fit every aspect of the things I was talking about and there’s enough things out there where you can say no until you can say yes.  And I think it’s important.  You know, once you kind of go down this road, you’re stuck with the brand forever until you give up with it, so you want to make sure that you’re picking the right thing.  And the other aspect of it is that, you know, I understand that it’s incredibly – you’re going to be anxious to get your products to market.  You’re going to be motivated and just, you know, anxious is probably the best way to put it.  I know I was.  I mean I wanted to have the product yesterday.  You know, on our first coloring book it’s like, “Let’s get it, let’s get it, let’s get it.”  But at the same time, you know, I was also preaching, “Let’s not cut corners on quality.”  We put in 50 original hand-drawn designs.  Those take a long time to get done.  You know, it’s done by a human being and there wasn’t any Photoshop or anything involved so it takes a long time.  It also took a long time to find the perfect paper, the perfect covers, the perfect spiral, the perfect manufacturer, the right price point.

And, you know, we got down that road with a lot of different niches and it just didn’t work out.  You know, there were several things like [inaudible 17:36] or things that we might do someday so I don’t want to talk specifically about what the product was but, you know, I encourage you if you get down to the end and you’re not quite comfortable with it, if you can’t quite get it at the price point you want, et cetera, then just move on.  You know, there have been several things where, you know, we couldn’t quite get the quality the way that we wanted it, we couldn’t quite get the price the way that we wanted it, and we just had to say no.  And we almost got to that point with the coloring book company until we were able to find a product that we thought was going to be amazing, and the results have been pretty awesome.

So, you know, you want to make sure that you’re differentiating yourself in some way from everything else that’s out there.  You know, I really encourage you don’t just go to AliBaba and get something that already exists and not make any modifications to it other than just sticking your name on it and not putting it in good packaging.  You know, there’s lots of stuff on AliBaba that you can get that comes in a poly bag and basically just has a sewn-on logo that is no different than anything else in the market and I think that long-term, even if it’s a consumable product, even if it fits all the other things that we’re talking about, you’re really setting yourself up for failure because if it’s easy for you to do it, it’s going to be easy for everybody else to do it.  You know, you need to do stuff that is going to be a lot harder for people to copy.

And in the case of all the things that we’re doing now with all the brands we’re working on – with a coloring book, yes, lots of other people can sell coloring books, but we have the only ones that have these designs.  We have the only ones that have this paper and the covers and et cetera.  And, you know, people can go try to copy it but it took us months to source this exact stuff.  I think most people would give up by then.  Even if they do, you know, good luck trying to find an artist that’s going to produce quality drawings and coloring pages that we have.  I mean it takes a lot of work.  So that upfront effort is now extrapolated into the opportunity that we have and have seen the fruits of our labor pay off now versus the person that just goes on AliBaba and says, “Hey, I want to get 100 of this widget,” and does nothing more than put their name on it, or in a lot of cases, doesn’t even bother putting their name on it; they’re just taking that widget and selling it.

And, you know, we mentioned this in our last episode.  I mean there’s nothing wrong with doing that to get started.  You know, if you want to cut your teeth on selling on Amazon and you’re just not even sure if this is the thing for you or how it works or if you can even make money with it, you have all these, you know, apprehensive thoughts, I get that.  And even I had that same situation, did the same thing.  I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t encourage you to do that for the first, you know, couple of items.  But, in the long run, I think you really want to sit down and build a product and, you know, products that complement each other that differentiate themselves from everything else out on the market to the point where it’s hard to copy.  And I think that that’s really a key.  And are there going to be people that are going to try to copy you?  Absolutely.  I mean we already had people that have tried to do it with our coloring books and we’ve had to go out and deal with a couple issues there already.

But, you know, for the most part, obviously, because we’re in the United States and we have a trademark and it’s copyrighted material, we’re good to go.  You know, we’re not going to have a hard time, from a legal perspective, of protecting our work.  So I encourage you to be thinking along those lines because, again, long-term, that’s what going to be your bread and butter.  That’s what people – when they think of your brand name, you want them thinking about whatever that is and having a positive emotional response to it.  So, Grant, anything else on any of the stuff there I was just kind of mentioning?

Grant:  Yeah, I was going to just add into the fact talking about kind of launching the brand, and I will say that to me there’s a little bit of benefit to launching with multiple items per brand and that really comes down to whether or not they can be considered complementary because if you are, you know, still in the very, very early phases of testing and, you know, you just want to see if it’s viable, then, you know, we just talked about that.  Obviously you want to try to make sure that you can actually sell before just shoving a bunch of random ideas on.  But the minute that you know that it’s viable and you put one item up, you should already be, in my opinion, trying to figure out your second item and then third item right after that because once you start hooking somebody into your brand, like Mike said, you know, they’re going to have some kind of loyalty or they’re going to have some kind of connection to your brand and they’re going to want more.

So having an item to compare with really works to your advantage because instead of having your item being compared to the item of your competitor, maybe they’re comparing between your two items.  So on Amazon, especially, I mean it’s a huge thing because you get the, you know, “This item was purchased with another one.”  Rather than seeing your competitor’s item, why not it be your item?  You can also do, you know, various promos or whatever to try to sell them as a set for a discount so that if you buy one, you know, you pay full price, but you pay two, then you get a 10% discount or whatever.  So there’s a lot of benefits to creating that cross-sell over there by having, you know, multiple things.  And I think, Mike, with your books and your pencils, I mean that’s kind of the prime example of like the ultimate cross-sell I think.

Mike:   Yeah.  I mean it’s incredible actually.  You know, we’ve been getting a lot of new SKUs in recently, the last couple weeks actually and we have a process and I’ll kind of go over it real quick because I think it’s important to this podcast.  But, you know, we do all the product development, obviously, which takes time, and then the product finally gets produced and it ends up here and, you know, from the day that it shows up at our warehouse here in California to the day that it’s for sale on Amazon, every one of those days that goes by is lost money.  So, you know, we want to get the product off Amazon like basically the day that it shows up.  So we kind of have a labeling party here the day that a new SKU shows up and we turn it around within 24 hours, within one business day.  And then it obviously has to go to Amazon and, you know, get checked in and get through their network, which is a couple of weeks.

So basically what we do is when the item shows up, we create what we call a barebones Amazon listing, which is we take one picture usually with our iPhone, I write a one-sentence description, one bullet point, make up some random title really quickly, print out our labels, and get the thing off to Amazon.  And basically I know in the back of my mind that we have, you know, two to three weeks to do what we call an Amazon super listing.  And, you know, so basically in the time that it’s in the standard listing phase, the product looks like crap in my opinion.  There’s, you know, again, one iPhone type photo up there and a basic description or whatever, but what’s really been amazing is we’re selling stuff in that condition or in that state because, you know – now realize that people are absolutely not searching on Amazon for this product yet because it’s not available in search.  They’re clicking on our brand name and finding it that way, and because we have fanatics, you know, we’re making sales of these products now basically instantaneously, as soon as they show up in Amazon’s warehouse and they’re available for sale.

And it really goes to what Grant’s talking about here is that by having a brand and complementary products, you know, it’s another whole avenue to get more sales.  And it’s just been incredible, Grant, I’ve got to say.

Grant:  Mm-hmm.  Yeah, exactly.  It’s pretty amazing.  Like just the amount of people out there, you’re going to find some people that love your product no matter what it is.

Mike:   Yup.  So, the next thing I have on my list here, you know, now we’re kind of at the point where you’ve picked your niche that you want to get into, you’ve picked the products that you want to get into.  What’s kind of the next step?  So, Grant might have some different feelings on this here, but for me, because, again, it’s a confidence thing – I know that if I’m going to go after a brand, that we’re going to succeed.  You know, I just always feel I think about everything in life.  I don’t think – really, I mean I obviously think about things that can go wrong, but I think about those way less than about the things that can go right.  And for me, you know, again, I’m thinking longer term so the first thing that’s important to me is to pick that brand name.  You know, I want to make sure that whatever brand name I’m going to name my product is going to be available as a domain name.

So, you know, when we were looking at it, we knew that we wanted to do coloring books for instance, and then we scoured the internet for brand names and we ended up coming up with  But we looked at, you know, tens or dozens and dozens of other brand names.  I’ve kind of forgetting what they were now because it’s been so long since we were looking at it but, you know, some were better than others and ColorIt was like our favorite and we were able to pick that up and we bought the domain name.  I forgot what we paid for it now.  $5,000 or $10,000 maybe.  You know, it’s a premium domain name in my opinion, great brand name.  so we bought the domain name first because we knew we were going to be printing, you know, thousands of copies of books, which was like a minimum order and it had to have a name on it.  You know, we had to put some name on our book and we didn’t want to not have them branded or didn’t want to use the name ColorIt and then lose that domain name and lose our goodwill.

So, in my opinion, you know, the best thing to do first is to get that domain name when you’re ready to really start doing brands.  Now, if you’re just selling random products to Amazon and you’re at that stage where that’s your concern, “Can this be a viable business selling things on Amazon?” that’s a different story.  But in the situation that you’re ready to really build a brand and attack a brand, I think that getting that domain name first is really key.   So, you know, we went out, like I said, we bought  We spent quite a bit of money on the domain name, hadn’t even made a sale yet but we knew that we were going to be plastering this name on thousands of books and didn’t want to go back and have to change the name later.

And the next thing that we did right after that is we got a trademark.  You know, it’s relatively cheap to go file your own trademark.  You can do it right on the federal trademarks website itself.  We actually got a trademark in four different niches because it turns out, you know, the way that trademarks work, it’s per niche.  So, you know, we’re in books and journals, cards and pencils I believe are the four niches we got so we’re protected in all the different niches but the reason that the trademark is important is because when you go to sell on Amazon, you want to go and register under the brand registry on Amazon.  And that’s really important because that protects your brand on Amazon.  It prevents anybody else from selling under your brand name, which, in our case, is ColorIt.  So we registered our brand and one of the things that Amazon asks for is, “Do you have a trademark?”

Now, you don’t have to have a trademark in order to get in the brand registry.  If you have a website up and running, that certainly helps, but we were in a position where we didn’t have a website and we still wanted to protect our trademark.  And the other thing that was a concern of ours is there was an existing trademark in a different industry for that name.  It’s a completely different industry not related, but we didn’t want that brand to have any power to stop us from using this new name that we were coming up with.  So for us, having the trademark was really important to just really make sure that we were protected, and then, obviously, with Amazon, having the brand registry protects you and we don’t really want to get into why in this podcast because that’s a very long rabbit hole to get into.  But brand registry is really important on Amazon and free.  So, Grant, any thoughts on any of that stuff?

Grant:  Yeah, the trademark protection is pretty huge.  Amazon is a cesspool of steals and cheats.  You’ll find that less if you have your own brand, but on the products that are being sold by other people, you’ll find that I mean it’s just like a dog eat dog world out there.  With all the tools available out there, everybody can essentially just put in a whole bunch of automatic search terms and go look and try to figure out what’s making money, who’s making money for what kind of items, and you’re got like some really, really big sharks out there.  I mean I think me and Mike and probably list off and like every, you know, major Amazon seller knows who all of these guys are.  But there’s probably, I’d say, about 20 to 30 big power sellers out there, and we’re not talking like eBay power sellers.  I mean we’re talking like guys that probably have, you know, upwards of $50 million to $100 million in product at the very least, I’d almost think.  But these guys are in just about every damn category out there and they don’t care about, you know, MAP pricing.  They don’t care about anything.  They’re just like going in there and shoving products in, undercutting everybody, and just having, you know, a fun time doing it.  And those are the guys that are legitimate.  And there’s a whole other industry of people that are just all about taking over your listing, selling under your listing, just doing whatever they can.  And there’s even bee a lot of reports about like the Chinese suppliers coming in and like selling against their own people.

So, you know, you go to some guy, you make your product, you sell it on Amazon, you find out that you’ve got another seller selling under your stuff and you’re like, “How is this even possible?”  I mean those are like kind of worst-case scenarios, but you need to get the proper protection before going into a fight or into a seedy bar I guess.  So just make sure you do everything.  It doesn’t really cost a lot at the end of the day to get a trademark.

Mike:   I think it’s $325 actually if you’re doing your own.  It’s quite cheap really.

Grant:  Yeah.  And there’s like a number of websites out there that can help you with it too.  Just make sure you don’t pay for any third party trademark service that “trademarks” you on their website.  I mean that doesn’t mean jack.  Unless you’re getting it through the United States Trademark Office, I think it’s USTPO or some acronym like that, then it’s not worth anything.  So don’t get screwed.  It’s a pretty darn big industry itself, the trademark industry, because everybody, you know, wants protection.  The other thing, too, is even with a trademark, that’s pretty much just kind of the first step.  It gives you the ability to send a nasty letter, but some people take more than a nasty letter to stop unfortunately.  Me and Mike know this all too well.  But on Amazon, like I said earlier, Amazon’s not always your ally either so you’ve got to make sure that, you know, you’re very aggressive when you find somebody that is essentially riding in on your turf and that you need to stop them because the more aggressive guy will generally win when the machine gets involved.  So just be aware.

Mike:   Yup.  Yup.  Couldn’t agree more.  So we’re kind of hitting our time limit for part two here of our How to Build a Brand series so we’re going to cut it off for this week and we’ll come back next week with our third and final part of How to Build a Brand.  Hope you guys have found this stuff to be interesting and helpful.  If you do, please come over and leave us a comment on this post on our blog.  We’d love to hear from you.  Or submit a comment that you would like to have a question answered on a future podcast.  We love getting user questions in.  And finally, if you have a chance to head over to iTunes and leave us a review, we’d really appreciate that as well.  So until next week, we’ll talk to you then and we’ll come back with our part three of How to Build a Brand series, and until them, have a great week, everybody.

Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.


  1. To the point on emotional appeal of Clorox Bleach, I would challenge your POV here. If you look at who is buying Clorox and using it, it is going to be BY FAR dominated by women. I think when you look at brand building, it’s important to put together user personas and put yourself outside of what “you” would do and make it about your customers. In my opinion, it’s smart of Clorox to help create the emotional bond with their target audience (and I will tell you as a woman who buys and actually uses Clorox, I know there is a big difference between “bleach” and Clorox-brand bleach). Social media can be used to take something as mundane as bleach and give it a personality and an emotional connection to the brand.

    We are currently working through where to start with our own products. “Everyday carry,” which is our product category, is so vast and so broad, we really can go anywhere. “Made in the USA” is very important to our buyers, which makes it more complex and expensive. It doesn’t make sense to create something like a pocket knife or multitool (it takes much knowledge and skill), but we are exploring other areas to get our feet wet that is different that we can get made here in the US.

    I’d love to throw our name in the hat as a potential site to explore in a future podcast, which I think was mentioned on episode 2. Keep up the good work; I enjoy these and they help challenge my thinking.

    1. That’s a good point Jackie and always good to get another opinion. I’m such a guy that bleach is bleach to me, but makes sense that people could get an attachment to it.

      I know of the EDC market and that is certainly an interesting field. I would say that you’ve got lots of room to move there, because your customers are quite passionate about the niche and it’s already loaded down with “commodity” items like knives, flashlight and etc that a new comer to the arena could have a lot of traction. If you have 2 or 3 such items, then you’ve essentially created your own brand that and your upsell at that point is just the commodity items.

      We will definitely keep you in mind for the project site as well and hope to see you around more on the blog!

  2. Thanks guys, loving the content you produce. I’m new to the podcast but am catching up with the past episodes. My question is, do you delegate tasks such as live chat, customer service, fulfillment, etc. or at what point do you see that becoming necessary?

    1. Thanks Kris! Mike has employees and I’m in the middle of hiring employees for sales and chat.

      When we started out though, we both did it ourselves because we think it’s important to be the person that knows how to do everything. I would say that if you’re working a day job, then the minute you’re break even on the help, you should hire. This frees up more time to build the business. If you’re being an entrepreneur FT, then it’s pretty much when you realize that you don’t have enough time to build your business. If you’re doing nothing but fielding calls, pushing orders and answering emails, it’s good for maintaining sales, but does nothing to increase.

      We both use 3rd party companies for fulfillment though, as that is the most labor intensive, as well as in-house fulfillment.

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