Hitting The Mark

Hitting The Mark

Conversations with founders and investors about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success with your host, brand strategist and author Fabian Geyrhalter.

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Fabian

EP030 – Erica & Jason Feucht, Co-Founders, Distilled Bath and Body (Pit Liquor)

Strategic Clarity + Verbal Clarity

In November of 2017, Erica Feucht, pregnant with her first child, started a natural vodka-and whiskey-based (!) deodorant line together with her husband Jason. The product is named Pit Liquor and I fell in love with the quirkiness of the founders and their soon-to-be brand.

 

This is one of the few episodes where I feature a company that is so young that it is hard to call it a brand yet, but I can bet you that I will have them back in a few years and that based on their brand philosophy, brand name, and innovative product, they will turn into a known and beloved brand within the year.

 

We talk about the ups and downs (or may I say ‘pitfalls’) of starting a company that leads with a provocative product, name, and brand language, and how the husband-wife team stayed true to themselves throughout their entrepreneurial journey.

 

If you enjoyed the Liquid Death episode (catch it if you have not heard it yet!), you will not want to miss Pit Liquor. Insights and plenty of laughs are guaranteed.

Notes

Learn more about Pit Liquor.

Support the show – and get on monthly advisory calls with Fabian (in groups for both creatives as well as entrepreneurs).

Full Transcript:

E Feucht:                      For us, our brand reflects exactly who we are and that’s really interesting because it feels a little bit vulnerable sometimes as we look at it and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is us,” but we’re taking us and putting it out in the world and it’s returning. And, it’s pretty cool to watch that happen, and I guess I would encourage people to be present with their brand and to allow themselves to sit with their brand and let it reflect them, because I think our world has a lot of very polished things and I think people are inundated with it.

F Geyrhalter:                 This was Erica Feucht, who in November of 2017 while pregnant with her first child, started in natural deodorant line, which is vodka- and whiskey-based, together with her husband Jason. The company’s named Pit Liquor and I fell in love with the quirkiness of the founders and their soon to be brand. This is one of the few episodes of a company that is so young that it is hard to call them a brand yet, but I can bet you that I will have them back in a few years and that based on the brand philosophy, they’re amazingly cool brand name, and their innovative product that they will turn into known and beloved brand within the year. And before we dive into the show, a quick thank you to my new creative brand mentorship circle members, Pierre Paolo Valletto from Turin, Italy, Donald Walker from Vancouver, I believe, and Carol Summers who I do not know where she is from. Join them and support this show by going to patrion.com/hittingthemark and we get to hang out on a monthly call. Here is my conversation with Erica and J Feucht. You guys are one of the few guests who I actually met in person prior to having them on the show. You were showcasing your unique product at a summit in San Francisco and I loved the name and on the spot, I actually invited you to be on Hitting the Mark. So welcome.

E Feucht:                      Thank you.

J Feucht:                       Thank you very much.

E Feucht:                      It was very fun meeting you.

F Geyrhalter:                 Thank you. Yeah, like likewise. You actually also gave me a sample of your natural deodorant, and since then I actually reordered it and am having my daily morning shot of whiskey and I’m loving it.

E Feucht:                      Good, good.

F Geyrhalter:                 How did you realize that you wanted to spend your life selling deodorant? How did this all come about?

E Feucht:                      When we actually decided this, our families both laughed at us because it was so not in our wheelhouse, or not a natural fit for I guess the kind of people we are, because we’re kind of, I don’t know, whatever. Anyway.

F Geyrhalter:                 Tell us, tell us.

E Feucht:                      Do you want to tell?

J Feucht:                       Yeah. So, Erica was pregnant with our daughter and she was using a regular traditional deodorant and would get cysts in her armpits and she would end up always unhappy with it, but natural deodorants didn’t work. And so-

E Feucht:                      And, they gave me rashes I have really sensitive armpits, which is an annoying but true. I have very strange armpits.

F Geyrhalter:                 And you have the perfect armpits for this company. Right? You are the perfect test.

E Feucht:                      I sure do. I sure am.

J Feucht:                       So while that was going on, I asked her to stop using traditional deodorants-

E Feucht:                      For the baby.

J Feucht:                       For the baby. And she asked, she asked or challenged me to come up with something that worked that was natural. And so, I read medical textbooks on deodorant and underarms-

E Feucht:                      Like any normal human would do.

J Feucht:                       Right. And came up with a formulation that works.

E Feucht:                      I ended up spraying hand sanitizer in my armpits one day, because I was just at the end of my rope and he kept pushing me. And, I was in the bathroom and hand sanitizer was physically in reach. So, I grabbed it and threw it on my pits and I was like, “There you happy?” And he goes, “Well, no, because that alcohol …” he’s a materials engineer. So he goes, “Well no, that alcohol is made from a petroleum base and it’s not actually good for your body.” And I was like, “I’m out, I don’t care. You go ahead and read your books and find me something that’s good.” And then, he did.

F Geyrhalter:                 And that’s how it started. So, you had to invented it. When did the liquor become part of that, or have you already been so frustrated that there was always liquor next to you?

E Feucht:                      There was always liquor next to us, but I was pregnant, so I was not imbibing and I asked J Feucht not to.

F Geyrhalter:                 But well, that’s why J Feucht did the research on the parenthesis. Right?

E Feucht:                      Exactly. It’s like I just can’t handle being away from it, but no, he realized at the end of the day with the hand sanitizer, my armpits didn’t stink and he was like, “Well, if that works, then we need to look it up for alcohol options.” And it was seriously about the time that he said, “What about whiskey,” that I just lost it. I was like, “I can’t anymore with you.” But then he stuck with it. He spent about a year literally reading every available medical textbook about it and doing all this research, and he was ordering weird herbs from all over the world, and teas and all this stuff. And then, he created this product and said … and he used it on himself every day and he would ask me to smell one armpit and then the other, and which one smells better. And, I was pregnant so my nose works really well. And yeah, by the end, we had something really effective. And then, we mentioned it to friends just casually, because people talk about products that are not to their liking or whatever. And we were like, “Yeah, we came up with our own deodorant.” And they would say, “No, let’s try it.” So we did. And then, they would tell their friends and then they would tell their friends, and we started giving away so much it got expensive and we thought, “Well either our friends are just really nice or it’s a really good idea.” So, we started a Facebook group and started giving it away and asking people for feedback, and they would respond that they liked it and change this one thing or this one thing happened. And so, we made changes based on feedback and then launched a Kickstarter, figuring it’s a low risk way to figure out if there’s a market for a product. I have no marketing experience, neither does J Feucht and I had a new baby at the time, so my brain was halfway gone anyway. And, I thought if we can do this then it’s a good sign. And we ended up getting more than almost twice, I guess, almost twice of what we were looking for in funding, which we had absurd goals. So we at first thought, “Oh we failed.” And then we were like, “Oh no, we got more money than we were looking for, which means there’s … and we don’t know what we’re doing. So that means there’s a market and we just need to start working on this beast,” and that was how we started a company.

F Geyrhalter:                 And, you had the product pretty much finished at the time that you did the Kickstarter, right? Because you tested so much with friends.

E Feucht:                      Yeah, yeah. And, we’d been giving it out online and asking people for feedback on the packaging. And also, you throw a glass bottle in the mail and ship it and see if it arrives. And if it doesn’t, then you get a different one, and wrap it differently.

F Geyrhalter:                 Those are obstacles as well.

E Feucht:                      Yeah, and you don’t know unless you try it. So, we would just throw it in the mail and be like, “Oh that didn’t work or this did.”

F Geyrhalter:                 That’s amazing. Are there any issues with alcohol being contained in the product. I guess not, right, because it’s such a minimal amount of alcohol. Right?

J Feucht:                       Well-

E Feucht:                      No, it’s actually quite a lot of alcohol percentage-wise and we just have to understand the rules around it, and make sure we’re operating within them. Since there’s no product like ours, we follow laws around three different products. So, there’s the vanilla extract lobby that changed all the laws back in the 1920s. And during prohibition time, they lobbied to make sure that they could keep selling vanilla extract. And in order to do that, they had to make their product taste “bad” according to a panel of people’s arbitrary opinions. So, we put bitter teas and roots in it and it tastes pretty bad.

J Feucht:                       And salt.

E Feucht:                      And salt, so it tastes pretty bad. So, it’s legal for us to sell it to minors as a non-alcohol product on store shelves and things like that, in grocery stores. So, we overcome that hurdle and then we comply with shipping regulations in terms of zoning and all that kind of stuff. And, it helps a lot that that that first step is crossed. We are a denatured alcohol product, so it’s not considered whiskey anymore. And then, what’s the other one? There’s another rule we follow.

J Feucht:                       Well, there were shipping, which you already mentioned, but shipping alcohol can be a little bit complicated, and it’s extremely expensive to ship outside of the United States, which has mostly to do with tax, because all of the other countries are worried that you’re somehow going to not pay the alcohol taxes and yet drink alcohol anyway. And so, it just gets very complicated to ship anywhere other outside of the country.

E Feucht:                      At this time. I’m sure as we grow, we’ll get to the place where we’re willing to take on those legal tasks. But at this point, we mostly ship in the US we also do Canada and Great Britain. But again, yeah, shipping there is crazy because they do view it as a liquor product.

F Geyrhalter:                 And, that’s pretty amazing because a lot of the startups that I work with, they all feel like they are disrupting a category. They’re creating a category. And I’m like, no, you’re not. You fit into a category and then see what you can do. Right. But, you actually really created a category. There has been no, especially the way that you market it with whiskey and vodka and it’s not just containing alcohol. It’s actually part of your brand. Is that, this must be easy to market to people once they understand the idea of, when we met, you very quickly told me that, “No Fabian, you’re not going to smell like you just came from a rager. You’re actually going to …” You’re not even going to smell it, right, because it quickly dissipates. But, how difficult is that? If you’re on a store shelf, right, so, how is that journey to Whole Foods or Sprouts because of your product?

E Feucht:                      So, it’s an interesting one and we’ve been finding that, as the world of natural products has begun to evolve more and more, it has become easier for us to reach customers. So, even just during the time of running this company, the barriers to entry with customers has grown smaller because people are beginning to recognize that basically, anything that doesn’t come from our natural environment isn’t actually made for humans to work with physically. What natural actually means is from nature, so actually, things that were, that have grown in the environment that humans have been in for all the time that we’ve been here. So, if you think about that and you think about the comparison of a petroleum based product that is made, it’s manufactured and manipulated to become something, versus a natural process like distillation that occurs with things that grow out of the ground, it resonates with people. People are reading the backs of packages and they’re becoming intelligent. So, I feel like we’ve had a big uphill climb to educate our consumer, but we’re also finding that they are educating themselves as well. And, the world is looking for things like this right now. So, it’s equal parts. We still get the same old jokes, the, oh, the cops are going to pull me over. And you’re sitting there thinking, how are they ever going to know you have whiskey in your car unless you’re driving stupid, and why did you drink your deodorant? I don’t know. So, we get that and that’s probably the most common thing people say. And, it is one of the drawbacks of our branding. But, it’s also totally unique. And, when people sit and think about it, they laugh. They have a little fun, sometimes at our expense and we’re okay with that. And, they enjoy that and it sticks with them.

F Geyrhalter:                 Well, and it’s the drawback, but it’s also what draws people in, right? It is what makes you special and interesting. But, it is most probably a little bit of a roadblock to go completely mainstream. But, that’s just one day at a time. Your name is so great on so many levels. Let’s talk about that name because when I first met you guys A, it was hilarious because literally I was, like I have been every five years or so, I go on this journey of, you know what? I think it’s time again for me to find a natural deodorant that actually works. And, I started this journey literally I think three, four days before I met you guys up North. And, there were only a couple of stands of startups that were showcasing the products. And, I was just running toward you with open arms. I’m like, “Oh my God, I need something that works. Is yours going to work?” And then, and then I saw Pit Liquor, and I’m like, “Oh my God, this is hilarious.” You’ve got to be on my show. And ever since then, I actually use your deodorant, which is such a crazy, crazy way of finding a natural deodorant that works for me, which doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone, but, it does work for me. And, I know it’s a very personal journey and I’m not endorsing you as if you paid for it because you have not. But, going back to the name. So, when I first met you guys, I saw Pit Liquor and I just thought it was so great on so many levels. What went into the creation of that name? How did you guys come up with it? Was it a huge brainstorm or did it just happen overnight or how did that work?

E Feucht:                      Well, yeah, it was a long process.

J Feucht:                       The ultimate name was something that Erica came up with and we made a list of names that we liked, and we just kept adding to the list every time we thought of anything. And-

E Feucht:                      Because we were like, “We’re not going to say Pit Liquor.” It came up pretty early and we were like, “That’s so gross.” There’s so many problems with it. So, we kept trying to come up with something better and we would just keep coming back to it. So then we trialed it with other people, and we were like, “Hey, we’re thinking of these five names or whatever.” I can’t even remember all of them, and Pit Liquor was one of them. And people were like, “I really don’t like that one.” And then, they’d write us back later and be like, “I really like that one.”

F Geyrhalter:                 Oh, that’s fun.

E Feucht:                      And, that’s been our ongoing feedback, because people are like, “Oh I really …” Some people laugh and they get it and they just laugh. And that’s what we figured, is we’re like, “Well we have a place in this world and we get to have an impact on people and we can be markety, or we can just make people laugh.” If they laugh at us then they walk away. Laughter is good for your body. So, at least we did something good for them even if they didn’t buy our product. And, just kept coming back to it and we’re like, “We’ve got to just do this. It’s the only thing that really fits. It’s punchy. It’s strange,” and it we’re really strange. So, we were like, “It works.” The product is really strange. It’s good. Nothing describes it better than Pit Liquor.

F Geyrhalter:                 And, strange works, right? Because people are excited when they see something that’s different. I had the founder of Liquid Death, which is water. It’s actually literally water in a can, Liquid Death. I had him on my podcast and I just saw on his Instagram that they actually had a huge, police and fire drill because somewhere in Colorado someone received a six-pack or 12 pack of Liquid Death and they literally didn’t, they thought this is explosive or this is a death threat. And so, they had all of these firetrucks come out the street to look at the package, but he’s got his story. It’s the idea that you have a name and you have something that is different from everyone else in the industry. But, on the flip side, with, with Pit Liquor, you also, when you go to Pitliquor.com, I believe it actually throws you over to your company website, which is Distilled Bath and Body. Now to me, distilled bath and body is that very neutral conservative kind of name that says it all versus the product name, which is Pit Liquor. How did the two of them relate? What is going on with these two brands?

E Feucht:                      So basically, Pit Liquor, it’s a little edgy. It’s funny. It’s meant to make people laugh, but we wanted to make sure that we had some flexibility, that if in the future we wanted to do something that was a little more comfortable, a little more mainstream, we didn’t have to have something like Pit Liquor on the front of the bottle still.

F Geyrhalter:                 And, that makes a lot of sense.

E Feucht:                      Yeah. So, just for variety and I guess for a future opportunity.

F Geyrhalter:                 But, just to dig into this a little more, you also offer olive oil soaps too. So, is that expansion away from the liquor focus? Is that a little dangerous because you’ve got distilled bath and body and everything is about, it’s about that alcohol content.

E Feucht:                      Yeah. See, we thought about that a lot and the soap is actually made by a local artisan. It’s not made by us and it’s the only thing we do that’s not made by us, but we thought about it and thought the whole point of our product and our brand is that we will not … I guess one of the main lines that we have is we will not deviate from using organic food grade ingredients. And, that’s a very solid line for us in the sand. So, we believe that what goes on your body should be able to go in it. I don’t know. J Feucht and I, we’ve listened to several of your episodes and have also looked at the branding for some really smart brands out there, and I’ve got to say we’re not branding genius. We didn’t come into this with a ton of branding experience and if I was to name our company again, I honestly might name it something different. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s okay to say.

F Geyrhalter:                 No, of course.

E Feucht:                      But, that’s just very honest.

F Geyrhalter:                 No of course.

E Feucht:                      I might name it something different because I’ve wondered, we really like having alcohol in our deodorant and it makes it different. It makes it funny, but I’ve wondered if to really get down to the essence, to distill it, to be funny, if we could focus more on the food grade nature of our product is really what sets us apart in our market. Everything we do is something that, every ingredient is food grade and we think hard about the sourcing and we’re really committed to being organic. So, I don’t know, we’ve even thought most people don’t recognize the company name and we may change it at some point just because that may fit better. I don’t know.

F Geyrhalter:                 Yeah. Looking into the mirror ball, you have a seed round coming up, I think. We chatted about in the beginning a little bit offline, and you’re still a very, very young company. I saw you guys and I saw Pit Liquor and I thought this was the most fun thing ever. Now I use the product. I got to have these people on the show. I think it is fantastic that you’re still in this interim stage where you could easily change distilled bath and body. You could change the name to something that is more, that has more longevity for the company and Pit Liquor is one of your key products and it’s really fun and it works for that product. But, you can have all kinds of other products. So there’s still a lot of brand thoughts that can happen over the years, which is great. Then hopefully, you will get your seed round quickly and you can make that happen. But, on the flip side, I think it is so extremely important that founders have their own voice. And I think, with all these names and with your tagline, quench your stench, which is also so hilarious, it really comes out that this is personal and the copy overall is very fun and engaging. There was an insta post about your history, which of course I was drawn to in preparation for the podcast and you wrote in it, so we started researching the steps we’d need to take to turn this into something more than a couple of people mixing pit drinks at home. And, I just think mixing pit drinks is just, is this all spur of the moment or does it involve team brainstorms when you come up with pieces like that? Is it really just you guys just writing?

E Feucht:                      It’s just us writing. So, my previous life I was an editor and a writer so I’ve got this quirky side to myself where I like to, I don’t know, word riff. We have two employees as well and they’re like that too, especially the girl who runs our social, because I’m not a gifted photographer, not by any stretch.

F Geyrhalter:                 So that’s interesting, because that would’ve been my … given the small nature of your company right now or brand as I would like to call it, because I really think it is turning into a brand at this point. I was looking over your company profile and who’s working there and I did see someone being in charge of social media and I was wondering, well how does this work if there’s this copy that, if it’s only Erica writing, how is it possible that … but you just really tried to find these verbal soulmates I guess to make this happen.

E Feucht:                      Yeah.

F Geyrhalter:                 You don’t have standards yet, right? I mean, you don’t have a big brand book or any standards. It’s just like, look, this is who we are. This is how we feel. Do you feel like it? Well let’s do this. Right?

E Feucht:                      Yeah, we do that and I have some experience with creating linguistics standards because of my experience in editing. That’s probably one of my strongest areas in terms of creating continuity is verbal because of my past. So, we do sit down and talk about, we’re going to talk about things with this language and we’re not going to talk about it with this language. This is funny, but every time we hire someone, which we’ve hired more than two people, we’ve just had people leave and come and go. It’s been great, but yeah, two people’s right where we’re at right now. When we hire, we ask people, “Hey, do you like puns?” We like to ask a lot of questions that throw people off. And that’s one of our questions is do you like puns. And, it’s a no win question because J Feucht loves puns and I do not. And so, either way you’re fine. And either way, one of us is going to be like, “Oh bummer.” So one of our employees loves puns and the other one doesn’t. And so, you can tell, if you get to know who we are, you can tell who’s writing what. But, we are fairly similar and when I send out emails, we do get together and talk about our content that we’re going to try to focus on weekly. And when I send emails then, my employees tend to pull language from my emails and from the communication I do and put it into what they say. So, we do have some continuity but it’s mostly because our employees are just ragingly awesome and they work hard to try to keep things streamlined.

F Geyrhalter:                 That’s great. I know I also read that you gave away tons of free product in the beginning in exchange for honest feedback or for reviews, which is such a smart move in the consumer product space to do as a bootstrap company. Did you ever go against your early customer insights or comments, and did it totally get to move solely based on the instinct where you thought, “Okay well they say, A, but we’re going to give you B?”

E Feucht:                      Yes. When we did our review of our name actually of Pit Liquor, it was one of those things where a lot of people … it was pretty split and people were like, “I don’t like it.” And, other people really liked it and we just went with our gut on it. I’m trying to think of other things.

F Geyrhalter:                 Yeah, because you could have gotten rounds and rounds of naming after that and said, “Well since they’re split split, you know we’re not going to get to go with the name.” Yeah.

E Feucht:                      Right. And, I was like, no, it rings. One of the things that led us to our name interestingly was we like to listen to people who are a lot smarter than us. So, we listened to things that Sarah Blakely has to say, Sarah Blakely of Spanx. And one of the things she said is, she has that K sound in her name because people respond to it and they find it … it’s little edgy and it’s funny and people tend to really like names that have a K sound. So, we thought Pit Liquor. It’s good. And then also, quench your stench starts with a K sound, even though it’s a Q. So, we just went with it and we were like, “Yep, this seems good.” So, we actually went against our friends’ and fans’ advice on that, which was interesting. And then also, we had a lot of people who were like, “You should be more subtle with the alcohol.” And we didn’t. We were just like, “No, it’s part of what makes us who we are.” And, we had a lot of people who said we shouldn’t package in glass because it’s going to break, but we have very strong feelings about plastic. And, we figured out how to ship glass and it does just fine. So honestly, the breakage rates on the glass aren’t any different than they would be with plastic, though people really worry about it.

F Geyrhalter:                 Interesting.

E Feucht:                      So I guess, yeah, we’ve gone against a fair bit of the feedback, but generally, only when people, when it comes up against something that we feel like we know better. We tried out, oh, what was it? Absinthe. When we first did deodorant, it was one of the things because it smelled so cool and we had one of our testers, only one, but one person who had … she couldn’t determine if it was the deodorant or what, but gave her a pretty good adverse reaction. And we were like, “If there’s any risk of it causing this, we’re just not going to do it.” So we did not do absinthe. So, there’ve been a lot of things that we have really changed based on people’s feedback, but a couple things that we thought, “We know this and we’re going to stick with our gut.”

F Geyrhalter:                 But, do you know, that’s something that I learned from all of my guests, is that the ones that don’t look at data or feedback they lose, and the ones that’s solely focused on data and feedback, they lose as well. Right. You have to really, you have to pick and choose and data can be wrong too, because data is just inputs by people, right? It’s whoever created the algorithm, so no, I-

E Feucht:                      You can read data so many ways and you’ve got to know what your brand is and know what you’re trying to do in order to go forward.

F Geyrhalter:                 Right. And for you, it makes it a lot of sense that you, once there is a rash or there’s a negative skin reaction, like with the absinthe, then of course you say no, because that was the whole reason you started the company. Even for you to find a work around was not worth it. You’re like, “No, this is one of our fundamental reasons why we exist.” Right.

E Feucht:                      Yeah, exactly. There’s a no compromise zone and so you just don’t compromise on it.

F Geyrhalter:                 Totally. Totally. And, even though you’re early in your company, you’re up and running, you’re shipping, you’re having super fans, everything is growing. What does branding mean to you at this point? Because everything that you’ve done branding wise, it sounds like has been very much friends and family and bootstrapped yourself and just getting it out there. But, what does it mean for you or what will it mean for you in the future? How would you describe branding?

E Feucht:                      So we’re actually, this is a really good time to be talking to you, because we’re digging deep into our branding right now and looking at what are we and what are we not? And, we’re trying to break it down because I feel, like you said, we’ve bootstrapped everything. We’ve worked with people we know for our design and with all that work. And that’s been good. It’s been really good. But going forward, I feel like we need something that we don’t have and that’s that person who sees branding in a light that goes beyond what we can understand because we’re not branding X t-shirts. So, we’re in a place of examining our branding right now and trying to figure out where exactly it’s going. Because we’re currently towing two lines. We’ve got this natural, holistic really earth friendly, body friendly vibe and then we’ve got this I’m going to slap you in the face with Pit Liquor. Yeah, exactly. And, it’s very hard to stand out with that as I’ve heard you talk to other people about, because everyone’s doing it. And so, we’re trying to figure that exact leap out right now.

F Geyrhalter:                 Well, exciting.

E Feucht:                      Branding is an evolving state for us right now and we’re looking at it and figuring out what our strong points are and what our weak points are and being pretty critical with ourselves, which is a fun thing.

F Geyrhalter:                 Yeah, no, it’s absolutely fun. And, I guess that that takes me to a question which will be very difficult for you to answer, but maybe it will also help you define your brand a little bit more. I don’t know if you have time to give this a little bit of thought, but you know what’s coming. The one word that can describe your brand.

E Feucht:                      I have been thinking about it.

F Geyrhalter:                 I think sometimes it really helps my founders on the podcast to actually really have to do that exercise because it is the only thing that’s more of an exercise that I give up front. But what is your brand DNA?

E Feucht:                      And it’s a really good question. I think that we’re quirky and we’re okay with it.

F Geyrhalter:                 That’s great.

E Feucht:                      We don’t need to make sense. We don’t need people to feel like … it’s okay when people come up to us and go, “Liquor? Isn’t that abrasive?” We’re okay with sitting here and being like, this is two opposing things that are sitting in the same room as each other and they work. And you customer, are going to have to jump through those hoops in order to work with it. And, people want to because they look at it and they enjoy the playful tone. They enjoy that it doesn’t all make sense to them and they enjoy the work, I guess, that we put them through as we go Pit Liquor and natural, healthy and also weird. And so we’re quirky. I think that’s probably-

F Geyrhalter:                 Quirkiness, I really like that for a lot of reasons because A, it’s very ownable because no one really thinks like that as a company. And, that’s always the big danger when you start to go more into real branding, right, that it should never ever lose that. It can’t get corporate. It can’t become like everyone else. Right. That’s the important thing that you never … and Steve Jobs said that very famously, that idea that you got to stay, you say I’ve got to stay foolish. So, you got to keep that idea of the quirkiness going. And it’s true, even the idea of putting whiskey into a deodorant, it’s quirky. It’s weird. It’s different. It’s fun, but yet it is totally scientific and it took a year or plus, and lots of tests and it’s something that is actually very serious because it does create skin reactions. We all know about deodorants and the stuff that’s in there. And, that’s why I think everyone is seeking a solution to that. So, on the one hand, the quirkiness can take away from the seriousness of the actual product. But, you’re a couple, your startup is still relatively young, but what would it be one piece of brand advice for founders? Kind of as a little takeaway from this. Have you … you learned most probably 4,798 or so lessons along the last two plus years. But, is there something that you feel like that you would like to share where you think this would be with any brands, don’t do this or do this.

E Feucht:                      I guess, and I guess I’m new in terms of, this is all … I’m not a branding expert, so I’m going to throw that out there. I know I’ve said it a few times, but-

F Geyrhalter:                 Are you self-conscious on my podcast?

E Feucht:                      No, maybe. I think the thing that’s risen to the top for us a lot, is that we look at ourselves and we continue to realize how much for us, our brand reflects exactly who we are. And, that’s a really interesting thing because it feels a little bit vulnerable sometimes as we look at it and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is us,” but we’re taking us and putting it out in the world and it’s returning. And it’s pretty cool to watch that happen. And, I guess I would encourage people to be present with their brand and to allow themselves to sit with their brand and let it reflect them, because I think our world has a lot of very polished things and I think people are inundated with it. And, I think people are tired of looking at really polished things. And, I think something that hiccups or does something strange or looks a little human or looks a little more, I don’t know, it makes people stop. That’s a human element and I think being yourself within your branding is a really big deal because you’re not going to sit there and go, “I don’t know, did we depart from our branding? Did we not?” If you’re doing something that really is you, it’s to resonate. I don’t know. That’s what I would say to people, and it’s the thing that surprised me.

F Geyrhalter:                 No, it is so true and that’s why I don’t have branding experts on my podcast. I have founders, and founders are in different stages and they have different backgrounds. Some of them are very, very brand centric and they bring lots of experience onto the job. Some of them have been with the company for 10 plus years and they know, or some have pivoted and learned a hard time, but all of them, literally all of them say exactly what you just said, which I hear from everyone, the idea of being true to yourself and that if you really enjoy what you do, people are going to feel that. And that’s true. It’s true from an intern who enters a Fortune 500 company, and that’s true from a product that you buy for the first time and you read the copy and you start understanding the brand. Then, you go to the Instagram page, and I think the idea of polished that you talked about this a little bit. Polished very often feels fake and really the best brands are as far from fake as possible. Real true brands that people fall in love with.

E Feucht:                      That’s clunky.

F Geyrhalter:                 Exactly. They’re personable and if you’re too polished, it’s not very personable. It takes a long time to become personable with something that’s polished. So, I hope that you will keep this along your branding journey and you’re not being pushed too much into a corner when you expand because that is the big problem. As you expand the brand, and you start suddenly having a hundred people work for you and your product is in every single Whole Foods and Sprouts and God knows where, then at some point, keeping that culture alive … and Tony Hsiegh of Zappos did such a good job with that, keeping that awkwardness and that fun alive is, I think, going to turn more and more into your number one goal over the next year, far away from product development.

E Feucht:                      I think you’re right. Even just with the growth we’ve had, we’ve had to be very conscious about trying to continue to keep real people present in what’s going on. And, it does get harder when you get bigger. Yeah, I think you’re right.

F Geyrhalter:                 And so, the final question, spray on or roll on deodorant. Is it a personal preference or rather different benefits?

E Feucht:                      Well, how gross are you willing to be on your podcast? All right.

F Geyrhalter:                 You know what? Let’s go for it. Let’s go for it. This is going to be rated differently, this one episode.

E Feucht:                      Excellent. Because we’re going to talk about armpits and armpits make people really uncomfortable. It’s funny, but they really do.

F Geyrhalter:                 I feel like I’m starting to sweat currently.

E Feucht:                      We found that people don’t like [crosstalk] armpits. Okay, good. Yay. Okay, so this is personal about me. If you want to talk about real, we’ll get real. So, I have really strange armpits and I have this amazing ability to make the deodorant bottle, the roll-on bottle smell like my armpit. I don’t have really, really foul armpits, but they’re just really strong I guess. And so, I prefer the spray because it’s hygienic and you’re not touching your armpit with the same thing every day. And so, when I get to the end of the bottle, it doesn’t stink. And then I also, I have this other fun quirk with my armpits and I’m unusual. We get this feedback from customers very rarely. We tested it on a bunch of people and we couldn’t even find people who could replicate what happens to me. So, they didn’t make the deodorant bottle stink. And then, I also put lint into the bottle and I don’t know how I do it because I shower and then I put on my deodorant. But by the end of the bottle, I’ve got the ball of lint in there and it looks really gross. So, I know this is super gross, but I really prefer the spray. But, we have people who really prefer a roll on application because they’re much more used to that feeling of putting their deodorant on physically with an application. So, I’d say it’s up to you. Do you have long-

F Geyrhalter:                 Yeah. It’s more about the stimulation, right? Yeah.

E Feucht:                      Yeah, it’s personal preference. Yes. So, if you have strange armpits like me and they make [inaudible] and you get your bottle and you get to the end and it stinks, let us know. We’ll give you a refund and you guys can use spray from then on.

F Geyrhalter:                 And, that is the part of Hitting the Mark that is the TMI part. No, I was just interested, because you have both products and they’re exactly the identical product. And, I’m just wondering, is there something that actually is … are there real different benefits, but I think to different people, there are different benefits, just by the way that they waited to use them, but otherwise it stays on the same way. It has the same duration. It’s the same thing. And that’s what’s important. So-

E Feucht:                      Exactly. We put it in gyms and at yoga studios and we give them the spray because you don’t want to use somebody else’s roller bottles. So there’s, yeah.

F Geyrhalter:                 That’s an easy decision to be made.

E Feucht:                      It just varies depending on the customer.

F Geyrhalter:                 Yes, exactly.

E Feucht:                      Yes. We’re no longer in the TMI zone.

F Geyrhalter:                 Exactly. We have exited. So, listeners who fell in love with Pit Liquor, and quite frankly, how could you not? I did so, for sure. Where can they get their pits drunk, I guess? Where-

E Feucht:                      So, get your stanch quenched at, you can go to distilledbathandbody.com or pitliquor.com. Just spell liquor with a Q U, not a C K. You don’t actually have to lick your pits, and if you are local to us in Colorado you can also buy it at Lucky’s Market in Fort Collins or at the food co op and we are working on expanding, Oh, since this podcast goes live this Friday, we’re going to be on Nordstrom’s HauteLook and that’s a big discount channel that Nordstrom runs.

F Geyrhalter:                 Oh cool.

E Feucht:                      So, if they’re wanting to buy that over the weekend, we’ve got a big sale going on with Nordstrom. So, head to their HauteLook section and buy us there.

F Geyrhalter:                 Perfect, perfect plug that people will definitely appreciate. And from my end, I wish you so much fun with your branding moving into the next 12 months or so. I think things will adjust, things will mature and I would love to have you be a guest that comes back in maybe a year, year and a half when maybe the brand is mature and it’s very different and we look back of what happened in between.

E Feucht:                      Yeah, I think that’d be really cool. I think there’s going to be a lot of change in the next year.

F Geyrhalter:                 Awesome. This is really exciting. Well, thank you, Erica, and say thank you to Jason who I know had to drop off because your little one needed some TLCs?

E Feucht:                      She did. Yeah. I will say that to him as well. Thank you, Fabian. This is so awesome.

F Geyrhalter:                 Absolutely. I loved having you on and we are talking at some point in the future.

E Feucht:                      All right, sounds good. Talk to you then.

F Geyrhalter:                 Perfect. Thank you. This was Erica and a few minutes of her husband Jason Feucht. It is this diversity in founders and venture capitalists on my show that gets me so excited to record a new episode every two weeks. If you share my enthusiasm, and if you gain valuable entrepreneurial skills and brand strategy knowledge out of my show, please consider becoming a patron with a monthly support of as low as $5.95 just to keep this show going. The Hitting the Mark theme music was written and produced by the one and only, the amazing the producer duo that I can luckily call myself one half of, Happiness Won. I will see you next time when we once again will be Hitting the Mark.

 


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