In February 2017, when Remi and his girlfriend Alondra were visiting Tokyo, the last thing they were thinking about was starting a business together. But a chance discovery in a Tokyo stationery store changed everything for the couple.
“We stumbled upon a shelf full of stickers made by B-Side Label,” Remi explained. “The stickers were extremely high-quality and unlike anything we had ever seen.”
The pair purchased a few stickers and didn’t think any more of it until the following day when they chanced upon the B-Side Label flagship store tucked behind the main street in Harajuku, a Tokyo neighborhood. Amazed by the fun and joy these stickers brought to them, and the fact that B-Side Label could run a whole store dedicated to stickers, the couple decided to try the same back home in the U.S.
Their business, Blank Tag Co., now generates more than $100,000 per year — with around 80 percent of that revenue coming directly from Instagram ads. And what’s more, the couple both still have full-time jobs, running the sticker business on the side.
Launching Blank Tag Co.
The couple wanted to use stickers as a way to spread joy and happiness — just as they’d felt in those Tokyo stores. They also believe that stickers are more than just a piece of paper you place somewhere.
“Stickers are an expression of who you are, what you associate with, and a way to capture memories,” Remi told me.
After returning home for the trip, Remi and Alondra decided to build a sticker company of their own, and Black Tag Co. was born.
“The stickers we make are chosen specifically with the aim to make all of our customers feel a sense of belonging and pride when they see them. We want to create stickers that will invoke emotion out of everyone who purchases or sees them.”
Building a customer base from scratch
Having a product is one thing, selling it is a completely different challenge. With a background in PPC advertising, Remi decided that the best way to grow a customer base would be through ads, and he began to test out various channels.
A false start with PPC ads
Remi’s first port of call was Google AdWords, but after a few trial runs with PLAs (product list ads) and search ads it wasn’t really working.
What Remi found was that the keyword “stickers” is saturated by people looking to print their own stickers, rather than buy pre-made stickers. “The keywords around that topic didn’t really work for me,” he explained.
But from experimenting with AdWords, Remi came to a realization that changed the trajectory of the business. “I realized that we needed to generate brand awareness, and PPC isn’t the best way to go for brand building.“
Building a brand on Instagram
Next, Remi turned to his favorite social media platform, Instagram, to start building up the Blank Tag Co brand, and audience.
Remi began to post content regularly, sharing images of every sticker the company had produced.
“We’re lucky that our images are really good content,” he told me. “Once I get new images from our designers, I create a feed image and story image to share on Instagram — this process allows us to consistently create new content and keep our followers interested.”
They also use hashtags such as #stickers #sticker, #shopsmallbusiness to help the content spread further on the platform.
This approach helped Blank Tag Co. to continually pick up new followers, and it now has an audience of more than 38,000 followers.
Testing ads, and going all-in on Instagram
Good content is great to build a following on Instagram, but Remi found that followers don’t always convert to customers.
In order to drive more revenue from Instagram, Remi and Alondra started to experiment with paid advertising.
To start, Remi added the Facebook tracking pixel to the Blank Tag Co website so that they could build up a wealth of data about user actions and conversions on their site. This enabled him to set up custom audiences of people Facebook predicted would take those same actions on their website.
Next, Remi started testing the performance of various ad types and chose to let Facebook distribute the ads and optimize placements itself.
After a few weeks of testing ad placements across Facebook and Instagram, Remi noticed a trend: “It kept naturally skewing more towards Instagram,” he noted, and decided to run specifically test the performance of Facebook vs Instagram placements.
“I created a couple of separate ad sets in Ads Manager — one set focused only on Facebook, and the other on Instagram. Instagram dominated the test, so I decided to go all in on Instagram ads from here.”
Optimizing ad performance
Once he’d decided to go all in on Instagram ads, Remi began testing a bunch of different elements to see how he could best optimize the ad performance.
Blank Tag Co. measures the results by keeping a close eye on ROAS (return on ad spend), as well as customer acquisition cost vs. lifetime value. “If I’m acquiring customers at $5 but their LTV is, let’s say, $40, the delta between the two is what I care more about,” Remi elaborated.
By testing out various image and video styles, Remi has been able to find out what type of creative performs best for Blank Tag Co.
”Videos didn’t do so well, so I kept testing images and found that particular image types do really well for us“ he explained. “Images that have bright backgrounds with our stickers placed on an object, like a laptop tend to perform best.”
Remi also regularly experiments with a few other aspects of Instagram ads to get the most ROI:
- Ad placement: Instagram has recently opened up stories ads, so now advertisers can reach their audience via the feed or stories.
- Copy: Opening up ads with a question works well and you’ll often see Blank Tag Co. ads starting with copy like “Love Stickers?” Remi also likes to use adjectives like “waterproof” and “durable” to show the quality of their products.
- Location: Testing various locations across the U.S. and targeting particular products to regions that may have more affinity with that style of sticker.
- Audience: Switching between look-alike audiences and manual targeting, Remi likes to ensure he targets ads to varying audiences to avoid audience fatigue.
More than just a sticker company: Why brand is a key ingredient to success
Remi and Alondra’s journey from a moment of inspiration in a Tokyo sticker store to their own company generating in excess of $100,000 per year is incredibly inspiring.
But their success is anything but a happy accident.
From starting, and failing, with AdWords, to realizing the importance of building a brand to sit behind their business, the pair has had to adapt their strategies and figure things out on the fly.
Now, Blank Tag Co. is hugely successful, and a lot of that success comes down to its brand. Remi and Alondra see stickers as an expression of who you are, and ways to bring happiness into other’s lives and the Blank Tag Co. brand reflects that vision.
As Katlin Smith writes on Inc., “many businesses make the mistake of assuming that low price points and ultra simple shopping processes are all that consumers seek (or what they predominantly seek).”
There are thousands of options out there for consumers now, and oftentimes, your brand is the differentiator — that’s precisely why Blank Tag Co. is more than a sticker company. Stickers inspired happiness in Remi and Alondra as they shopped in Tokyo, and now, Blank Tag Co. seeks to do the same for each and every consumer that experiences its products or sees any of its content.