News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.
HiSmile

Gold Coast startup HiSmile leveraged social media to foster a unique brand identity in the oral hygiene space

Depending on the market, when it comes to promoting a business, there are few avenues that are better at engaging an audience than social media.

While it’s not exactly the messiah of marketing, like the sea of ‘Top 10 Reasons Your Business Should Use Facebook’ lists would have you believe, social media is still able to offer a direct avenue to tap into an audience, although the space is often crowded with thousands of competitors doing the same or a similar thing.

Standing out from the crowd on social media is, admittedly, a substantially difficult task, particularly when your early page followers merely consist of a generous mix of friends and family, cat included.

Forming a unique identity first means understanding your own audience, and it’s something that Gold Coast-based startup HiSmile sought to achieve early on its journey.

Looking to make their mark in the teeth whitening space in 2014, Alex Tomic and Nik Mirkovic, both in their early 20s, conceived the flagship HiSmile teeth whitening product – which uses gels and LED lighting to whiten a user’s teeth – after seeing that the existing oral hygiene and teeth whitening space had become “static”.

“When we came into the market, it wasn’t really creating anything new,” said Tomic.

“It was myself and Nick really looking at the market…seeing what customers were saying about what was out there currently, and looking at how we could fill those gaps. What we found very early on was that the convenience factor was a big issue, so we looked to make something that was really, really easy for the consumer to use.”

From the point of imagining the idea for the product, it would be eight months before the business would officially kick off, with Tomic saying he looked towards what the “big brands” were doing to make them so successful, or otherwise.

At the time, the cofounders had roughly $20,000 in their pocket.

“Really early on we focused on looking on why certain businesses were successful and how they managed to successfully release product after product. It was about understanding how to build a brand, something that actually stands for something, that people really want to be a part of and recognise,” he said.

On top of that, Tomic added, the startup wanted to understand their customer base and gain insight into what would appeal to them, in turn showing how the business could grow their brand.

Taking to social media, the startup begun focusing on influencer marketing, which would serve as a way to tap into their largely millennial audience. With Facebook as one of its key social media platforms, the brand began launching various campaigns, diversifying its content wherever possible to observe what worked best for their audience.

Tomic said the business encountered a number of both hits and misses, particularly when using Facebook, the social media platform he believes is the strongest out of the social media giants when it comes to targeting niche audiences.

“With Facebook ads, it’s really the best software in allowing you to speak directly to the customers you want to speak you. But it’s really in the content, and the only way you know if it works is by creating different types of content and seeing how the customer reacts to that,” he explained.

“The important thing to take away from Facebook is not to overthink it, and try to be diverse. Instagram is really great too, but Facebook outperforms all of them.”

Gaining traction over the years, the business grew alongside its social marketing efforts, with October last year seeing HiSmile leverage international influencer Kylie Jenner and turn over $10 million.

The social message, which was sent towards Jenner’s then 76 million plus Instagram following, helped give the startup a impactful springboard into the US and UK markets.

Currently, HiSmile holds above 1.1 million likes on its Facebook page, and over half a million on Instagram. With thousands of campaigns posted online since its launch, Tomic said one of the key things he’s taken away from the journey is that keeping things simple can often be better, as he discussed a recent campaign.

“We wanted to try a very high-end budget ad on Facebook, so got a budget for models and dancers and all these things. When we pushed that out we found it wasn’t as successful, because we weren’t able to flow with it. That then sparked our most successful campaign to date, which got over 50 million views on Facebook,” he said.

“[We] mashed up all our curated content from over the last two years in a really popish-lifestyle way. It showed that the highest-end productions aren’t always the best, but rather it’s the content that gets a customer’s attention attention.”

The startup has recently added a new product to its lineup, a day-and-night teeth whitening toothpaste. Tomic said the product marks HiSmile’s transition into the wider oral hygiene industry, where the business is looking to upheave the norm by pushing out a subscription-based model for its products.

“I guess it’s something that will rethink and reinvent the way people see the oral hygiene space,” he said.

Also in the cards for HiSmile is yet another new product, which Tomic said is roughly six months away from launch.

Meanwhile, he said, the business has another shelf of campaigns involving “big names” in the works.

Image: Nik Mirkovic & Alex Tomic. Source: Supplied.