How brands are riding the coattails of Doggface’s fame
Two months ago, when a video of him sipping Ocean Spray and skateboarding to work while lip-synching Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams" went viral, several brands saw 37-year-old Nathan Apodaca, better known as doggface208 on TikTok, as their next influencer star.
With more than 73 million views, the post was second in TikTok’s list of top 2020 viral videos. TikTok spun memes by Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood and lead singer Stevie Nicks into a commercial that ran during the Major League Baseball Playoffs. And Ocean Spray played into the moment by gifting the star a cranberry-red truck filled with juice, then paying for Apodaca's honeymoon.
While some influencers flame out after a viral moment, Apodaca’s fame and appeal in the eyes of brands has only grown. Apodaca has posted on behalf of brands including Xbox, LG, Raising Cane’s, ASOS, Snoop Dogg’s Indoggo gin and Idaho Potatoes. He's appeared with Snoop Dogg in an ad for smart home company Vivint, created a commercial for Idaho-based KJ’s Superstore, endorsed skateboarding brands including Sharkwheel and participated in TikTok song campaigns,
Apodaca’s largest branded collab product launch went live this past Saturday. The star—who now has more than 6 million followers on TikTok—is out with a limited-edition electronic longboard in partnership with Phoenix, Arizona-based electronic longboards brand Lux Longboards. The boards, of which only 75 are being sold, are signed by Apodaca and feature a phrase that appears in a lot of Apodaca’s TikTok posts: “Steady Vibin.”
The boards are being promoted on social, digital, a dedicated webpage on Lux Longboards’ website and Apodaca’s own online merchandise store. Ocean Spray continues to reap from the influencer’s brand collabs. In a video for the longboards shared by Apodaca to TikTok, the influencer is seen finishing off a bottle of Ocean Spray cranberry juice, only to skateboard to the store to grab another.
Since Apodaca exploded on the TikTok scene, he created his own logo, built out his online merch store with items including $50 “Doggface & Dreams” sweatshirts and $45 dab pendant necklaces and hired someone to manage future collaborations. Although recent videos do not compare to the engagement of his original, his videos still see between 200,000 and a million views, and his following continues to grow. Apodaca gains an average of 23,000 new TikTok followers a day, with more than 700,000 added over the past 30 days, according to data from social analytics company Social Blade.
Brands are working with Apodaca in different ways. LG did a laundry dance party duet with Apodaca and Alfonso Soribeiro from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."
Raising Cane’s, meanwhile, made Apodaca an ambassador and partnered with him to promote its new mobile ordering app. "You have to take advantage of viral moments,” says a Raising Cane’s spokesperson. “If someone is having their moment, it is important to find an authentic way to become a part of that story. The internet relates to him and that makes speaking to his audience that much more genuine.”
Brands and agencies point to Apodaca's authenticity as a major factor for his popularity on TikTok and suitability for brand campaigns. Adi Azran, head of marketing at TikTok creative studio Flighthouse Media, who worked with Apodaca on song-based campaigns for Sam Smith’s “Diamonds” and G-Eazy’s “Hate the Way,” says his background has led to support across the internet. “It's so great to see something so massive happen to someone that's authentically himself,” Azran says.
“He probably has one of the most loyal followings,” says Weston Smith, founder and owner of Lux Longboards, adding that during filming for the Lux partnership, people would see Apodaca and stop their cars to take a picture with him.
Apodaca's is a rags-to-riches story. At the time of his first video, the Idaho native was working on a potato farm and living in a trailer with no running water or electricity. The video might not even have even happened if his car hadn't broken down. His merchandise website explains that he received $15,000 in donations after his video went viral, allowing him to care for his two teenage daughters. At the end of November, he was also able to purchase his first home in Idaho with $320,000 in cash.
Cameron Fordham, co-founder and partner at social agency Get Engaged—which worked with brands including LG and Raising Canes on sponsored posts by Apodaca—believes there’s plenty of opportunity for brands across verticals.
“Doggface is someone a lot of people can connect with. For a brand, this is something that is hard to find,” Fordham says. “There is a feeling of authenticity when he uses a product or service because he doesn't come across as being forced into posting. At some point the Ocean Spray post became secondary to what Doggface was building and that allowed him to create content for other brands.”
Apodaca’s TikTok feed is very much like his personality: laid-back and unapologetic. Apodaca will either be riding a skateboard as he lip-synchs or will incorporate a brand partner in a video of him dancing and lip-synching to popular or brands' original songs. He’ll accompany the videos with hashtags like #happyhippie, #skaterfoo, #thugdancin and #steadyvibin.
Apodaca is also not shy about his love for marijuana and often speaks directly to his followers as “420 souljahz.” His posts reference him smoking or commenting about his love of weed. All of Apodaca's Mary Jane talk does not seem to be driving brand partners away, however. He even worked with Cheech & Chong to be a character in their new hemp and marijuana lifestyle app, “Cheech and Chong Bud Farm.” As Apodaca would say: “Steady vibin.”