In a Super Bowl full of surprise first-time advertisers, Dr. Squatch may be the least likely yet—a mostly direct-to-consumer men’s personal care brand just starting to emerge from a crowded field built by social media marketing.
Raindrop Marketing, a San Diego shop that’s worked since 2017 for Dr. Squatch, producing viral videos that have racked more than 300 million views on YouTube alone, made the Super Bowl spot the brand is releasing today, as well as two teasers that broke yesterday.
Dr. Squatch, also based for years in San Diego before moving recently up Interstate 5 to Los Angeles, has seen its annual sales rate skyrocket 350% each of the past two years, topping $100 million last year.
Unlike some rivals, Dr. Squatch hasn’t yet moved into stores, but is sold on Amazon. Also unlike its mostly crunchy-granola competitive set, including Unilever’s Schmidt’s Naturals and Procter & Gamble Co.’s Native, the creative DNA for Dr. Squatch seems to come more from P&G’s Old Spice, and Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club and Axe (particularly from the unreformed pre-2017 era).
“From a messaging standpoint, we’ve taken the approach of being a product for the everyday mass male consumer,” says Dr. Squatch CEO and founder Jack Haldrup. “There are a lot of people out there in the market. But I think that space has been a little underserved.”
Dr. Squatch’s Super Bowl ad features a Nordic-looking spokesguy who looks like he could easily join the Fellowship of the Ring—though he also lets his daughter braid his hair. It features things you’d expect from YouTube men’s personal care ads, including bleeps, sight gags, fast-paced attitude and a naked (from the waist up) guy showering in the forest.
While Dr. Squatch has gotten into natural deodorant and toothpaste, its hero product featured in the Super Bowl ad is bar soap. Haldrup launched it in 2013 as an outgrowth of his search for ways to deal with his own psoriasis and after learning about natural ingredients and the cold process used to make the soap. After years of self-financing, Dr. Squatch raised “external money” in 2018, helping fund its social media push and expanded growth, Haldrup says.
“This moment is a time to take the success we’ve had on YouTube in particular and translate it into something for more traditional TV during one of the biggest moments in TV, and bring it to a much bigger audience to make a splash,” says Josh Friedman, chief marketing officer for Dr. Squatch.
The brand’s recent success and Super Bowl appearance show that upstarts can still gain a foothold, even with big incumbents like Unilever and P&G going all in on natural personal care in recent years and adopting the same tactics direct-to-consumer brands used to fuel the segment. It’s also a glimmer of hope for TV networks that their years-long dream of attracting d-to-c money really could come true.