SYDNEY–Australian startup HiSmile is hoping to disrupt the billion dollar over-the-counter teeth whitening market through a strategy that relies heavily on social media promotion and tie-ups with celebrities like Kylie Jenner.
Founded in December 2014 by two Gold Coast, Queensland entrepreneur mates – the then 21-year-old college dropout Alex Tomic and 19-year-old football player Nik Mirkovic – HiSmile is on track, the duo claim, to more than double its sales to 25 million Australian dollars, or $18 million, for the year ended June 2017.
HiSmile’s best-selling 79.99 Australian dollar, or $58 Teeth Whitening Kit, includes a universal fit mouth tray, an LED light and three syringes filled with a fast-acting sodium bicarbonate gel, which was developed in Belgium and purports to guarantee whitening results in 10 minutes – a point of difference in the at-home whitening products market according to Mirkovic and Tomic. Other products including a Coconut Whitening Mouthwash and Teeth Whitening Pen.
Products ship worldwide through the hismileteeth.com website and Queensland warehouse, with fifty percent of the business international.
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Looking for a gap in the beauty market, the duo chose teeth whitening because they believed it was “the most static” said Mirkovic, adding they also had a lot of ideas about “how to push a brand through social” They initially invested 20,000 Australian dollars, or $18,056, in the company.
Noted Mirkovic, “We looked at a few other products – skincare, maybe even tanning – but the others were already being done, there was noone in oral hygiene or teeth whitening who was doing anything exciting or worth taking note of, so we thought we could do something there”.
Targeting a 15-24 year-old female demographic, the duo gave away 1000 of their first 10,000 kits to beauty bloggers and local celebrities in a bid to boost the brand’s visibility.
Today HiSmile boasts a social media audience of its own of 1 million and employs a six-strong marketing team that includes two blogger wranglers and a full-time Snapchat content curator.
The duo spends 25,000 Australian dollars or $17,973 a month on social media marketing through the Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Musical.ly platforms and a stable of 500 paid influencers.
To date their biggest influencer catch has been Jenner, who promoted HiSmile to her 82 million Instagram followers in September for an undisclosed fee.
But Facebook now represents the brand’s biggest marketing push – a 700,000 Australian dollar or $503,230 per month investment claimed Mirkovic. Currently reaching 50 million Facebook users a week, he said, the ads will be key to his and Tomic’s ambitious sales targets of 40 million Australian dollars or $29 million within the next 18 months and 1billion Australian dollars or $719 million within five years.
Next on the agenda: a new product and also broadening into the men’s market, albeit with no apparent plans to switch from HiSmile’s girl-friendly pink packaging as yet.
“In the next 18 months we’ll expand on that [the demographic]” said Mirkovic. “I don’t think [by] changing the colors, but with our marketing I think we can get the guys on board”.