Back in 2011, 4 friends discovered a gap in the market and decided to fix it themselves by creating flushable single travel packets of wipes.
And that’s how DUDE Products was founded with their first product, DUDE Wipes.
Later, through a unique and authentic approach to social media, an investment by Mark Cuban on season 7, episode 4 of the Shark Tank, and countless partnerships with athletes and creators, DUDE Wipes gained massive popularity.
Now, DUDE Wipes and other DUDE Products can be easily found in all Walmarts, Targets, Krogers, and most toilet paper aisles of the US.
To learn more about the huge success of the company and the role of its community, we had a chat with the President, and Chief Executive DUDE, Sean Riley.
The Beginning of DUDE Wipes and DUDE Products
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about those first years of DUDE Products?
A: “Yeah, we’re based in Chicago, so that was where the whole origin apartment story took place, and now we have our headquarters here.
We have grown organically year by year, so those first couple of years we were just buying as many products as we could afford and getting it out to the people.
We didn’t have experience doing e-commerce, products, or wipes, we just had our 9-to-5s that were not really related to this business. We just wanted to be creative, getting something entrepreneurial done was the goal in the beginning.
We brought a lot of the outsider mentality to the toilet paper industry but we didn’t really even know things about e-commerce, retail, or CPG either.
So the brand was meant to just be fun and authentic and just like how guys would talk at a bar and stuff like that.”
Q: How did you start building your community?
A: “We had individually wrap DUDE Wipes, so that was our first word of mouth marketing sort of thing.
That was our only SKU and people started passing them out.
We would ship them to frat houses and music festivals, so our first product was actually kind of viral and that’s all we could really afford to do at the time. Send out our product to different people.
The brand that we built and the problem that we were solving were fun and struck a chord with people, so they told their friends about us.
That was our original community, just getting DUDE Wipes into people’s hands and making sure that it had a fun packaging and stuff like that, and then they were telling their friends.”
The Growth of DUDE Products
Q: What were key moments in the growth of DUDE Products?
A: “After a couple of years of cutting our teeth and learning the business and moving a little bit more, we were on Shark Tank in 2015 and that was a big moment for the brand to get a bunch of notoriety and people discovering us. It’s like a Super Bowl commercial for your brand.
We did a deal with Mark Cuban as well, so that is our first and only investment into the business.
A lot of people know us from that and then every year we would get into another chain’s toilet paper aisle slowly but surely.
Then Kroger brought us in at first, then a couple of years later Walmart brought us in as part of their “Made in The USA” initiative because we manufacture our product in the USA.
They gave us a shot as part of that initiative and it did well and today we are in all the Walmarts and all the Targets and all while we were growing Amazon, which was our first customer.”
Q: What are your current community growth goals?
A: “Now, we are growing our DTC channel. Our DTC website is a place to give people fun content, experience with the product, more access to our stories and our humor and everything like that.
More than a sales channel for us, we use it as a community building channel because we are selling in so many other places. So our focus for our Shopify channel is to have fun and give people an all-access experience.
You can’t really measure it when they later go buy our products at Walmart or Target, but we definitely believe in it.”
How DUDE Products use social media and content creator partnerships to grow
Q: How do you use social media to grow your community?
A: “We have the best social media in all of the toilet paper industry, even better than the multibillion-dollar CPG conglomerates. We have more followers than all the other toilet paper brands combined.
We’re on our Twitter every day, multiple times per day, posting, responding and having conversations. And it’s the same with Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin.
So, we are engaging with people in a way that really our competition isn’t even close. We joke around sometimes like, this other company hasn’t tweeted in a month, while we’re talking to people several times per day. Whether it’s in the DMs or around the platform, we’re constantly communicating and building a community.
TikTok would be the other one I would mention that we’ve gotten into this year and we’ve had a lot of videos go viral from other people.
Our page has activity, we do some reposting, we do some videos of our own, but it’s really all about getting the product into fun creators’ hands and then them doing something really fun and creative with it and then that getting 5 million views and stuff like that.
Our hashtag on TikTok has I think over 30 million views.”
Q: How do you work with creators, ambassadors, and influencers?
A: “We’re always looking for fun creators and sending them products and then they’re organically expressing themselves to the world on what they think of the brand and all that.
Really anybody can become our ambassador. Our social media manager just communicates with people through DMs and thinks if the person is a good match for the brand.
Then we’ll get him some samples and tell him to have some fun.
Generally, on the influencer side, we’re dealing with everyday creative people, not necessarily big professional influencers with a lot of followers.
We also do some of that here and there, but we do a lot more of that with real sponsorships. So like, we will sponsor a golfer on the PGA tour or NASCAR, or whatever.
For social, we’re really just looking for people who fit the brand and are going to do something creative because that can go viral, especially on TikTok.
Somebody can have one video that goes for millions of views without that many followers.”
That’s the power of word of mouth & creating a community for your brand.
Check out DUDE Products website and follow them on social media to learn more about their products and to see the amazing job they’re doing building their community through authentic interactions.
Thanks for chatting with us Sean!