SmileDirectClub Turns To Influencers, Data, TikTok, Search

SmileDirectClub last week announced partnerships with several high-profile celebrities to launch a Confidence Council.

The company has enlisted Jonathan Van Ness, Tunde Oyeneyin, and Arielle Vandenberg as ambassadors. It's all about shining a light on "the transformational power of a smile." The company wants to raise awareness of its mission to provide access to care.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound effect on the company, which was founded with the goal to enable more people to gain access to orthodontic care. It struggled during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenue declining 12% year-over-year in 2020.

The first nine months of 2021 saw improvement, as revenue climbed 8.3% compared to the prior-year period. The continuation of the pandemic has presented a challenge, but data, email, search, social, influencers, television, over-the top (OTT), and other media are giving it a boost.  



SmileDirectClub today has about 100 retail stores, but the journey for consumers typically begins on a search engine. Search ads and organic listings lead consumers to the company’s website, where they can research services and purchase an at-home impression kit.

The kit once made up 10% of the company’s business. During the pandemic, that jumped to 99% overnight.

“Consumers got used to telehealth during the height of the pandemic,” says SmileDirectClub CMO John Sheldon. “Although we’ve opened up all our retail stores, the kit still makes up about 50% of the business.”

About 90% of active consumers use the app as they go through the treatment, which lasts between four and six months. Users log into the app several times as they go though the journey.

The app does not have ads or sponsorships, but it does keep track of the number of times a customer logs in and where they are in the process.

“We prompt the consumer to take certain steps like when it’s time to change the liners in their mouth,” he says. “The check-in process helps them have a successful process. The prompts are done through email, SMS and in-app messaging.”

Sheldon says SmileDirectClub uses over-the-top (OTT), paid-social, and search campaigns to get the attention of consumers, while email and CRM keep the company connected with consumers.

About 30% of the annual ad and marketing budget goes toward television and OTT. The remainder goes toward social on sites like TikTok, Facebook and Instagram; video; and paid search, mostly on Google, which gets the highest percentage.

Search, for the company, has a three-pronged strategy, Sheldon says -- including search on branded keywords, people who type in questions and queries, and competitive conquesting.

“We did an experiment with podcasts, which gave us a good start, something we’d like to get back into,” he says. “We had success with host-read ads, not something that just thrown in during breaks. It takes a little more to do it the right way, so we’re working with some folks to get back into that.”

The company also ensures its FAQs are stocked with answers to questions that people search for on Google, Bing, and its website.

More than half of the traffic to the website from search comes from organic, but paid media supports the strategy. Consumers who find SmileDirectClub’s website through branded keywords tend to convert more easily.

SmileDirectClub also gets traffic to the site from discovery engines like Reddit. “Reddit has an entire board of active customers and prospects go in to read others experiences,” he says. “Sometimes consumers having a problem with share their issues and other club members will jump in and talk about how they solved the problem.”

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