Celebrating 10 Years of Corkcicle

Full service marketing agency Bigeye’s podcast celebrates Orlando-based hydration brand Corkcicle’s first decade with guests Amanda Nelson and Morgan Jenkins.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Bigeye celebrates the first decade of Orlando-based consumer lifestyle and hydration brand Corkcicle. The podcast features Amanda Nelson, Corkcicle’s VP of Ecommerce, and Morgan Jenkins, Director of Content Marketing. We learn what led to the company’s founding, how Corkcicle develops new products, and the structure of its MarTech stack. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can use the code BIGEYE20 to receive 20 percent off an order at Corkcicle.com. Offer valid through 12/31.


Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Founded in 2010, Corkcicle is an Orlando-based lifestyle and consumer brand focused on hydration. Corkcicle develops, markets, and sells innovative branded products across several categories, including premium insulated drinkware, barware, soft-coolers, and more. Its products are sold direct-to-consumer, through retailers, and via promotional programs. Corkcicle enjoys enthusiastic brand loyalty, thanks to its unique designs and innovative product portfolio captured in its tagline, “We make things that cool. We make cool things.” To tell us more about Corkcicle and explain how the brand has evolved over the last 10 years, I’m joined today by Amanda Nelson, Corkcicle’s Vice President of Ecommerce, and by Morgan Jenkins, Corkcicle’s Director of Content Marketing. Amanda and Morgan, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS! 

Morgan Jenkins: Thank you for having us.

Amanda Nelson: Yeah, we’re excited to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Morgan, what is Corkcicle’s founding story?

Morgan Jenkins: So Corkcicle started, as you said, back in 2010, with one product and that product was an in-bottle wine chiller.It became pretty popular very quickly, thanks to an appearance on “Oprah’s Favorite Things” that year, which really accelerated its growth. The concept is that it looks like an icicle, and it’s actually an aerator. So instead of putting your wine bottle in the fridge, if you’re at a party or a get together, you would take the wine chiller, put it in the freezer and then insert it into whichever kind of bottle you’re drinking. And you’d be able to pour through it and chill the wine from the inside out. So it was really this cool kind of first innovative product of ours. And it really set the precedent for the brand in terms of innovation, which is still a hallmark of the brand today. It, as I said, gained pretty quick popularity, in the gift market specifically, and it’s still really one of the bestsellers, around holidays, around this kind of time of year, which is really great. Now we have a bigger portfolio of products from drinkware, triple-insulated, stainless steel, wine cups, tumblers, canteens, to these really cool coolers that kind of look like handbags, very discreet and fashion-savvy. So we run the gamut nowadays, but that’s the origin.

Adrian Tennant: What led each of you to Corkcicle? Let’s start with you, Amanda.

Amanda Nelson: Yeah. So before Corkcicle, I was actually at Nike out in Oregon. And then my husband’s company relocated to the Orlando area and then I took some time to try to learn what companies were in the market and what I wanted to do when I was here and just learned about Corkcicle and thought the product they had and the brand story was really interesting, and so joined the team.

Adrian Tennant: And how did you first encounter Corkcicle, Morgan?

Morgan Jenkins: So it’s a funny story. I was actually working remotely in Orlando around five years ago for a company out of Jacksonville. I was doing remote work for a marketing agency on the client services side. And I was actually on a trip up in Pittsburgh to visit some family, and I saw this really cool bottle in the window. And I thought it was just a really unique design. It was this really pretty turquoise color and I picked it up and I looked at the back to learn more about the information about the company on the sleeve of the product. And it said, “Designed in Orlando, Florida”, and I hadn’t heard of the company yet. so I was in a position where I was looking for a new job. I wanted to be able to go into an office every day and really have that lifestyle and comradery back into my workday. So I filled out a general inquiry form on the website four years ago. I was the eighth hire at the company, and I’ve been with Corkcicle ever since.

Adrian Tennant: Corkcicle is celebrating a decade in business this year. Morgan, how has the company changed over the last 10 years?

Morgan Jenkins: So, as one of the first employees, I think I’ve had a really interesting look into how we’ve grown over the past four years since I’ve been with the company. But I can tell you within the past 10 years, which is crazy that it’s already been a decade of business, the brand really started with the four founding partners of the company. There was a person who headed up all of the marketing initiatives, and then CEO, a VP of Logistics, and a VP of Sales. And everything else was outsourced from customer service to creative for advertising to marketing expertise. It was really all outsourced. And then when I got hired, four years ago, they were just starting to bring everything in-house. So I started as I guess a “Jack of all Trades” in marketing. I did a little bit of everything from PR to copywriting, to just again, running the gamut. But really just watching the company grow and seeing how they’ve shifted all of that outsourcing in-house. They’ve built up this amazing customer service team that I think is really just a pivotal aspect of the company especially as we shift our focus a little bit more towards the direct-to-consumer channels, like our website and Amazon. Really focusing on adding that level of hands-on customer service, where our customers can get on the phone and actually talk to someone, that’s been a huge game-changer. And then just seeing the different verticals we’ve been able to kind of expand into, we have an incredible sales team. Again, we started in the gift industry with a lot of our clients being retailers, such as kind of mom and pop stores, gift shops, boutiques, things like that. Really seeing how we’ve evolved into new markets, like golf, and outdoor, and then into more specialty markets, like gourmet shops and kind of cookware shops. It’s been a really interesting experience to see the key accounts grow in that way too. And then of course, I’m very closely attached to the D-to-C side of the business, the direct-to-consumer side, as is Amanda. So really focusing on growing that channel has been a huge endeavor for us over the past couple years, and really where we’ve shifted a lot of the business focus lately. So, really just in summary, expanding all of our channels and seeing us grow into all of these different verticals has been really exciting over the last 10 years.

Adrian Tennant: So staying with the DTC vertical, what does a typical Corkcicle buyer look like?

Morgan Jenkins: So Amanda and I, like I said, we’re very well-versed in our D-to-C customer. Most of our audience is female – so. I think it’s about 60 percent female right now. We’ve done some new collections like Star Wars  and are starting to make some more kind of androgynous products in the cooler space. So we’re appealing to more men, but it’s primarily female within the age range of that 18 to 40 range. So a lot of Millennial buyers, some younger Gen Z buyers, and then a lot of our kind of foundational products like our Corkcicle Air, our Whiskey Wedge, a lot of our barware is typically bought by that, I would say, 35 to 45 kind of segment.  So I think really just people who are looking for products to elevate their everyday life. People who want their coffee hotter for longer in the morning. People who want to be able to go on a run and leave their water bottle in the car and then come back and there still be ice in it, five hours later. Really just those kinds of people who are looking for ease and simplicity and beautiful design in their everyday life.

Adrian Tennant: What have been some of your customer’s favorite products? 

Morgan Jenkins: So I would say really over the years, it’s changed as we’ve continued to innovate. This year we actually received the honor of being on “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list again, for our mug. So that is a really popular product for us right now. It’s the kind of standard nostalgic coffee mug shape, but a stainless steel insulated version that keeps your coffee and tea and hot beverages nice and hot. So that’s been a huge seller for the holiday season. But, I would say over the past several years, really our stemless wine glass, our canteens and tumblers, those kind of stainless steel, triple-insulated drinkware products have really been our bread and butter. And really, when we first came up with that initial product, the Corkcicle Air in-bottle wine chiller awhile ago, these stainless steel products really took our business to the next level and continue to do so today.

Adrian Tennant: Corkcicle has embraced an omni-channel approach, selling direct to consumer, as a wholesaler for traditional retailers, and through promotions. Amanda, what kinds of systems and processes do you manage to fulfill the direct-to-consumer business?

Amanda Nelson: That’s been something since I started with Corkcicle about a year-and-a-half ago that Morgan and I have been building up, finding the right partners and tools to really expand the DTC business. So our website’s on Shopify, which makes it really easy to add apps and extensions to the site. And so we have partnered with Yappo for reviews. We’ve partnered with Narvar for shipping updates and emails. And then we’ve also partnered with Wunderkind for text messages and abandoned cart series emails. And I think all those partnerships combined have really set us for growth and for continuing to build the direct-to-consumer business.

Adrian Tennant: How does this compare to the stack you had with Nike?

Amanda Nelson: We have different tools, but it’s the same kind of stack. A reviews platform, an order tracking platform. Nike used Narvar too. BounceX – used to be BounceX, now it’s Wunderkind. Nike uses them too. Klaviyo is another one that Morgan manages for email, I know Nike uses a different email service provider, but a lot of the foundations are the same building blocks, but just different partners because of the size of business.

Adrian Tennant: Great, thank you. Morgan, Corkcicle offers a pretty broad spectrum of products in the hydration category. How does your product development team set about appealing to different target audiences or markets?

Morgan Jenkins: So we are very lucky. We have just a really great group of talented product development people with us. Meredith Hollinsworth is our Director of Product and she does a great job thinking about new products for new seasons. The good thing about hydration is that it’s really for everyone. So, when we think about design, we look to fill certain buckets for different consumers. When we think about each consumer, we consider their everyday life and how we can elevate those moments, like I mentioned earlier, of their day-to-day. And then we also take into consideration the opinions of the entire team, obviously our leadership team and the whole company, in general. And then we have an amazing diverse culture at Corkcicle. And everyone has a really different perspective to offer, which adds just some really great opinions to the table. So it’s a mix of things, but really looking at the different markets and how they would use products that we create in their everyday.

Adrian Tennant: Through commercial partnerships, Corkcicle offers branded products. How did you plan for the launch of your Star Wars-themed product line?

Morgan Jenkins: So, this is a really interesting partnership to work on. And I think I speak for the entire creative team, who really just took the lead on this product line. We have just an amazing creative team that really, I think, led the charge in terms of coming up with amazing, really breathtaking imagery. They always do such a great job, but our Art Director, Greg Perkins, and then our Creative Director, Dylan York are just really top-of-class in terms of artistic direction and vision. So this project was super-different just in terms of Lucas – being a big entity – Lucasfilm, who own Star Wars™, you have to get everything approved. There are multiple layers of approval for every single piece of marketing information, for every advertisement that we want to run, for every social media post, and caption, and hashtag that we use. So it really was a great exercise for us as we grow and working with a really big partner. But this was certainly a fun exercise in just learning how to work with a larger business entity. So yeah, I would say that really, planning for this launch was unlike any other and it’s been one of our most successful collaborations to date. So we’ve been really happy with it so far.

Adrian Tennant: How far in advance do you typically have to plan and design new products to allow for sourcing materials and manufacturing?

Morgan Jenkins: So I think this is still something that we are learning to grow within, with our product development team. Pretty much a year give or take that’s the time frame. And, in terms of when we think about new designs and then put all of the effort into kind of narrowing down which products will move forward, which ones maybe aren’t a good fit for the time period we’re releasing them in. But we have two main seasons every year: a January season and then a June season. And they kind of correlate with the big gift shows, the big trade shows that we go and show a lot of our new product lines at. So there’s some seasonality there. And then there’s also demand for kind of the industry that we’re in, the gift industry. But I would say probably around a year, but we’re always looking for ways to improve that process. And again, I think we have a really talented product team that’s making all kinds of headway there.

Adrian Tennant: Corkcicle also supports a non-profit organization called Charity:Water, which provides clean, safe, drinking water to people in developing countries. What was the motivation to support that particular nonprofit?

Morgan Jenkins: So Charity:Water has been an amazing nonprofit partner for us over the years. We’ve been working with them for – I want to say – close to four years now. Since I came on and really the thought process with selecting them as a nonprofit partner, is just the water tie-in. I think our product inherently lends itself to hydration, to drinking water on a day-to-day basis. So when we were thinking about who to partner with, from a charity standpoint, they really stood out. We liked a lot of things about them off the bat, but I think probably something that was most refreshing to us from a partnership standpoint is that they’re very transparent, about where donations are going, all the way down to the specific water projects around the world that they’re funding. You can actually pinpoint through Corkcicle donations that have been made over time, which well, in which country, that we’ve helped to grow and which communities we’re making a big difference in, and that information’s all available on our website. You can go there and see different communities in Bangladesh and Africa and these other countries that really need clean water to develop and to put people in work over there. So, I think it’s a few different reasons, but really the transparency and their business model was very attractive. And they’ve been a great partner to work with over the past several years. We’ve developed our program out so that now a portion of every single sale, both direct-to-consumer and retail goes back to Charity:Water, and Giving Tuesday is also coming up here pretty quickly. We’ll be running a big initiative where we have a Charity:Water-branded product and a hundred percent of those proceeds will go to Charity:Water for the day. 

Adrian Tennant: Well, we’ll make sure that that information is included in our show notes and this episode will be available around Thanksgiving, so great timing. Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Dana Cassell: I’m Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as marketing professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Amanda Nelson, Corkcicle’s Vice President of Ecommerce, and Morgan Jenkins, Corkcicle’s Director of Content Marketing. Ecommerce has seen a boost during the coronavirus outbreak as more people have opted to have goods delivered to their homes. Amanda, has Corkcicle’s direct-to-consumer business seen an uptick? 

Amanda Nelson: Yes, we’ve seen a pretty sizable uptick. So March was just a very uncertain time, a pretty tough month. We didn’t really know what the business would do and what we should expect. The leadership team really pivoted to support our local retailers. So we did a campaign talking about “support local” and gave a portion of our digital sales to local retailers, if you input the store into our checkout process. So I thought that was a really great way to support retailers, since that is what our business was built on. And then we also just pivoted to direct-to-consumer and didn’t take out any budget for, you know, advertising and kept pushing there. And then we saw some huge growth over the last few months and continue to see that. I think our product just does well for people being at home and wanting an accessory to their work from home lifestyle. And, we’ve seen some amazing growth.

Adrian Tennant: What, if any, challenges have you faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Amanda Nelson: From an industry perspective, the uncertainty of how consumers are going to react and where they are in their journey and all that has been tough. And then also from just a logistics side – inventory. We had a time when our factories were shut down, the boats are slower, the ports are slower. There’s just a lot of logistical issues right now. So when we try to plan for marketing and launches and all that kind of stuff, it’s just harder because things aren’t as on-time as they used to be.

Adrian Tennant: In the direct-to-consumer channel, have you seen any new customer behaviors emerge?

Amanda Nelson: We have seen our average order value go up over this time, so people are buying a little bit more per order. And then we’ve also seen people wanting to track their orders and get more visibility on where their orders are because there were issues with shipping times during COVID as well. So I think people are just really trying to see where their online orders are and so I mentioned it before we launched with Narvar, which is like an email tracking program and that has been amazing. Our consumers have really been excited about that.

Adrian Tennant: Now you mentioned that you deploy the Shopify platform. What do you think about Shopify’s initiative to offer TikTok users shoppable advertisements?

Amanda Nelson: TikTok isn’t something we have tested yet. We definitely know that is emerging and something we need to keep our eyes on. It’s very interesting. I don’t know when we’ll enter that channel. We have recently just started on YouTube. So, something we’ll keep our eyes on over the next year.

Adrian Tennant: Morgan, how do you think consumers are feeling about the holidays this year? 

Morgan Jenkins: I think there’s an interesting mix of anxiety and just anxiousness over the year in general. Obviously, the pandemic’s been a really hard time for people, just in terms of job loss and uncertainty. And then coupled with an election year, I think it’s been a really strenuous year for everybody. But I think the holidays always offer that kind of hopefulness and kind of sense of security and really bring people back to thinking about family and what’s really important. So, I think it’ll be a positive experience for us in terms of sales and thinking about how our consumers are feeling. I think an approach that we’ve taken this year with our gift guides, which we do every year on our website, is thinking about the context of where the consumer is a little bit more in the context of the pandemic. So thinking about doing a gift guide for working from home, a gift guide for at-home fitness essentials. Really just meeting our customers where we are is really important to us right now. 

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned that you have an in-house creative team at Corkcicle. How are you both dealing with working from home during the coronavirus outbreak?

Morgan Jenkins: So our in-house creative team is pretty lean. We have two people who really handle most of our photo assets, shooting new lifestyle images. We’ve done a lot of really amazing creative for the holidays this year. And then we have a new catalog coming out, as I mentioned, for the big gifting shows, that’ll take place in January, February. So they’ve been at the studio, here in Orlando shooting, just the two of them. And then really, I think we’ve all – as a marketing team – just gotten really accustomed to working through Slack, and through our project management tool, Wrike. So really just leaning on these platforms that make communication super easy. And then Zoom of course, has been helpful for meeting. So I think, dealing with working from home for Amanda and I has been a Catch-22, just in terms of we love meeting in person and having face-to-face conversations. But what a day and age that we have all of these tools at our fingertips to be able to have productive meetings and stay focused throughout you know, the year and the holiday season. I think we’re both handling it pretty well.

Adrian Tennant: Amanda, do you concur?

Amanda Nelson: Yes, definitely. I mean, like Morgan said, we miss the energy and the creative energy that you get working with people, but have figured out how to work together remotely. And it’s crazy – like, I feel like I’m actually much busier at home because there’s really no breaks; nine to whatever time you end your day. It’s just meeting after meeting, which is good. But, yeah, it feels even busier.

Adrian Tennant: Morgan, what have been some of your most successful customer acquisition programs for Corkcicle?

Morgan Jenkins: So I would say email has always been a really productive channel for us. We’ve done a lot of segmentation with our customers through Klaviyo, our email tool, where we can talk to our VIP’s in a way that’s different maybe than people who haven’t purchased for three months, for example. So that’s been a really effective tool for us over the years. I think a tool that both Amanda and I had a certain level of skepticism towards, that’s really turned into probably our most productive acquisition channel, is text marketing. Our VP of marketing had heard about different brands doing text marketing, and I think Amanda and I were both just a little skeptical about texting our customers, just directly to their phones, since it does feel a little bit more invasive than emails since you get an alert about it. But it’s really shown to be a super-productive channel for us. We see amazing return on investment in that channel and just highly engaged customers and prospects. So that’s been invaluable in terms of growing our marketing.

Adrian Tennant: The platform for that?

Morgan Jenkins: We are using Wunderkind for text. We use them, as Amanda said, for on-site email capture where they get like a 10 percent off discount for signing up and subscribing with us. So they’re actually running our text platform too. It’s nice to have everything under one platform because the email subscription path and the text subscription path play really nicely with each other and make for a better user experience on our website.

Adrian Tennant: If you had zero budget or very close to nothing to spend on marketing, what would you not want to stop doing at any cost?

Morgan Jenkins: Honestly, I would probably say text marketing at this point, just knowing how effective it is. I mean, we don’t spend a lot of money on that channel and just the click-through rates and conversion rates that we see are insane. It’s just a really high level of engagement. So definitely text.

Adrian Tennant: Well, it’s that time of year, we spend looking back on the year that’s been. But what about the future? Amanda, what are you excited for for Corkcicle in 2021?

Amanda Nelson: I think as a company we’re really excited to focus on direct-to-consumer and really become best-in-class in that. And so we have things set up and investment in place to really continue to grow that channel. And Morgan and I are excited to keep talking to our consumers and learning about our consumers and making sure we’re serving the people that are loving Corkcicle’s products.

Adrian Tennant: Morgan, if listeners want to learn more about Corkcicle, where can they find you?

Morgan Jenkins: So you can find us at our website www.Corkcicle.com. We’re running a lot of really great promotions for the holidays right now. So it’s definitely a good time to check us out if you haven’t heard of us before. You can also find us on social media. We’re on Instagram @Corkcicle, Facebook we have our own page, and then Twitter is @Corkcicle as well. And then we also have a special code for Bigeye listeners. If you use the code BIGEYE20 from now through the end of the year, so now through December 31st, you can take 20% off your order.

Adrian Tennant: That’s fantastic! Thank you! Amanda and Morgan, thank you both very much for being on IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Amanda Nelson: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Morgan Jenkins: Yeah, thank you. It’s been such a pleasure. We really appreciate it.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guests this week, Amanda Nelson, Corkcicle’s VP of Ecommerce, and Morgan Jenkins, Corkcicle’s Director of Content Marketing. You’ll find links to the resources we talked about on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Just click on the button marked “Podcast.” And a reminder that Corkcicle has extended a special promo offer to IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners – use the code BIGEYE20 to receive 20 percent off your order. The offer is valid from today through December 31st of this year. Thanks to everybody at Corkcicle for that offer. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, or wherever you get your podcasts. And remember, if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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