Aubrey Marcus has created a physical product in a crowded space (nutrition) and he still found success. He talks about partnerships, podcasts, and the struggles of entrepreneurship.
→ On It is a health and fitness optimization company
→ Provides tools for total human optimization including Supplements, Functional food, Unconventional fitness equipment
→ Aim to provide earth-grown nutrients for performance and cognitive benefits
→ Learn from the best athletes in various sports
→ The conversation also mentions the challenges of entering a saturated supplement market
→ The creation of Alpha Brain, a cognitive enhancer supplement by Onnit
→ He is the CEO and founder of Onnit, identifies a need for a single supplement that combined multiple ingredients for cognitive enhancement
→ He was having to take a variety of supplements
→ At the time, there were no other products that combined the ingredients in a way that was as effective as he desired
→ The company had experimented with other formulas such as hangovers but refocused on brain optimization as the right vertical for the company
→ And a whole lot more
Scott: All right. Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Scott Britton from the Competitive Edge podcast. And today I’m going to be your guest host. We are so lucky to have Aubrey Marcus on the show, the CEO and founder of On It, which is one of the fastest growing health and fitness optimization companies helping people reach, support, peak performance. Aubrey, thanks so much for coming on the show, man.
Aubrey: My pleasure. Glad to be on.
Scott: So for those people that aren’t necessarily familiar with on it, could you give us a quick 92nd description of the company, what you guys do?
Aubrey: Well, yeah, we really took the theme of total human optimization and figured out ways to provide people with the tools to achieve that. So supplementation because, you know, there’s an amazing array of nutrients that have a really wide variety of benefits all around the world that you just wouldn’t even want to try to get through your diet. But a lot of amazing earth grown nutrients that can affect performance like cognition. For our flagship alpha brain. So supplements are one category that functional foods, you know, getting the best protein, healthy fats like coconut oil, Himalayan salt, some basic staple foods that are really going to help you performance. That was the second aspect. And then the third aspect was, you know, different types of unconventional fitness equipment, kettlebells, ropes, steel clubs, maces, bags, you know, these things that work with the body additive, the kind of human market, the way it’s designed to work and the techniques as well as the implements to help you do that. And we really learned a lot of that from some of the best athletes that we’ve been working with in a variety of sports from, you know, Olympic skiers to make champions to football players, hockey players. A lot of these athletes are adapting these unconventional methods, and we really wanted to be the leader in that space.
Scott: It’s amazing, man. Steel clubs, I imagine happy hours at your office can get a little crazy.
Aubrey: Yeah, you know, it’s a little. It’s a little frisky in there sometimes.
Scott: All right, man. So, you know, sounds like you guys are providing optimization products across a slew of verticals. But I know you started with one product and that was in supplements and the supplement market as maybe I’m wrong, but how I perceived it was that incredibly saturated a ton of competitions. What what was going through your head when you were looking at this market and you were deciding whether or not you could compete in it?
Aubrey: Well, I had I identified a need. You know, I realize that for a cognitive supplement. Cognitive enhancer, you know, I was having to take a whole handful of a variety of supplements. And I learned this paradigm from my step mother, who founded a nutritional supplement company a long time ago. But, you know, for just cognition, you know, there is so many different ingredients that I was having to reach for. And just the sheer time and maybe my own laziness in doing it, I wouldn’t even do it half the time. I’d pick one or I’d just do it knowing that it it’s going to take me 5 minutes to get all the bottles out, dump out all the pills, take all the pills. So I realized that there is a need to really combine things around specific themes to make things really simple. So Alpha Brain was the first of those. On this question, am I going to Joe Rogan and, you know, really looking at all of these different supplements that you could take for the brain and combining them in a really intelligent way that was highly effective but still not.
Scott: So at the time, you didn’t there wasn’t any other products out there that were doing the job for you that were just one pill with everything you needed there.
Aubrey: The individual ingredients out there. Right. You know, so but nothing that had combined it in a way that was even close to as effective as I would prefer from making the combinations myself.
Scott: Got it, man. And was Alpha Brain your first experiment with creating a supplement product?
Aubrey: We had a couple other formulas that we were targeting towards hangovers and things like that, and that was kind of me earning the ropes. As far as the production element of it, you know, that certainly wasn’t the right vertical for us to be chasing our brain kind of refocused and refocused the company.
Scott: Awesome. And I love I’ve heard it before, but maybe people haven’t. Talk a little bit about the origin story of Alpha Brain and how you came up with this idea and first brought it to market.
Aubrey: Well, yeah. I mean, basically I was hanging out with Joe Rogan and I said, Joe, you know, what’s what is the, you know, supplement that you would prefer taking that you would really like to take and said, you know, I’d really like a new topic. I was like, all right, great. Because I was already as I mentioned, I was already working with my own nominations for that. And so I said, Oh, you know, I’ll get to work. So basically took a lot of the stuff that I was familiar with and I had a lot of experience taking took a lot of the ice from a tour that I saw in New York, Dr. Braverman, who put me through a bunch of tests and, you know, I learned a lot from him and then, you know, of course, with my stepmother. And then we started expanding that kind of medical team and basically came up with a working idea of what we thought when we got a sample of that and and we sent it out. And, you know, right off the bat, it wasn’t the it was the final form. But we knew we had some magic there because we could feel that spark our brains, light up and go, oh, wow, this is different. And, you know, a couple other things, too, that happened randomly. You know, we’d call each other the next day, like, were you were your dreams really out of control or that you had some crazy dream? Yeah, I did. So we found that, you know, we weren’t even targeting it. But acetylcholine, which is the main neurotransmitter that we’re targeting with the alpha brain, also regulates the REM dream state. So there’s some really interesting effects and things that we’ve had. We probably went through about six or seven revisions in that formula until we finally had a working formula. And then I poured every last set of my in the company into producing that first lot of pills. And we sold out out of our 20,000 Alpha brain pills within the first 36 hours of going live. I’m from the Rogan podcast, and fortunately I had another order, you know, coming right on the heels of that. And we’ve just grown, you know. Exponentially since then.
Scott: That’s absolutely amazing, man. So I’d love to kind of like codify this strategy that you, Chuck, where it seems like you found somebody who had an audience and who was influential and had a great relationship with their audience, asked them exactly what they wanted within the context of what you thought. There was a need in the market and then really kind of had this person help you create the product. Do you think that this is a strategy that people can replicate across different industries, across different verticals?
Aubrey: No doubt know. But I think choosing the choosing the person I think is really important because you have to have somebody who has great trust built up with their audience in the topic that specific to what you’re doing, you know? Because, you know, we work with a lot of big time professional athletes. It’s and truth of the matter is, they’re not that helpful for us in our business, our own audience. You know, it could be a big NFL football player or a big player. They have a lot of fans that listen to them, but they listen to them, you know, about hockey or about football, you know, and they don’t really trust them innately about any of these other topics. So when choosing that key person, I think it’s important that they have a really, you know, lively relationship with their customers. And I think podcasts are a great example of that. You know, the people who listen to podcasts, shows really feel like they know that person and they can weed out when they’re full of shit and when they’re not and they’re constantly able to reach that audience. So if you’re doing something like find someone that has a really close relationship with their audience, not necessarily the biggest name in the world, but someone who has an audience that really trust them.
Scott: Makes total sense, man. So I know I think, you know, a lot of people right now are listening to this and thinking, well, this is an awesome idea. There’s so many different people out there that I could talk to and maybe get to help me bring my product to market. But they don’t they might not necessarily know how to engage this person and get them interested in whatever idea that they had. What I’d love to hear is, you know, did you have a preexisting relationship with Joe? And if someone didn’t have an existing relationship with somebody like him who had a great audience, where it was also fit for the product, what advice you give that person to help engage that person and ultimately get them to support you?
Aubrey: Well, people like doing business with people they enjoy and they like. Now, that’s number one. So, you know, before you you know, I was friends with Joe prior to bringing this deal with him, but it was a few of that. I, you know, intentionally saw it. You know, it wasn’t like an accident. Like I just ran into him accidentally. You know, I set up an opportunity for us to meet, to talk about a different business deal. And it was a it was a valid business deal, and we ended up doing business with that. But at that point, we had a chance to meet and it was supposed to be a 30 minute meeting and ended up being a four hour meeting where we talked about super volcanoes and aliens, psychedelics and, you know, really had a kinship on that level. And, you know, we just had a friendship for several years before. And there is a slight business component to it, you know, just a pretty much standard podcast advertising deal for a different company I was working with. But you know, the friendship came first and then after that I think the next step is you got to really know your shit, you know, so you get a relationship and then prove that you really know what you’re doing. And if you get those two things together, you know, I think it’s really easy to to take the next step and develop something with that person support. So relationship and really no shit.
Scott: Yeah and and it did you Joe try the alpha brain product before marketing.
Aubrey: It was I tried to I tried I was the number one I was the first person who was the second person to try it.
Scott: So I look, that’s great. So you have the success with Joe and his podcast and a ton of orders coming in. You sell the first order. What happens next?
Aubrey: Well, we were in like 600 square feet at that point. And we went from, you know, five orders a day to 200 hours a day, you know, like overnight. So that was a scramble. And to be honest, the scramble has to a certain degree, continued even up to up to now, you know, where growth has been pushing our company. We’ve just scaling, scaling, scaling, trying to keep up with it, adding fuel to the fire, new products, new ideas, taking the same kind of model of combining ingredients together around a theme and then providing, you know, good clinical testing and everything else we can to support with that. But yeah, it’s it’s been it’s been a mad run. I mean, that first time we were still hand doing, you know, we didn’t have all that automated because we didn’t have a need for it. We had to just bring in all the resources we could. And fortunately I’d worked in Utah for a long time, so I had all of those resources readily available and we just kind of put out the put out the Horn of Plenty that sounded good and brought all the people to the game and just slowly got it alive.
Scott: Tell me a little bit about how you guys have used podcasts to grow because I mean, I’ve seen a ton of different ways. Supplement companies have tried to market to people like me that are interested in improving my health and fitness. But you guys are really the first people that have hit me up on a podcast and it seems like it’s worked pretty well for you.
Aubrey: Yeah, podcasting has been by far the most successful strategy, and I think it really the truth element of it. I mean, people have really highly tuned bullshit detectors now. And, you know, when you’re in front of your audience for 3 hours, you have an station, it’s really hard to keep on. And so I think people try to trap the individual on that podcast. And what we do is we don’t tell people in our case telling they’ll have some loose idea which product we want them to talk about. But for the most part, we just send them a box of stuff and say, Hey, what do you like? Talk about what you like. You know, because we have faith that in our array of products in our lineup, they’re going to find something that they like. And sometimes it’s a total surprise. Like we sent Adam Corolla boxes up and he ended up liking our jump rope. And our jump rope is like number 60 out of 63 on the most important products and you know, on its lineup or like fuck, I guess, you know, if you want to talk about a jump rope, he’s going to be really honest and passionate about that because he loved it. He’s an old boxer. Let’s let him talk about the jump rope. And that’s what he did it. And that was a successful campaign for us. Really just playing to the honesty of the situation, I think is it’s been really key and podcasting is the best venue for that. I mean, banner ads and, you know, placements in TV or commercials and all that, everything just kind of sounds a little false. It rings a little bit of pulse to the consumer, whereas podcasts are really allow for that authenticity to shine through. And that’s really what’s kind of given us the wind in our sails.
Scott: Totally, man. I mean, I absolutely agree that there’s something special about building a relationship with somebody and then hearing them genuinely recommend a product. I know that a lot of people don’t listen to Growth Actor TV as well as my podcast Competitive Edge. They’re incredibly metrics driven individuals where if they invest in a channel, they want to measure how that’s performing. And I’m curious, like as a business owner who’s and a lot of times relying upon the verbal connection of somebody talking about your product to the purchase on your website, how are you able to measure those conversions and the effectiveness of the podcast channel?
Aubrey: Yeah, there’s two ways. One way, use a coupon code, so use code Rogan at checkout and save 10% or whatever that is. Or you send them to a unique landing page. You know, on its long list is what we use for Jason Ellis. And there’s some leakage both ways that, you know, are going to kind of fudge the numbers a little bit, because obviously with any coupon code, it’s going to end up on coupon code sites. So people are going to use that. So there’s going to be a little fudge room there. And then for any kind of landing page like Omnicom slash Ellis, for example, there’s going to be people who just drop the end of that two on it as well. So in either scenario, there’s going to be some room for error, but it’ll give you a brilliant idea as to how effective it is. And especially with online sales like that, you can really get pretty accurate numbers.
Scott: Yeah, man, that makes a lot of sense. And, you know, I think that’s one of the things that’s cool is that you can account for growth, but there’s obviously there’s going to be people that hear your product for the seventh time. Right. And like. God, I got to try this stuff. Kind of like myself, who’s really excited to go out and try Alpha Brain. I’ve heard about you and Lewis Howes, I’ve heard about you and Joe Rogan show. And then, you know, at some point I was like, All right, I got to pull the trigger and find out for myself. And you’re probably not going to be able to measure that, but you’re hitting me so many times. That’s just effective, which is super cool.
Aubrey: Yeah. It’s just it’s just wearing down the resistance, you know, finally it’s funny. I mean, people have probably been over 80 on it commercials and I only one on that one day where they feel mentally sluggish or they really want to get in the gym and they’ll be like I screw it, I’m in, you know, and we get those converting every, you know, every many, many times. And I think that’s important.
Scott: Yeah, totally, man. So one of the things that I really like about you guys is. Your branding and how you position yourself. And you know, when I go to a lot of supplement sites, I feel like there’s like some sleazebag who doesn’t even know what’s in the ingredients that he’s selling people and is just really trying to take advantage. Me and I think you guys have done an incredibly well job training yourself in an industry that doesn’t necessarily have I mean, just the trust of a lot of people out there, Brian, buying products. Can you talk a little bit about how you guys have branded yourself and you know, why you think that’s so important for start ups that are listening to this?
Aubrey: Yeah. You know, I’m out giving a talk now and the talk is called truth is the new marketing. And really, for me, I think one of the big forces behind our success is our complete transparency. You know, we’re not perfect. We make mistakes, we screw up, but. From top down. We genuinely believe in the products we take all our products. We’re making every decision for the best interests of our customer. And when we grew up, we just say we screwed up. And and I think we’ve got an amazing amount of trust with our consumer because of both our advertising, our product integrity and how we handle things internally. It’s it becomes more of more than just a product we’re trying to sell. It becomes kind of a movement and and a group. It has this cohesion to it that’s pretty special. And so I think just kind of keeping it our guidestar of what’s the most authentic and honest way to present the information as really has really been beneficial. And I don’t think that’s what’s in the top priority list for a lot of other companies. You know, I think a lot of other companies, it’s, you know, how can we sell this product? And even from our money back, you know, we don’t even make people send back their product back if they don’t like it to get their money back. You know, if you buy any 30,000 of our of our pills and you don’t like them, you can just tell us you can send us a text, an email, whatever, or I was on the phone with. Great. What’s your account number? We will refund your money. Believe me, he does that, you know, because it’s part of a game involved in the game is you buy something, you don’t like it and you got to send it back to get your money back. Well, nobody sends stuff back, really. I mean, very few people do. And so you end up getting a bad taste in your mouth. You don’t really like that company anymore because it’s a game. You know, they realize that most people aren’t going to send it back to their guy. It’s not necessarily dishonest, but it’s just it’s a game that they’re taking advantage of people with. Same with those money back rebates, you know, like they know that 45% of the people get the rebates. So they’re only, I see giving up $50 off, you know, so we just don’t do that shit. You know, we just straight up from top to bottom. And I think that’s really a breath of fresh air for a lot of consumers.
Scott: Totally, man. I just had an experience at 24 hour fitness not to call anybody out with like three day, three day guest pass. Come on. Like, come on in. And I came in, I was like all excited to get my work out some kind of like nomadic at the moment. And they were like, Oh yeah, you actually have to like, show me like a, you know, a rent rental slip so that nowhere in the thing that I signed up for online where they gave me their email address like, oh, you know, you’re just visiting the city. Like, we don’t want to give you a free workout and I’ll never go to a 24 hour fitness again for my gym because of that. I mean, they lost me for life because of that lack of transparency. And I just think it’s so shortsighted. And I really love the approach that you guys are taking for not only creating one time purchase customers, but these are people they’re going to buy your stuff for life, man.
Aubrey: Yeah. Yeah, that’s the idea. You know, it’s. Not worrying about these kind of short term tricks to get a squeeze, a little bit of money or squeeze a little bit of margin out. It’s no how do you treat people right? And if you if you do that, you know, you’re going to get customers that are going to stick with you through thick and thin.
Scott: Totally, man. So it’s I know that you guys probably have some loyal, passionate fans. And it’s so amazing, especially when you have a product that people can really feel on a daily basis enhancing their life. Has there been any cool ways that you’ve been able to kind of like create community or galvanize these people to grow your brand?
Aubrey: Yeah. I think, you know, we put in a really cool loyalty program, which is some combination of Foursquare and, you know, other things where people get badges for what they purchase and then they get points and the points are obviously redeemable. But we’ve also went this free like custom embroidered patches for certain levels that they can put on their gym bag or their gear or things like that. So, you know, it goes all the way up to the legend patch, which is a very exclusive club and they get to do like Skype calls me or I’ll answer their questions and and stuff like that. So really trying to, you know, build that community and we’re going to continue to do that. You know, it’s always been strong and we put as much stuff out there for free as possible as far as information and and things like that. And I think that, you know, that’s always appreciated as well. You know, I mean, I’d like for people to be able to come to on it and not buy anything, still have a positive experience. You learn techniques, tools, tips, you know, things that they can use in their life to benefit them, even if they never give us a penny, you know? I mean, it’s it’s about more than the money. It’s about really just helping people get the most out of what they’re trying to do here on It’s beautiful Blue Rock. We got a chance to go home.
Scott: Yeah, baby, let’s let’s talk about kind of the future right now. I mean, it seems like you guys have really struck a chord with a lot of people. You’ve, you know, used the podcast to grow in as you as you kind of have an outlook here at the prospectus for the future outside of creating continue to create amazing innovative products. Are there any growth channels that you’re evaluating that you’re excited about that you think might potentially be a good fit for you guys moving forward?
Aubrey: Yeah. I think one of the things that we’re really looking at is the unconventional fitness space and not only just selling the products, but providing, you know, places for people to train and really creating a movement similar to what CrossFit is doing with different movements, unconventional training, lower risk of injury, but still that kind of tribal, competitive community that they built up. Skokie maybe, but they do a lot of things well. But I think there’s a take a lot of what they’re doing well and provide another opportunity. So, you know, we’re looking to be another major name in that space and, you know, a place to go who like that kind of puts your start up on the book, you know, everybody working together kind of mentality, but without trips to the doctor, hopefully.
Scott: Yeah. And that’s that’s super compelling and cool. And, you know, I did take a look on the website and see like some of the things like the steel clubs that you mentioned and all kinds of cool stuff. So I’m really excited to see where that goes. So tell me, man, there’s a lot of people that are probably listening to this and thinking, wow, this is a really compelling way to think about creating and selling a physical product. What would what advice would you give to these people who are potentially interested in exploring this route?
Aubrey: Well, I think. I think there’s a couple of things to think about, and that’s probably with Justin. You’ve heard many, but you know about something that you yourself. Would use everyday used really frequently. You know, not that you would use, just that you would actually go out and buy and use. You know what I mean? Mm hmm. And if you create something like that, I mean, I think that that’s really crucial, because if you’re not going to be you got passionate about yourself, I think you’re going to have a hard time. I’m selling it not only to investors, but to other people. So I think that’s the first step. And then, you know, the next step, I think really trying to figure out how you’re going to get this product out. You know, I mean, because I’ve got other pretty good product ideas and things, but. Finding that person like Joe Rogan or finding, you know, whatever channel that you have that you really think you can reach an audience with. I think that’s probably the next concern. So find something you love and then figure out how you’re going to get it out because these things just don’t, you know, regular, traditional advertising models, the margins are slim. You know, maybe you can get the leverage right. And you can get something to work. Maybe you can. Yeah. You know, I that can constantly like build that critical mass I think is really invaluable. And if not, you know, looking at the podcast advertising model, if I had to start with no contacts, you know, that’s the way I would go is just, you know, finding small podcasts and working out small view of those podcasts that don’t even have advertisers on on there yet being like, I’ll be your first ever, you know, I’ll give you 50 bucks. And a lot of these podcasters will be pumped just to have an advertiser, you know, because it makes them feel like a legit podcast, you know. So really going deep into that channel because they’re going to have 5000, 500, 1000, 10,000, whatever that number is. Really loyal fans. Sure, it may not be Joe Rogan, 10 million downloads a month. But, you know, starting that way I think is a great way to start.
Scott: Yeah, it’s something that I think a lot of people haven’t really explored and is just going to become more prevalent and more effective with all of these people just coming out with podcasts. And and I guess another question that I have is really along the lines of like for people that just want to think about growth and think about like maybe their startup is has the first customer, they have ten customers. I mean, did you guys just do podcasts? Did you did you try a lot of different things? What’s kind of like your mindset?
Aubrey: We tried everything. We did some print advertising. We did traditional radio spots. We did some TV stuff. We did SEO work, you know, paid SEO. We did pretty much everything across the board. And some things worked a little bit. Some things were a lot things it tended to work a lot were for us or for the podcast. But, you know, obviously investing in natural SEO certainly is a very valuable investment, you know, more so than just throwing up some pay per click on on Gmail. And other thing that worked really well for us is we did retargeting or remarketing through Google. So any time anybody comes through our site, it tags them as someone who comes to our site and then all the site partners that have ad spaces available for remarketing, they’ll see on it over and over again. And so that’s really widened our net as far as people who come to maybe check it, then they’re going to see on it popping up on all their favorite sites. It’s going to give them that repetition. It might bring them back. So that’s been really helpful as well. And other than that, just treating your customers as good as possible.
Scott: Yeah, baby, what’s what’s the toughest part of the business been?
Aubrey: No. I think the toughest part of the business is waiting for the things, you know, that are out of my control and, you know. So some of those things are those unforeseen lightning bolts that come through that you just can’t expect. A shipment of products that comes where the packaging has hasn’t sealed properly, you know, and you’re like, Oh shit, you know, what the hell is this? How did this happen? And you learn these things. You know, we’re a young company, we’re a couple of years older. So so dealing with those things that you haven’t been able to properly plan for, you know, those, that’s just because you got to be flexible. And I think the key thing is just to be fully honest. And then there’s other things out of our control too. Like, you know, we’re doing a lot of clinical trial results and testing and you know, you set up a good study and you try and and just find that correctly. But, you know, sometimes you get exactly what you’re looking for and sometimes there’s some surprises in there as well. And you have to go back and figure out what you did. And it’s it’s an expensive and it’s a long process. And, you know, so I guess I’d say it’s just the learning curve of, you know, exploring these new avenues as a as a new company. You know, that’s part of the fun of it. You know, it’s part of the challenge.
Scott: Jim. And if you knew exactly what to be, exactly what to do at all moments probably wouldn’t be any fun.
Aubrey: Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. Sometimes that was like the exact thing, but. But yeah, it’s. It’s all good. It’s a part of the process.
Scott: Cool, brother. So the last question that we always ask on growth actor TV is what is the best advice you have for a startup looking to grow if you had to give just one piece of advice?
Aubrey: You know, I think I think finding that finding in the kind of matron, you know, would be for me that that one ally, I think, can really galvanize whatever it is. You know, I think for me, cultivating that kind of relationship with whoever that is is really, really helpful. And, you know, honest doesn’t audit. You know, me and Joe could start a comic book, you know, or whatever it was. And if we were passionate about it, we loved it. I think that business would be successful, you know, because other people would share our passion. So I think not only building your own audience, but finding somebody who also has an audience that you can kind of team up with. And I think that’s that that’s really the shortcut to test other where there’s other ways to do it and, you know, don’t, you know, doesn’t mean stop but if you can find that key ally and be generous you know out men the piece that that matters to both of you and then you know you’re going to take a piece of the pie way faster because I feel like we you know, that was a big shortcut, like a big game of Chutes and Ladders. And we got to we got to take one of those big shortcuts because of that relationship. And it’s been a great ride since.
Scott: I love it, man. I think that’s excellent advice. If people want to find out more about you, about on it, what’s the best place for them to go?
Aubrey: We’re strong in social media. So Facebook.com slap bash on it, lab is on it. We got Instagram we got every make myself my my my handles at warrior poets us so Facebook Twitter it’s all consistent I can keep up and check out with the happenings and of course the website and is oh and it dot com.
Scott: Love it man. All right. Thanks so much for your time today, man. It’s been awesome.
Get the strategies, motivation, and in-depth interview with all the details every week!