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The Whalies: Innovation, Inspiration, and a Rockin’ DTC Party

The Whalies: Innovation, Inspiration, and a Rockin’ DTC Party

Last Updated:  
May 3, 2024

If you thought about coming to The Whalies, but then missed out on the opportunity to snag a ticket, you might really be suffering from FOMO this week. 

Sorry, Jordan. You missed it. You should definitely get on the waitlist for The Whalies 2025. We’re not sure how Daniela and the crew are going to top this year’s event, but they will… 

On that note, some big and huge things happened at The Whalies, and if you missed out - here’s your main stage recap! 

Some highlights include: 

  • Announcing our brand new Triple Whale
  • A fireside chat with Harley Finkelstein, President of Shopify
  • Insightful presentations from brands like True Classic, Milkbar, Hostage Tape, Black Opal LLC, and more!
  • Practical advice from Agencies and Partners like Gorgias, Crunchlabs, adQuadrant, Sendlane, and Sharma Brands
  • Delicious snackies and a freakin’ ball pit

If you weren’t one of the nearly 2 million views of The Whalies on X, then you can still catch up on all of the video sessions linked here, with content from our main stage (second stage coming soon!). 

Lots of fantastic gems. Maybe you were there and forgot a notebook - we’ve got you! 

Meet the New Triple Whale

The main event of The Whalies was when we announced exactly where we’re headed with Triple Whale, and if you missed it, here’s the vid:

In short? Triple Whale has pushed what is possible forward. With the new version of Triple Whale, we’re bringing something new to the market that didn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. This tool is zero-to-one, and the best news is that it will just continue to get better. Every day, AI is getting more intelligent, and so will Triple Whale. Imagine having an AI assistant that is trained on your data, and how powerful that will be? It’s here. And it’s awesome. 

Harley Finkelstein’s Non-Obvious Brand Strategies 

Arguably the second-most exciting part of The Whalies was having Harley Finkelstein, President of Shopify, sit down with Maxx Blank for a fireside chat. Harley spoke passionately about brands employing non-obvious strategies to reach their ideal customers. So often, brands try to reach everyone and then end up reaching no-one. 

Harley gave a few examples of products that are non-obvious, but once they hit the market, they make total sense. First: rhode skin making a phone case that perfectly fits the rhode lip tint. The people using this lip tint are often taking mirror selfies, and a phone is featured in the reflected image. What better way to display the lip gloss itself than on a phone case? 

Image: rhode skincare

 As Harley said, it’s not obvious for a beauty brand to make a phone case. But the minute this product was released, many media outlets raved about how genius it is. Now everyone that uses this phone case is a walking billboard for rhode, and many other brands are already looking to replicate it. 

As a tea-drinking (and selling) former DJ, Harley also just happens to be the exact target market for LaFeeca’s DJ Pour Over Kettle. In his words: “it makes the art of brewing a delight and speaks directly to the things I personally love: design, tea, and DJing.” 

Image: LaFeeca

Again, creating a product like this is non-obvious. A tea or coffee drinker needs a nice kettle, but only a certain percentage are DJs or music enthusiasts. However, this product stands out because it fully leans-in to their extremely niche target demographic. It’s difficult to create a net-new product in 2024, so innovation can focus on improving previously-existing ones, or to create a new design that sets them apart to consumers. Even in extremely crowded markets, the path to success is always to deeply understand your customer. 

The Whalies: Main Stage Magic

Besides the unveiling of Moby and Harley’s unobvious strategies, The Whalies stage was graced with plenty of interesting presentations and panels we’ll briefly summarize here - but you’re welcome to click through to watch them all!

The Data Platform DTC Disruptors Need with Christina Springer Owen of True Classic

Christina is the Director of Marketing Science & Analytics at True Classic, a $250 million dollar bootstrapped brand whose growth story is the envy of any and all DTC companies looking to make their mark. Christina presented an informative talk about why setting your data strategy up for success will make everything about running a successful business easier. In her presentation, Christina outlined how a poorly-managed data platform means executive decision makers can’t make the right decisions, because they don’t have access to the right information. As the company gets bigger and bigger, more and more integrations get pulled in, data is simply everywhere, and platforms aren’t talking to each other. You can build your own data warehouse and schema from the ground up, or you can use Triple Whale (up to you ;)). 

Targeted vs. Typical: Evolution of a 20 Year Old Email Playbook (with Sendlane and Obvi)

Jimmy Kim, founder of Sendlane, and Ron Shah, CEO of Obvi, take the old ecommerce playbook and toss it in the trash. This talk evaluates how to measure success beyond just the clicks! When you watch this presentation, you’ll learn about the power of contextual data, how you can apply that data today, and how to generate more revenue as a digital marketer. Jimmy and Ron tag team the presentation to present three different lessons: 1) your audience will tell you how they want to be sold to, 2) retention marketing, not email and SMS marketing, and 3) send to the right people in the right channel. The lessons presented in this talk are useful for any and all DTC businesses looking to scale their businesses!

Women in Ecommerce: Founder Panel with Deepa Gandhi (Dagne Dover), Desiree Rogers (Black Opal LLC), and Stephanie Liu (Levitate Foundry)

This is an amazing panel featuring women founders who have forged their own path in male-dominated industries. With a peek into the backgrounds of these founders, we discover that the path to entrepreneurship is varied and diverse. The panel discussed how it was difficult to gain investors for their companies because it was a majority male crowd. As they worked through the challenging times, they’ve since found that building a network, finding people who are like minded and supportive, and being better women as founders to the people who work for them is the secret to building a positive culture at their companies. 

Manufactured Virality with Noah Tucker of Social Snowball

Going viral can be magic for a DTC brand. While it might seem like it’s all down to chance, Noah Tucker from Social Snowball explains how leveraging creators to achieve growth can be the secret sauce to making your brand recognizable. He outlines the difference between Legacy and Modern Affiliates, and how they’re very different channels. Modern Affiliates (like creators, ambassadors, influencers, and even customers) can be utilized to “strike gold” with a viral video that can drive your brand in a new direction. Using manufactured short-form virality is more predictable than it used to be, and Noah outlines exactly how it works in this presentation!

How to Sell Out in a Way People Love with Greg Dalby of Milkbar

Subscriptions and memberships present an opportunity to bring people back or keep them coming back to making purchases. Milkbar’s mission is to become the most beloved dessert brand in the world, and they love to bring new products to market. They know they have a great brand and a great product, so they wanted to figure out how to create a way for loyal customers to have a monthly membership that feels authentic and exciting. They made a First Bite Club where customers get a spot at the tasting table with monthly deliveries of products before they hit the official menu. It’s a win-win, because customers get an exclusive product, and Milkbar gets all of the valuable feedback. 

Crafting Iconic DTC Brands with Jeff Raider (Harry’s Razors & Warby Parker)

In Maxx’s sit-down with Jeff Raider, they discussed what it takes to craft a universally-identifiable DTC brand. He outlined the way that Warby Parker set out to disrupt the glasses industry by reinventing the status quo. People hadn’t really bought glasses online, but they found a way to get to know their customers really well, and create a product that they needed and wanted. In a similar vein, Harry’s Razors was built from an anecdote about how difficult it was to buy razors in a pharmacy. There’s lots of inspiring content for brand builders in this chat! 

Limited Supply LIVE from The Whalies

Nik Sharma, CEO of Sharma Brands and co-host of the Limited Supply Podcast took his podcast to The Whalies stage, as he discussed how the personal care space is being shaken up with Bryan Cano, VP of Marketing at NOOD. Bryan discussed how he spent $500,000 in ads on TikTok with only a reported 0.5 ROAS. Using Triple Whale, they were able to create their own MTA model and discovered that TikTok was actually generating a comparable amount of awareness to Meta. Listen in to see why and how they doubled-down. Bryan’s lesson? You can’t ever trust what the platform itself tells you (you need true attribution). 


This was only a tiny bit of what happened at The Whalies, and it was pretty darn cool! And maybe next time, you can get yourself to The Whalies next year to ingest all of these beautiful nuggets of insights live and in person! Who knows, Harley might even stop by.  

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