Inspired by his heroes, rapper Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, Christian Johnston was motivated to become an inspiration of his own. He launched lifestyle jewelry brand The GLD Shop with the aim of connecting people to their heroes through accessories.
Christian’s success in finding an audience for his product hinged on the right collaborations—first with hometown heroes and now through partnerships with large brands like Marvel, the NBA, and the NFL.
Christian joined the Shopify Masters podcast team to dive deeper into some of the partnerships and marketing strategies that put The GLD Shop on the map.
How to grow your business with collaborations and partnerships
With so many different marketing strategies to consider, creator endorsements and partnerships with other brands are just some of the ways you can start growing brand awareness and increasing sales.
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1. Establish a clear vision
It’s important to be confident in the messaging behind your brand before gifting your products to celebrities or creators you hope to work with. “From day one we set out to create [jewelry] of great quality, at all the different price points, even at the entry level, which is something that was unique to us in the early days,” Christian says.
Once Christian was clear about his vision for The GLD Shop, he gifted Wiz Khalifa some of his merchandise to wear onstage. Wiz Khalifa was able to connect with the brand because of its clear vision, to work your hardest and change the game. The rapper went on to post about the brand to his large Instagram following and bring a lot of exposure to the business.
2. Create a story people believe in
After The GLD Shop was introduced to Khalifa’s following, it was up to the team to convince this new audience to stick around and become paying customers. This became a possibility thanks to personal and consistent brand storytelling.
Christian says his jewelry appeals to customers of all ages and professions. “If you’re an athlete, artist, entrepreneur, whatever it is, you wanna be great at it,” Christian says. “At The GLD Shop you can start off with a little piece or pendant, and maybe as you get promoted or you graduate you go up to the next level of jewelry and keep growing with the brand.”
Celebrity endorsements are great exposure, but Christian suggests sticking to your core practices and not straying from your brand values when you gain a new following. “When you do get someone at that level posting for you [like Wiz Khalifa], I think it’s really important to stay on brand and not change, because their audience will flow to you,” Christian says. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. If you got them in the first place then you probably did something right.”
3. Pay attention to details
A huge part of turning any endorsement into a long-term partnership or collaboration is to hone in on your craft and ensure all of the small details are ironed out.
“We find little ways to add details to [each piece] just to show the customer that even as we grow … we care about all parts of the process, and all parts of the product,” Christian says.
Having more eyes on your company means you should be taking a meticulous look at all of your products and ensuring the quality remains the same as you expand.
4. Work methodically, keep track of data, and stay organized
Before entering into partnerships, larger brands will want to ensure your finances are sound and that you understand the full production process from start to finish. “The key was being hands-on in production from day one,” Christian says.
Christian knew the creative and production side of the business extremely well, and was organized financially so he could appeal to the larger brands and corporations. “They will always want to know that you can report your finances accurately and timely, they’ll want to see market spend, a forecast of what SKUs you’re going to make over what period of time, and how you plan to get there,” Christian says. Your potential partners will want to see your release schedules, and understand the unique value that you can provide for them too.
5. Lean into your strengths
It’s important to keep the competition in mind when dealing with established companies. “They’re a bigger entity, and can go to a hundred different brands that probably do something somewhat similar to what you do or reach a similar customer as you, so you have to provide them some type of value,” Christian says.
Another key element to securing licensing deals is recognizing the value your brand brings to the table that another company may lack. “We’re agile, we’re a smaller business, and we could do things that are culturally relevant that oftentimes bigger entities have a harder time doing because they’re bigger and it’s harder to move quickly,” Christian says.
When it comes to securing endorsements, licensing deals, or partnerships, it’s important to stick to your brand message and remember the unique value you bring to the table.
Tune in to the full Shopify Masters podcast episode to discover more of The GLD Shop’s partnership advice and how it continues to give its audience new and fresh designs that keep them coming back for more.