22-year-old DTC Marketing Maven Nik Sharma Urges Brands to Keep it Simple

Headshot of Nick Gardner

At just 15 years old, Nik was already handling social strategy for celebrities like Pitbull and Priyanka Chopra. Now at age 22, he’s already built up a long list of accomplishments. As the former Director of DTC at hint, Nik helped grow the brand’s direct-to-consumer business which, in 2018, accounted for nearly 40% of their $100 million in sales. He’s also previously built audiences for Complex Media, Bustle Media Group and Refinery 29 – and most recently served as Head of D2C for VaynerMedia. On this episode, Nik shares what he learned from those experiences, what he’s up to now and how DTC is more than just a business model, it’s a way of truly owning the customer experience. Listen in to hear which brands are killing it in direct-to-consumer marketing and truly resonating with Gen Z.

Heard on this Episode:

Adweek: What’s one thing you’ve learned from leading DTC social strategies since the age of 15?

Nik Sharma: “A good DTC brand, their customers are their product planners for the future. They’ll tell you what they want from you. They’ll tell you what’s working, what’s not working, what they like and don’t like. Your customers are your best feedback loop of what to do next and how to go about it. A lot of times marketing gets so analytical and so numbers-focused like ‘what’s the sentiment analysis of this post?’ It’s just too much. And when marketing gets to a point where you’re talking more about data and less about the experience to where your end consumer can’t understand what you’re talking about, then it’s just not gonna work. It’s just got to be super relatable and transparent.”

What DTC brands or industries are resonating most with Gen Z?

“What I think is really interesting is telemedicine, like Hims, Hers, Roman, Rory, The Pill Club, Cureology, right? They’re all creating these experiences where you don’t have to interact with a doctor in person. You don’t have to go out and stand in line at a pharmacy. You don’t have to be embarrassed about going to a doctor and admitting an issue or a problem you have. I think that’s going to be a huge space that takes off.”

As a Gen Zer yourself, what would you say is working in marketing to Gen Z?

“If you can create content that’s so good that they don’t look like ads, you’re going to win.”

“It’s just better storytelling, right? We never ran ads to a customer that hadn’t seen us before that said, come try this, get 20% off, click here now. It was always how can we introduce this person to a story that gets them so invested that they personally want to try the brand? And that’s been consistent across any brand I work with. It’s just how do we create this desire from the consumer to want to try the brand rather than from the brand trying to sell something to the consumer. And there are many different ways to do it, but the best way to do it is just don’t force a sale and make ads that don’t necessarily look like ads. If you can create content that’s so good that they don’t look like ads, you’re going to win.”

Nick is a video producer at Adweek and host of the Gen ZEOs podcast.