Today's episode features Cody Levine, co-founders of Twice toothpaste. Cody shares with us how he was inspired by his dentist dad's work and his mission to bring dental care to underserved communities [2:35]. How his family passion turned into his purpose which led to the creation of Twice [6:35]
Cody then digs into the real problem they're trying to solve at Twice, getting people to brush their teeth more often [8:58] This directly links to Twice having two toothpaste and is at the same time a way to differentiate themselves from the competition [11:00] DTC has been great to create that feedback loop but Twice is now looking at creating an omnichannel strategy [12:31]. Cody tells us about their experience with their first retail partner MALIN + GOETZ [13:59].
We finally wrap up the podcast with how he sees the future of Twice and what strategy they have in place for retention [21:25]
Harvey [00:00:14] Welcome to the Blueprint Work in Progress podcast. I'm Harvey Hodd, the co-founder and CEO Blueprint. Today we're chatting to Cody Levine, co-founder and chief of Brand at Twice, Twice are a DTC toothpaste brand transforming how we all take care of our teeth. Twice are built with a social mission at their core. How you doing? Cody?
Cody [00:00:34] Great, Harvey. Thanks for having me.
Harvey [00:00:35] No problem. It's great to chat. So firstly, for our listeners who don't have a ton of context on Twice. How would you describe Twice in your own words?
Cody [00:00:44] Twice we launched about just a little over a year and a half ago as a direct-to-consumer oral care company. We make better for you toothpaste. We want to inspire people to take better care of their oral hygiene that starts of brushing twice a day. It's the simple basics, fundamentals that we were taught as a kid. We're trying to take a bit of a different approach to get people excited to brush.
Harvey [00:01:04] Cool, ok. I was going to say, like, it's not historically like a sexy category. And I guess one is completely not completely owned, but revolves around a handful of incumbents, I guess.
Cody [00:01:19] Yeah. Yeah. The category is dominated by benefits, big players. You know, you walk down the aisle and you see on the shelf you've got 10 different options within one brand. They've kind of separated themselves and create a different SKU's. And we took an approach, say, ok, well, what if we took a formulation and created this kind of all in one. It whiten your teeth, it's got sensitivity Relief. Then we have these vitamins, antitoxins and aloe vera for overall mouth health. And our brand really stands for bridging the gap between the mouth and the body. It's a whole world that hasn't really been talked about yet. But this oral systemic connection between the mouth and the body is really exciting place for us to be.
Harvey [00:01:59] So I guess a couple of things on that, I guess initially there is element. So we chatted to eva at Maude the other day. The DTC sexual wellness brand. And I think it was really interesting where it was an industry that was stagnant and it was so vast, but that was no like real education, which I guess you touched on there. And there was no real kind of human touch shuttle on there or actual brands. And then you also kind of like your brand, is at the forefront of pretty much everything you do. Very clean aesthetic, very clear tone of voice. And that, just to touch on it, your background is in marketing and advertising and strategy. I know you work for. Is it BBDO with some of the world's best brands. How how did that kind of shape you moving into Chief of Brand at Twice.
Cody [00:02:49] I started, I cut my teeth in advertising and brand strategy and I walked away from the experience, really understanding why brands exist and a product is out there for a reason. And you have to connect emotionally. BBDO has done an incredible job forever since the Mad Men days, selling really rich stories and connecting very emotionally. I started to really understand brand ethos and archetypes and personality and the role of a brand and culture and ultimately how you can impact a consumer's world and a consumer's life and add value as a product and as a brand. So leaving that world always got me excited to start my own company and build my own brand. Understand? OK, what role do we play in the world and how can we how can we help bring a better world to the future?
Harvey [00:03:40] Sure. ok. And that is clear. I think how that trajectory has progressed with Twice. I'm not the genesis of Twice was very much built on your volunteer mission. You went on with the Global Foundation, a foundation started by your parents for dental care for underserved communities very powerful. Inherently. And so take me through that, because I guess that's a really key point in starting kind of your life's work.
Cody [00:04:07] My brother and I were in business together. We grew up around the smile. Our dad is a dentist in New York City. And our parents together have started two oral care companies in the last twenty five years all around teeth whitening and innovation. And so their last company, they started, they launched a nonprofit. It brings full-service dentistry to underserved communities. And what started as a family passion brought us all together. We're super close. I basically left my apartment last weekend and I'm now living home and this is our headquarters. But these missions was the first time in our life that we had really seen the emotional side of what our family does when our parents committed their life to what our dad as a career commited his life to. And that was the power of a smile. Yeah, that was how through dentistry you are able to change someone's life. Julian and I, my brother, we didn't go to dental school, but nonetheless, this mission, we fell in love with dentistry as a profession and the impact that it can have on people. And we had patients walking into the clinic in physical pain, emotional pain around their smile. Not being able to be treated. They don't have access to care and they walk out with newfound confidence. New life, new energy. I mean, we had a woman, Katherine, come in a few years back and she lost all of her teeth, her ex-husband. Domestic abuse knocks out her teeth. And she told us that she hadn't been on a date with a guy in eight years since she divorced him. And she gets this big, beautiful smile and she gets out of the chair, Harvey, and she says, I'm back, back, back. And that was it.
Harvey [00:05:42] Incredibly inspiring.
Cody [00:05:44] Beyond and it hit us so deep that our family passion really turned into our purpose to in some way find our way into the family. Because my dad likes to joke that somehow we navigated not going to dental school for eight years, but are in the dental industry. So, yeah, it all came full circle for us.
Harvey [00:06:04] Just hearing that firsthand is incredible. And that kind of makes me think about when we're touching on the incumbents and their strategies that don't show any side of this. They don't tell any sort of story. Actually, it's far more powerful than just toothpaste as such. And then leading on from that, the genesis with your voluntary mission, you spent about 18 months then building the brand, formulating the products like building the strategy. What were the learnings there? I guess it was the first time doing that.
Cody [00:06:35] We walked away from the mission after the first and second year and we said we need to do something about this. And we knew we wanted to start a product company. Our parents had made actually toothpaste prior. And we said, let first look at the industry. And we identified toothpaste as a product that didn't have a ton of innovation. We can be creative on flavors. We can elevate the experience through packaging and design. And then we started digging ingredients and we said we have the opportunity, create a better product, because what we've been using our entire life, unfortunately, is filled with unnecessary and harmful ingredients. And then on the flip side of that, you've got the all natural organic space, which sounds great. I'm all for a healthier lifestyle, cleaner labels, organic food. But in dentistry and in oral care, you need certain active ingredients. Similarly like skin care, similarly in personal care and deodorant. And we saw an opportunity to say, ok, well, toothpaste needs to be clean and clinical. And we spent 18 months formulating from scratch with custom flavors, with a French flavor house to really do a 2.0 on a very traditional product that people don't think Twice about. Pun intended.
Harvey [00:07:49] Ok. Yes. Super interesting, I guess. Well, there's quite a few elements, in fact. Firstly, I think when we touched on the social mission, kind of at the heart of everything you do that bleeds through not just in terms of doing good, but also ingredients and brands and pretty much everything, I guess, that you do when you're saying that with the actual formulations, etc. And then when you say like traditional products that you reimagined, one of the key things, I think that was Twice in the way that looking at it in times of day and night, as least when I was when I kind of came across you guys I thought was super interesting, is I never seen before, but also just trying to understand. So what was the thinking behind that and the strategy like? Is it again, just really to get an education, as you said earlier? And I think that was a crazy statistic about how many American families just don't clean their teeth twice a day.
Cody [00:08:48] Yes. In our research, we found that 100 million Americans, a third of the population, do not brush their teeth twice a day. Which is pretty alarming. Oral care and oral hygiene is quite neglected. And we started asking ourselves why. Something's wrong. The system's broken. People don't brush properly. Part of it was, OK, I'm going to go to bed and maybe I'm tired or whatever I'm intoxicated and I forget. And so the simple concept of brushing twice a day, it's intrinsic. Everyone knows it. But if we could help improve the statistic, we thought we could have something. And then we dig a little deeper into the motives. Ok, maybe they don't understand the ramifications of not brushing twice a day. What goes below the surface? Right. And how does neglecting oral hygiene turn into larger health problems, which has been something where we're embarking on in terms of storytelling. But the name Twice came out of a very. My brother is a good namer. He's named our parents companies in the past. We had three or four stupid names. And then we finally struck in one day was like, let's just call it Twice, like brush twice a day. There's two flavors, one was more invigorating for the morning and one was more charming for the night. And, you know, we wanted to bring a feeling and a sense to the experience that you will look forward to. That's that's kind of where Twice was born.
Harvey [00:10:16] Ok. Makes complete sense. Alarming figures. To be honest. One hundred million, I guess you and I would just think. Well, obviously, that's protocol. Ok. And then that I'm going to storytelling became or is the root of everything you do. Like it was that one of the ways you start to break through to like from day one going up against these incumbents, is that one of the ways you start to differentiate and build your initial community? Because I can just imagine, like going up against some of these players straight away. I know. Differentiate a little touch on the direct-to-consumer model straight off the bat. But also, I like I imagine you need more. And it must be so tough.
Cody [00:10:58] At first, coming out with two different flavors was definitely unique. And we were able to market that, which was definitely great for for early adopters to find something different for us. We also wanted to take a responsible approach to our formulation and our products, which I think also started. People started getting people to think differently about their oral care products. That's been happening in personal care in every other category, in oral care, as always, kind of a little further behind the toothbrushing industry in our category is different. You know, Quip has paved the way for their own care products and a slew of other amazing brands. And for us, having certification and knowing that you can trust our formulation that's formulated by a dentist and taking that more health and wellness focus approach, I think was refreshing for people because the options in the aisle, mass market, they're not necessarily there. That was definitely early on, even the idea of routine. Right. Everyone has a routine in the morning and in the night, and it definitely got people really excited. Oh, I love this in the morning and I love this one at night.
Harvey [00:12:11] I totally agree. And then I guess that was excelerated, that initial community build, that initial breakthrough, via a DTC model because inherently a retail led industry was that always just your thinking like we're going to build our community here and we're going to understand our customers. How did you think about that from day one?
Cody [00:12:32] Yeah. From day one. You know, we always knew we wanted to learn quick iterate, get immediate feedback, create that cycle. Because product market fit is you think you might have it from the beginning and you might have to tweak some things. We launched at a at a nine dollar price point and currently on our website we're not at nine dollar price point, we're more accessible. So we wanted to control the experience and we wanted to really get to know our customers and start to identify who really relates and create a great feedback loop, which we've done. And we love that. And we're able to iterate quickly. DTC has been great. And in our next phase of the business, an omni channel strategy is how we like to think.
Harvey [00:13:17] Yeah, that's great. Then to touch on on the next point of how does that strategy continue? Because I think we've seen a traditional DTC playbook is becoming more almost not on a launch pad. It becomes a way to accelerate understanding in those consumer data sets and then build really great brand equity, really great communities to then kind of cherry pick those partnerships, start at the retail expansion. I know, as we touc hed on earlier, very briefly about the Malin+Goetz last year and how that partnership made sense. How has that evolved? H ow did that come about and how are you seeing that progressing?
Cody [00:13:53] Yeah. Malin+Goetz, they were our first retail partner. Andrew Matthew are our leaders in health and wellness and beauty and in retail that we met them and they loved our products and they said, hey, we want to carry you in retail was not even anywhere in our sights. And we said, yeah, let's test it out. And it kind of started getting us thinking about how we can go to retail. You know, we were talking to a bunch of leaders from big DTC brands, Harry's, Warby, and the resounding feedback was if they could have done something differently, they would have gone to retail sooner. Malin+Goetz was great. They have an amazing brand. So, you know, brand alignment was always really important for us, especially with DTC, owning our brand and being able to build our community in a certain way. You're always so precious over your baby when you're an entrepreneur, but you have to enable yourself to identify the right partnerships and the right type of distribution that it really makes sense for you. We took a slowish approach to figuring it out. And Andrew Matthew and Malin+Goetz, have been great. And they've kind of led us into our next phase.
Harvey [00:15:02] OK. So that was the first step into offline retail. You'd imagine an affluent, educated, modern, possibly urban demographic, city wide, etc.. How does that look in the next stages? Is it bigger expansion from that? Was that almost like a trial of how an omnichannel approach could work for you and then taking that as a case study and moving out on a bigger playing field? How does that look?
Cody [00:15:32] It was definitely a great case study for us. We started to figure out the operational elements of what actually managed a whole new channel like retail.
Harvey [00:15:41] I can imagine the distribution is completely different.
Cody [00:15:44] I'll let you in under the hood like we are a very lean company. We're not a massively VC backed startup with fifteen employees behind the scenes. So we had to go at our pace to say, OK, what's realistic for us? How to grow the business? How do we want to grow the business? And now we're in a really exciting point where we're identifying the right type of partners to take us to a more national distribution to retail.
Harvey [00:16:09] I guess it be super interesting to see how that proliferates out and having that kind of pull base to build from the foundations vs. jumping in in the deep end as such. So that's kind of one area of growth. How do you see growth expanding or how do you look at it internaly. But from a brand perspective and acquisition play, just general advertising, how does that look online? Because that's really evolved over the last few years and accelerated over the last year. Is it a real focus on storytelling and content? Or is it more on education? Because I think there's probably facets of all sorts that are intertwined in Twice.
Cody [00:16:47] Yeah, absolutely. We've learned a ton and it's really important for us to, of course, build our world through ecommerce and grow rich stories and build our community. And we also know we need to be where people buy toothpaste. You can bring a lot of people to our world, but ultimately places like Amazon and some other platforms digitally is where we can definitely see the growth. And we will always focus on storytelling because I think that is intrinsic to who we are and why we're different. We were started on a mission and we were inspired to create this, to really empower people and to give back and there is such richness in that story that we want to share that with the world. So content, storytelling, education, it all comes together. I look at some other brands doing great education. We call it edutainment.
Harvey [00:17:41] It is, yes.
Cody [00:17:42] That's how you have to kind of kind of see the world today. And we get really excited to do that in our own ways. But ultimately, looking towards Amazon and other places where toothpaste is still very much so a commodity product. That's an impulse, right? You live in a major city and you're running out of your toothpaste and you're squeezing on the last drop. You're not going to wait three to five days for my package to arrive. You're going to run across the street to CBS and you're going to grab something off the shelf. So as we've been able to unlock the next stages of our business, it's thinking about, ok, how do we be in more places and more touch points knowing that the lifecycle of our product will have to meet our customers where they are?
Harvey [00:18:22] Yeah, you touched on a really important point I wanted to cover and just the emotional connection around something like toothpaste, because if you look at a DTC co, maybe a Glossier, for instance, like it's quite high emotional context, is it really intrinsic to who you are as a person, especially skincare, makeup, etc. And your personality and how you feel, you don't get that necessarily natural pull from something like toothpaste that you said. It's a commodity based good in most cases. And I guess that's a key point for you to go up against and disrupt. Like, do you do that mostly with a social mission or edutainment, as you mentioned, like that sort of thing is quite interesting because I guess, again, a real key way to fight back against the legacy based brands that just won't ever have that emotional appeal.
Cody [00:19:12] So everyone is heavily focused on benefits which are important. Let's not forget the number one reason why people buy toothpaste is whitening. But nonetheless, we believe that the mouth is the gateway to overall health. How we want to draw an emotional connection is helping people realize that toothpaste is preventative health. Long has oral care been. It has not been about prevention. It's been highly reactive. I want to withen my teeth. My tooth hurts. I have a cavity. Everything is reactive in the industry. But really. And what the dental professionals and medical professionals are coming together for is really that oral care and oral hygiene is the first line of defense. So we kind of see how do I draw an emotional connection. I'm talking about your body health, right. Think of us as something like a sunscreen or a multivitamin or a probiotic. You put a toothpaste in the category of preventative health and you could change the conversation. And then it can also change your perspective about brushing your teeth. Right then maybe before you go to bed and you're tired. You won't think, oh, I'll just brush in the morning because I'm tired. You'll be thinking that. Oh, wait. What happens in my mouth actually has implications in the rest of my body. There's one hundred and twenty systemic diseases that come from inflammation in the mouth. So that's where our edutainement comes in is really it's hard to educate. But for us, we love it. We live for this.
Harvey [00:20:37] That's a really interesting point, Cody. I just did consumer. I haven't thought about it like that. And yeah, just thinking about it, it's super powerful, especially the psychological element of if I can be positive, I can leave it. Actually, now it's like I just understand the drivers there and what's going to happen. I think. Yeah. Really interesting story to build on. How does that look one step further. Is it that Twice proliferates across oral care in terms of not just toothpaste it becomes other elements of preventative care in the bathroom? Or is it just really focused in on oral care? Like how does that look? Is that something you're looking at now for that next stage of growth?
Cody [00:21:29] You know, for us, we we have a vision to create a platform or products that are going to have oral health. The categories out there to innovate on some products is going to be exciting. We want to improve oral health. Toothpaste is a great first way to do that. So we're working on something nice. We love toothpaste. We obsess over formulations. So you'll see more of that as well from us.
Harvey [00:21:55] Okay. Just on that. So as a replenishable product, quite high velocity and everyone use it, you'd hope twice a day. But we're building on that. How does that work into your retention strategy on. Like, how do you look at that? Because I guess especially with DTC acquisition costs and general cash around that you need that customer coming back, again and again. It has to become quite a vital part. How do you look at that initial purchase point? How does that proliferate on? What the strategy is to keep them coming back? I know you have a subscription. Again, that's even a different dynamic to a single purchase for a customer to commit to that, so just understanding your thoughts around that and how that looks.
Cody [00:22:37] Retention is everything, especially in a replenishable product like toothpaste. And for us, we wanted to make sure that the way in which we were acquiring customers, how can we optimize for lifetime value. Right. ok. So in the traditional DTC world, we've got all the levers. But for us, the best platform our drug that is Facebook is slightly different. And for us, it's professionals. It's people who are highly trusted and validate a purchase. Some brands who have done incredible job. And in the ambassador and affiliate world, we have a very powerful voice, which is the dental professional. And so for us, we focus on retention by building great relationships with dental professionals. That, in turn, helped drive our attention on the consumer side. Direct response and paid social is going to always be an element of our marketing mix. But in the phase we're in right now, we're really focusing on how do we really optimize for long term growth and building something that's a little different because you can launch a company and make some cool ads and start acquiring customers. But if the way in which you're acquiring isn't necessarily optimized in the right way, you're not going to see the retention you're going to want. We took a bit of a different approach to retention, which we've been focusing on is building the program. So we're a few months in and it's been a really exciting element of a business that for us on retention, it plays in our subscription, you know, dental hygienist and professionals, they want their patients brushing twice a day. So subscription model is great. You don't want to run out of toothpaste in our subscription on our website is continuing to grow. And we'll always be focusing on how do we be driving that. Because that's the best way for people to improve their hygiene is to stay consistent. And if you end up stocking up on an extra tube, it's not the end of the world. I always kind of thought when you stock up on razors, it's like, oh, man, what am I going to do with all these. Luckily you have to brush every day, twice a day. I don't know. The last time I used the razor, no offense to razor brands, but I guess that's just my world these days in the quarantine life. For us the subscription, of course, is going to be instrumental as we grow.
Harvey [00:24:59] Ok, cool. And really interesting to hear. It's like a deep social proof of healthcare professionals not just coming from kind of peer to peer, but someone of authority that very much filters down into Twice being an authority in the space and being a voice. I think that's a really interesting way to think about retention, because they are like they your influencer, health care professionals. Yeah. Interesting idea. And based kind of on that foundation, everything is built very much on your social mission. The genesis of the business, it runs through everything as we touched on, How how important is your mission that to your consumers? Do you think it's a driver of not necessarly just purchase but like engagement with the business and engagement with the brand? How will that progress?
Cody [00:26:06] Yeah, absolutely. I think it is a really big driver. I think in in having people stick around. In love with the brand stands for.
Harvey [00:26:16] So it's almost like a retention driver again.
Cody [00:26:18] Yeah, it is. Can I say that it drives a ton of purchase. In some ways, yes. In some ways no. People are looking for cost effective products. People are looking for things that taste good. People look at things at work. Lenny Kravitz is our business partner. He went on Ellen to talk about giving back and our mission and how we do this and how it inspired us to start Twice together. And that was all about the mission. People bought because of that, because it's intrinsic and our impetus for the company. It's not something we just tacked on to say, oh, we need to be socially responsible. So it is something that we talk about a ton in content and we go on missions every year. So we're active. And then we're just one of the brands that because you're set up to give back and do good throughout the year, you're one of the brands that just steps up in a time like this, in the most mindblowing time in our world, from Covid to the whole Black Lives Matter movement, which we're very much a part of, to be a brand that's able to step up and support because it's kind of part of your values. I think definitely a reason why customers love us and continue to stay with us.
Harvey [00:27:27] 100% and I think, yeah, you touched on it there but like being it's like a credible point and a social mission that isn't kind of bolted on, it isn't there because it's useful from a consumer facing side, because that's how you build the business, say. That's super interesting to wrap up. So we've touched on so many different strategies. The omnichannel and generally the focus for Twice. What are you most excited about over that next year coming out of a difficult period of I guess the team and yourself kind of being distributed. Well, I guess for you, maybe not with your brother thinking about it, but what are you most excited about over the next year. So again, just take challenge the old incumbent.
Cody [00:28:08] Our team adapted quite well over the last few months and this week actually we'll be rolling out nationwide at CVS Pharmacy. So a big partnership for us with CVS Health that they're the leader. They hit over 90 percent of America and no one knows total health better than them. So for us, we're very excited to be able to take our mission of helping people find confidence in their smile and find health and be able to bring that nationally. It was always our goal. The work we do in the Bahamas is so incredibly powerful in the footage and the videos we've created. We wanted to bring that to everyone. And I think we're most excited about is to literally be able to bring our products to CBS stores around the country and open up a whole new world for us.
Harvey [00:28:52] Really powerful. Amazing announcement. So congrats on that. Coming from a CPG background, I understand how difficult it is to build those partnerships and extensions, etc. So that's amazing and then kind of taking a step back for one set. Looking back over the last few years, is building what your first business. I know difficult. But like, how would you distill one of the main lessons if you were looking back right now and you have to say to yourself one thing. What would that be? I'll put you on the spot.
Cody [00:29:23] I know it's it's good because I tend to run into these things as I go.
Harvey [00:29:29] Because I know there'll be a ton of color, so many so many things.
Cody [00:29:34] When you're first starting out, you can make every mistake in the book. You made a ton. You know, it's very easy as an entrepreneur to look and see, oh, well, look at those guys, they're ahead or they're doing this or doing that. And you need to stay really focused and you need to take your mistakes and just don't make them twice learn from them. Ask your peers, talk to your peers, hire smarter when you're lean. You tend to say, I'll just do everything. And when you take on everything, it ultimately ends up piling. And then this mountain that you're trying to climb looks so daunting. But if you end up surrounding yourself with really smart people and you take those mistakes that you might make and you say ok, here's how we're going to change, and you chip away, you know step by step, that's kind of the place we're in now. Almost two years in. That's what I would say to myself. You know when you launche the company, you're saying, Ok yeah, now we're here. Like you're at the starting point. So it's like, saddle up. Get ready. Hold on tight.
Harvey [00:30:38] Awesome. I would definitely echo those words and really touch on that focus point as well. Like you're saying, there's so many things and it just leads to poor execution across the board. If there's too many things going on or feel too overwhelmed. Like you said, hiring smartly. So, again, a different perspective, if you were us speaking to some of the best brands and operators in eCom and DTC all over the world. Who would you want to speak to? Who'd you want to interview? And chatting about their strategies and why?
Cody [00:31:09] Yeah. I've always admired a company called Supergoop!. I've been following them for a long time. The idea of putting on sunscreen every day is the behavior change that we want to tap into. What Holly really did was position sunscreen as prevention. It was no longer ok. I don't want to get burnt and I'm going on the sun and it's like, oh, this is everyday health because it's a much larger conversation about skin and overall health and that mindset and her partner of 15 year old business, I think she's really just built. What I really admire is an amazing company, brand mission and behavior change that she created. I would love to talk to Holly. I've been meaning to actually, like, just cold email her.
Harvey [00:32:04] 100 percent. I think it's a great answer. Amazing brand. I don't know them personally but I know them. And like you say, really interesting, the similarities. Super interesting especially, it's like you elevate that product and it's not just toothpaste, it's not just sunscreen. It's way more than that. And then last but not least for our listeners. Where's the best place to find you and find Twice and get to know you guys a bit more?
Cody [00:32:33] Yeah. Our Web site is smiletwice.com. You can check that out. And then our our store locator is there so you can find us in your local CVS and then on Instagram, we're just @twice. So give us a follow. Check us out and upgrade your toothpaste.
Harvey [00:32:49] Awesome. It's been great chatting. Thank you very much for going through everything. I'll catch you soon.
Cody [00:32:56] Awesome. Thanks so much, Harvey. Appreciate it.