Standing out in a crowded direct-to-consumer market: Insights from The Ridge Wallet CEO

By Daniella Cos Tovar, Senior Manager, Marketing North America

It’s challenging for DTC brands to navigate all the platforms and channels available to them today. The Ridge Wallet is a growing business that gained notoriety for their slim, RFID-blocking wallets that are now in the pockets and bags of over 2 million people around the world. They’ve recently celebrated a milestone revenue year, expanded their product lines, and are a DTC marketing success story. We spoke with Sean Frank, The Ridge Wallet’s CEO, about how their approach to marketing is changing as the marketplace changes, and he shared his advice for established and new DTC brands today.

Can you tell us a bit more about Ridge’s story, what inspired the start of this brand?

Daniel Kane, his father, and his best friend Austin Dutra made a wallet 10 years ago that they believed incorporated everything a person could need, and so they launched on Kickstarter. 

I eventually joined the company in 2016. I used to own an ad agency and luckily I was young and I wanted to do whatever it took to make the agency work. So, I told Ridge “oh you need help with customer service, web builds and more? - we’ll do it”. We were doing so much that it made sense to merge. We have never raised any money and we’re about to do 9 figures of revenue this year.

Looking back, our success was in noticing that the wallet was never the focus of bigger brand companies. They were additives to massive product lines and fashion houses, but not given the same time or energy as other parts of the business. At Ridge, we worked on the product to maximize utilization, efficiency and quality for a long time. We’re expanding product lines and it's an exciting time, but the wallet will remain as our flagship product. 

Was it difficult to launch a DTC brand in such a crowded space?

It’s definitely harder to launch today than it was back in 2016. Brands used to be able to get huge returns by just turning on online ads, but it just isn’t that way anymore. It was hard, at the moment, to strategically scale, but looking back, we were blessed to enter at a time when it was a less crowded environment. 

Fast forward to today, I personally wouldn’t launch a DTC brand without an audience. We learned how to scale through efficiently growing our ads play, but today, I’d first work on building organic relevance via influencers or communities before fully launching a brand. Things have shifted from grinding to find a distribution channel to first finding your audience to demand the product that will drive distribution

Are there industry trends that you were/are paying attention to that you knew would be key to your success? If so, what?

Organic content is probably the most interesting “trend” to emerge in the last 2 years. Don’t get me wrong, in 2013 people cared about organic. Brands started to build their online presence with an organic first approach, but from 2016-2022 that died down as organic play lost some of its flair (and reach) as paid advertising cemented itself in the market. In the last 2 years though, this has come back in a BIG way with short-form video. Content and entertainment has come back to drive organic brand strategies as huge parts of advertising along with paid. Brands need to keep up in order to capitalize on the opportunity. 

Before getting to Ridge’s use of Twitter, can you tell us a bit about your own personal experience with Twitter?

I don’t have that much social media actually. I’m pretty new to Twitter, maybe 2 years of use, and I started during the pandemic. Pre-covid I had a really amazing network of people to talk about business and e-commerce with. When that went away, I tried to replicate that experience online via forums and groups, but the problem with those models is that they are closed conversations. 

I think most founders and executives would agree when I say that personal lives and business lives start to bleed together, so my use of Twitter did the same. All of my friends and people I talk to daily, I either met through business or Twitter. The most unique thing about Twitter as a platform above and beyond others, even Linkedin, is that it skews drastically to decision makers and executives. Entrepreneurs that own companies with millions and billions in revenue have anonymous profiles and develop hyper-focused communities on Twitter talking about the future of their industries. I have a lot of fun on Twitter. 

When did Ridge first start leaning into Twitter and what was the rationale behind it?

We have an organic Twitter presence. We actually partner with comedians to help us develop our voice on the platform. The first thing we do as a DTC company is ensure we’re developing content made for the platform. Where we see peers go wrong is when they try to bring their base brand content on to platforms where it doesn’t make sense. Twitter is a pithy app, you have to learn to navigate that to play. 

We decided to start spending money very recently and it's really because we saw drop shippers (companies that don’t hold inventory, but fulfill orders through 3rd party partners) promoting on Twitter. If you know anything about these companies, you know margins are TIGHT. That signaled that Twitter offered competitive ad opportunities for us. The more we worked with Twitter, the more we saw a willingness to listen to what advertisers want and build ad features aligned with growing needs. Ridge spends 8 figures a year per a handful of platforms, and no other place is asking us what we need to be successful online. It has been an incredible experience.

What would you define as the biggest success thus far in your work on Twitter?

Twitter has proven itself to be among the best, if not the best, platform for return on ad spend and conversion campaigns right nowIf you talk to larger brands they may say they love Twitter because they want to be part of culture and conversation, where things are happening. We do as well, but mostly we have been blown away by the direct response of the users having the conversations

As for the future, we’re excited to see what new features and ads space Twitter is developing because Twitter is building tools for advertisers. It feels like the hay days of 2010 online advertising. Twitter is building out its platform to serve us as customers. We’ll always be early testers for whatever Twitter launches! Search, video, whatever it is - Twitter has been a great partner and we can’t wait to see what comes.