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Expert Q & A

So You Had Product-Market Fit in 1995. What Now?

June 18, 2021
Mae Rice

You probably remember Turbie Twist's '90s infomercials. What's the company up to now? Wading into e-commerce — and its storied past is its secret weapon.

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What’s old, new, and Big Bath Towel’s nemesis? Turbie Twist!

For the uninitiated: Turbie Twist makes the Turbie Twist, a  hair-drying headwrap — like a towel, specifically for your hair — that attained cult status in the ‘90s. 

Today, the company is old enough to rent a car — but it’s new to e-commerce and digital marketing. 

At Turbie Twist, the digital age started in 2019

When Jimmy Zona started at the company in 2019, it had a Flash website, and no active paid (or unpaid) digital channels, he told MarketerHire.

The business ran purely on name recognition from its ubiquitous ‘90s infomercials, sales from big-box retailers like Walmart, and occasional QVC spots. 

Turbie Twist didn’t even run infomercials anymore. Those had d stopped performing in the mid-2000s. 

As the director of e-commerce and digital marketing, Zona had to build Turbie Twist’s digital presence from scratch. 

"I kind of went from zero to a hundred," Zona said. But how?

5 perks of a product with a past — and how to build on them 

Even though Turbie Twist had a minimal digital presence, Zona wasn’t at a pure disadvantage. Turbie Twist’s history (Twistory?) also had some upsides, like… 

1. Organic search volume. 

Turbie Twist’s infomercials had made it a household name, and people search for it in droves on Amazon and Google — paid marketing or not.

Google searches for “Turbie Twist” actually outnumber searches for “hair towel,” according to Ahrefs.

Search volume for "Turbie Twist" (left) and "hair towel" (right). Source: Ahrefs

How Turbie Twist built on it: Zona turned Turbie Twist’s site into a Shopify storefront, so the journey from search to purchase took fewer clicks.

2. UGC galore.

When Zona took over Turbie Twist’s Instagram account, “we only had like 20 posts, but we were tagged in over 5,000 posts from other people,” he said. 

How Turbie Twist built on it: This year, Zona started running paid Facebook and Instagram ads — and using UGC as ad creative.

3. Backlinks.

Since Turbie Twist is a ‘90s kid, blogs had been linking to its homepage for literal decades. That gave it a leg up in SEO long before Zona started.

How Turbie Twist built on it: Zona asked backlinkers to update out-of-date and broken links to the Turbie Twist site, and began running SEO content on Turbie Twist’s homepage — which now hosts 200+ blog posts, he estimated.

4. Proven ad creative.

From their infomercials, Turbie Twist already knew something about their best-performing ad creative: it involved a product demo. Prospective buyers needed to see the Turbie Twist in action to understand its use cases. 

How Turbie Twist built on it: Today’s paid digital ads draw on old successes. They’re shorter — think 30 seconds — and feature influencers, Zona noted. But the influencers still do demos.

5. A heritage position.

Turbie Twist has been around for decades, unlike most of today’s e-commerce shops. (Shopify was founded when Turbie Twist was 11.) 

“We've reached across generations now,” Zona said. “People share this with their children.”

That means Turbie Twist can position itself as a tried and true option in a sea of shoddy, white-label products.

How Turbie Twist built on it: Current Turbie Twist ads often rely on messaging like “We’re the original hair towel,” Zona said.

Our takeaway? 

Don’t count legacy players out of e-commerce. They can pivot: In the 1990’s, Turbie Twist’s pillar marketing channel was late-night infomercials. Today it’s Amazon.

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is senior editor at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she enjoys interviewing marketing experts and learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture. She also loves any ad that makes her say "Huh?!" — especially Tim and Eric's ad for Totino's pizza rolls, which she watches way more often than you would think.

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