Raycon, founded in November 2017 by singer-songwriter and businessman Ray J and leading national electronics distributor Cowboy Wholesale, absolutely hit the ground running. A company that designs, develops, and sells consumer electronics, their earbuds and headphones already compete strongly with long-time audio brands Bose, JLab, Skullcandy, and Kove.
With new products in a competitive space, we already know that aggressive marketing tactics can quickly propel a brand into the forefront of the market. It’s clear that Raycon is allocating budgets to longform content as a key facet of their strategy, so we’re drawing out Raycon’s pathway to success leveraging the influencer industry in this week’s deep dive.
Looking beyond 2017, our 4 main competitors didn’t capitalize much on YouTube or podcast formats, with Bose, Kove, and Skullcandy only appearing as sponsors in summer 2016 shortly before Raycon was founded.
In a search of sponsored content mentioning “earbuds” or “headphones”, we find 18,000+ results from 3962 Thought Leaders. Raycon represents 1939 pieces of content from 659 Thought Leaders, or around 16.6%. Combined, Bose, Skullcandy, and Kove represent only 335 pieces of content by 165 sponsored channels. That’s almost a 13% lead that Raycon has on the other audio headset makers.
In our platform, we can view Raycon’s trends over time. Just like the other audio competitors, Raycon first entered into sponsored content on YouTube and later integrated podcast marketing. YouTube is a long-trusted format for electronics brands that can show off their product features in review videos, so it makes sense that Raycon’s top-mentioned channels are dominantly YouTube - 16 of the top 20 all-time mentioned channels are YouTubers.
When we reverse the data to look at recent activity, at first it appears to reflect same-old, same-old: Raycon sponsoring dominantly on YouTube. In the past 30 days, they’ve been on a total of 225 channels (169 YT and 53 podcast). But when we expand the search to see how this compares year-over-year, we get a nice insight into the results of Raycon’s budgets and tests:
Back in May - Sept 2020, we actually see a bubble of testing according to their trend graph:
At the peak, in July 2020, Raycon had been mentioned in more podcast episodes than YouTube videos, specifically 114 to 94 in the past 30 days.
They were clearly testing new podcasts vs. just renewing/increasing budgets on existing channels: of the 81 podcasts Raycon has been on in the month of July, only 13 have mentioned Raycon more than once, meaning that the remaining 68 podcasts were new tests. Wow.
Furthermore, it’s clear that the bulk of these podcasts were not renewed on, as fast-forwarding to the past 30 days of their sponsorship program, we are still seeing a focus on YouTube with only 68 total sponsored podcast episodes from those 53 channels. Their tests resulted in a solidified lineup of a select few podcasts that are working incredibly well for them. We can see that their average mentions is higher on podcast than YouTube:
Raycon may also be experiencing an added layer of success that goes beyond the immediately obvious assumption, “well, they’re everywhere!” We need to consider their specific branding and how that translates through podcast specifically. Just check out Raycon’s BRAND page and their concept:
It’s clear through their emphasis on active lifestyles that their core audience views themselves as hard-working, self-motivated individuals. Looking at general podcast listenership statistics, Raycon has struck gold:
According to MusicOomph’s 2020 Podcast Stat Report (updated July 13, 2020), podcast listeners have on average completed more schooling and have higher earning jobs. We also know that while most people listen to podcasts at home, the next most common setting is on-the-go or at work. Combined with the fact that listeners prefer lifestyle and business content as the #1 and #2 most tuned-into content on podcast, Raycon has found their consumer base.
It goes even deeper than that - with tons of lifestyle content to sponsor and thousands of influencers discussing productivity (6465 channels across blog, YouTube, podcast and newsletter, to be precise), Raycon has been even more strategic in penetrating their best markets. We can observe this by lining up the top brands that Raycon is being mentioned next to across all channels:
Squarespace and Skillshare are notorious brands for sponsoring lifestyle content targeting motivated individuals seeking self-improvement content. Here’s the exact breakdown of Raycon’s overlap with these brands:
Of Raycon’s total content, they do not overlap with any of these brands in only 9% of channels. From one quick search, we can see Squarespace and Skillshare were on most channels long before Raycon began sponsoring, which gives us a hint at how Raycon may have selected these channels. Similarly when looking at the overlap with VPNs (important to note that the % of overlap may be skewed - the VPNs have sponsored over 600+ channels a piece and and have 3x the mentions in sheer # of videos or podcast episodes as compared to Raycon), it’s clear that Raycon identified some of the best VPN sponsored channels and jumped at those opportunities. For instance, if we pull the channels Raycon overlaps with NordVPN / ExpressVPN on, we find tech podcasts that have mentioned ExpressVPN as much as 101 times, and NordVPN as much as 14 times, and are still mentioning these brands as recently as within the past 4 months. Perhaps knowing that VPNs have so widely tested sponsorship across channels, Raycon took a shortcut to the finish line by snagging a few of their top performing tech partnerships.
How does this focus on content alignment and ROI compare to the other audio competitors? In our lineup, Bose and JLab deviate from the concentration on lifestyle/tech/gaming creators. Bose targets product review content in Technology - we can see across a variety of newsletters, YouTube channels, and blogs, with 397 of the 606 channels talking about Bose also using words like “work”, “job”, and “productive” alongside the product links.
In looking at JLab, they’re heavily skewed towards Sports content even though they’ve only been on 17 channels total thus far.
Not unlike Raycon’s strategy, JLab’s website and the content they are mentioned next to aligns with their overall brand messaging. Specifically JLab has sponsored the LA Galaxy soccer team’s YouTube page over 25 times. That’s actually only 1 Sports content creator channel, but represents more than half the total mentions of JLab brand on sponsored content.
The one major chess piece left on the board? None of these brands have laid a claim on esports and gaming audiences quite yet. It appears that Raycon has sponsored the most in this content, just conducting a general search of “best audio” and “earbuds” in Likely Sponsored Gaming content. But we need to consider what it really looks like to be a Gaming brand. Take GFUEL for example, an energy drink like Red Bull or Monster. They’ve invented themselves as the energy drink of gamers - but sponsoring Gaming content and gamers means a higher level of commitment to sponsored content in general. Gamers most commonly wind up on YouTube because they recorded a live stream or some sort of Let’s Play instructional video. Brands that want to make an impression to this audience need to be sponsoring a hefty amount of Let’s Plays and could even consider sponsoring the lifetime of a gamer’s content (as GFUEL, Into the AM, and some other gaming-focused brands are doing) across their whole channel, deepening viewer engagement (more on Gaming here).
Raycon launched into the industry, quickly outpacing their more established competitors specifically through the use of sponsored content. Raycon is dominating 3 of the 4 major content verticals that we are seeing an ROI for audio brands across YouTube and podcast primarily. Raycon has also identified other brands that appeal to Raycon’s target consumer, such as Squarespace and Skillshare, and are optimizing their brand messaging through sponsoring only the top performing channels for these brands.
What remains is to see which audio brand will rise in the ranks among Gaming influencers, where Raycon is already exploring in sponsorship. Will they win the race to the finish? All signs point to yes, if we’re following Raycon’s testing schedule: they’re currently testing anywhere from 40-160 new channels across YouTube, podcast, and newsletter per month, with almost 145 new tests occurring since Jan 1 2021. Raycon spent 2020 testing and now they’re able to scale as the #1 audio brand in 2020 - if they keep up the pace in driving sales from their influencer marketing campaigns, they’ll be sure to secure the same title in 2021.
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