From a $300k crowdfunding campaign in 2020 to +$80M in sales last year, Gel Blaster is an omnichannel juggernaut.
The brand spans Amazon, major retail distribution, a direct-to-consumer website, and even limited-edition, Walmart-exclusive drops with the likes of YouTube superstar David Dobrik.
Founded by lifelong product developer, Colin Guinn, its first prototype emerged peak pandemic when Guinn’s 13-year-old son got swept up into Fortnite, a first-person-shooter video game. Wanting to keep his son active, the two began paintballing and quickly fell in love with the game.
For Guinn’s younger son, paintballing was simply too intense. Worse, it required a hefty upfront payment and had to be played in dedicated arenas.
“I looked around,” recalls Guinn, “and was surprised to find a gap in the market between pre-teen NERF darts and being old enough for paintball. Airsoft BB guns weren’t a good alternative either. Even though you can play with them anywhere, they’re still painful, and cleaning up thousands of plastic BBs from a backyard is impossible.”
To address that gap, Gel Blasters was created. A technology-driven, active-lifestyle brand with the goal of getting both kids and their families outside to “have a blast.”
Unlike paintball or airsoft, Gel Blasters shoot non-toxic, eco-friendly Gellets®, offer a range of affordable products and are just painful enough to make playing suspenseful.
Of course, a just-painful-enough product is one thing. A painful, low-performing channel is another matter entirely.
Gel Blaster wasn’t new to SMS, but it was new to SMS success.
“We had an SMS provider,” says Jon Gilmartin, Director of Ecommerce at Gel Blaster, “but the day-to-day was too time-consuming for the return that we were getting.”
Without a dedicated team member to handle its text strategy and implementation, the channel flopped.
To match Gel Blaster’s needs — and alleviate its SMS pain — the strategy focused on three levers with three goals:
Every so often a brand finds a hook that changes the sign-up game. Gel Blaster did exactly that with its opt-in offer.
In just 90 days, it went from 0 subscribers to 22.5k.
In general, a percentage-off incentive is a good strategy to test first, but this brand knows its audience better than that.
Every product in the Gel Blaster range require Gellets. While new orders come with them, they run out fast. This made for the perfect offer …
Even better, Gel Blaster was able to generate massive list growth without sacrificing profitability. Gellets are one of its highest-margin products. Plus, they require purchasing a blaster and lead naturally into recurring orders.
When you’ve got rapid list growth, your welcome sequence becomes your money maker.
Gel Blaster uses a five-text automation to encourage subscribers to claim their free gellets. It also employs conditional checks throughout to ensure only subscribers who have not purchased and do not have items in their cart, receive further texts.
To optimize and drive even better results, two A/B tests were performed.
First, text-only SMS (low cost) versus a longer MMS with in-action visual (higher cost). Second, deeper into the flow, a short offer-only SMS versus the same offer with an opening line highlighting product benefits.
In both tests, the simple, straightforward, and lower-cost message performed better. With +29% revenue for test one and +380% for test two.
This triumphant kick-off all began by combining the easiest opt-in mechanism (mobile two-tap) with a powerhouse incentive: 10,000 free Gellets.
Don’t let the phenomenal automation results distract you from Gel Blaster’s SMS campaigns. Starting with 0 subscribers, the text sends weren’t big in recipient numbers but they were big in results.
From November to December, it averaged one to two campaigns each week — five around Black Friday and six more before New Year’s Eve.
Five campaigns that went above and beyond:
Overall, Gel Blaster has sent over 100,00 texts and made $76,400 from SMS campaigns — a not-too-shabby average ROI of 25X.
Having such an engaged subscriber list opens the door to more testing with text. The power duo of popups and a Welcome Flow are just the beginning for the brand.
After phenomenal end-of-year success, Gel Blaster is already implementing a strategy to bolster spring and summer months. Applied to SMS marketing, it’s testing content-related campaigns — like this recent YouTube video that pitted a Gellet … against a Tesla.
The business is also planning a “Go Play Day” event in March. Hoping to partner with local influencers, get more kids playing outside, and get them battling with Blasters.
Between October and December 2022, Gel Blaster achieved: