In 2012, four young Spanish entrepreneurs spent $300 and bought 27 pairs of sunglasses which they immediately resold online and made a good profit. They bought more sunglasses and sold them by using Facebook ads and “influencers” who would tout the product on their own social media accounts in exchange for a free pair of the glasses.
The young men sold more sunglasses than they ever expected. They quickly became the official distributers of the product in their country. “Wait a minute,” they said to themselves. “We don’t want to be distributors. We want our own brand.” Thus, Hawkers was born.
The entrepreneurs found a manufacturer for their own brand of sunglasses. Their new product matched the quality of $200 sunglasses like Ray-Ban and other elite brands, but Hawkers sold for between $20 and $40. In contrast to Ray-Ban and other high-end sunglasses brands that are sold primarily in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, 90 percent of Hawkers sales were online — aided by the use of Facebook and Google ads.
Hawkers sold so well that the company had trouble keeping up with the demand. In 2013, the company opened its Shopify store. Today, on Shopify Plus, Hawkers sells more than 10,000 pairs of sunglasses every day. The company that started with five employees now has 65.
Betancourt and the Hawkers marketing campaign: Use of social media
In 2016, Hawkers faced a financial crisis. About this same time, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez, a noted businessman about whom one author wrote “entrepreneurial passion” is in his blood, decided to invest in the Hawkers company, making him the majority shareholder.
Betancourt came to Hawkers with an extensive business background. He earned bachelor’s degrees in both business administration and economics at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. He co-founded an energy company that created more than 12,000 jobs, helping more than 700,000 families. He then became a leader of O’Hara Administration, an asset management company.
He brought his education and background to his position at Hawkers, as well as a 50 million Euros as an investment from O’Hara. On November 16, 2016, Betancourt became president of Hawkers. In 2018, he invested another 20 million Euros, which put him in control of more than 50 percent of the company’s assets.
Betancourt brought in Nacho Puig and made him Chief Executive Officer of Hawkers. Puig came to Hawkers with experience in branding strategy in both the sports and fashion industries. Together, Betancourt and Puig decided to continue and expand the use of technology to sell the sunglasses instead of the traditional model of selling the product in retail stores. An easy way to express it is that they “harnessed the power of the internet” to boost Hawkers’ sales.
They increased the company’s Facebook presence so that today, its page has over 6.6 million likes. Betancourt collaborated with other brands to boost sales. For example, in 2017 Hawkers participated in a photoshoot with a Spanish clothier, El Ganso. Images from those ads showcasing Hawkers boosted sales.
Continued growth and success
Production of a quality product. Marketing alone cannot make a company successful. Hawkers is committed to producing only quality eyewear. The sunglasses come in all colors for frames and different tints for the lenses. The price remains affordable so a person can buy several pairs at a time to complement their wardrobe.
The quality product has attracted well-known athletes, film and television stars, musicians and others to endorse the product. Some endorsements have been unpaid, authentic promotions which goes even further to make the brand more prominent and desirable.
Increase of online marketing presence. Under Betancourt’s influence, in addition to Hawkers’ use of Facebook, you can also find them on Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. If there is a social media platform, Hawkers will be using it to increase its sales. Betancourt’s strategic vision is relentless along with his “commitment to providing quality, fashionable products at affordable prices worldwide.”
Use of brand ambassadors. Hawkers uses college students in a program called “Hawkers Campus.” University students who have a minimum of 1,000 Instagram followers are given benefits for promoting Hawkers on their social media accounts. More than 5,000 students are now participating. The students learn the value of digital marketing while earning financial benefits from Hawkers.
“Fortune favors the brave.” This motto seems to have served Betancourt well, as online sales for Hawker sunglasses continue to increase. The company that started with a $300 investment now sees annual sales of more than $100,000,000 representing sales of more than 4.5 million sunglasses. The glasses are sold in 50 countries with 90 percent of all sales occurring online.
Hawkers launches bio-friendly sunglasses
Betancourt has always been committed to preserving the environment. He has participated in World Beach Day and other similar events. He created the Green Program which funds energy efficiency and reforestation campaigns.
With this background, Betancourt reports that Hawkers has launched H20, a collection of “eco-friendly environmentally responsible sunglasses.” The sunglasses are made from biodegradable materials and are sent to purchasers in 100 percent sustainable packaging.
The collection contains six different models. All are made from planet-friendly materials and manufactured with biomaterials and biodegradables. The plastics used are all recyclable.
The packaging includes:
- A recycled and recyclable box
- A pouch made from plastic bottles recovered from the ocean
- Storytelling and warranty book made from recycled and recyclable paper
- A polybag made from biodegradable material
Betancourt tells us that the bio-friendly sunglasses were made from thousands of plastic bottles that were collected from the oceans. The purpose is to reduce microplastic contamination of aquatic life.
The sunglasses can be disposed of in landfills and will biodegrade in five years. The sunglasses, according to Betancourt, are “hypoallergenic, lightweight, resistant and durable.”
Hawkers, with Alejandro Betancourt at its helm, is doing its part to create “affordable, stylish products while helping to combat pollution and contamination.”
What other companies can learn from Hawkers
Hawkers’ initial success in 2013 was due to online sales. As online sales increased, it became apparent that this was the “wave of the future” and that the cost of maintaining brick and mortar stores was an unnecessary expense.
Hawkers’ main advice for those who want to follow in its marketing footsteps is that they must develop a digital marketing strategy. According to Hawkers, “Digital marketing uses digital channels like websites, social media, search engines, blogs, and emails to share marketing messages.” Some advice about how to do this includes:
- Optimizing your website for speed and make it accessible with mobile devices.
- Targeting your social media posts and keeping them meaningful and relevant. Hawkers notes it does not only post content about its brand, but posts about its company culture, current news and other relevant topics.
- Using all types of social media in addition to utilizing websites, search engines, blogs and emails to share marketing messages.
Hawkers and Betancourt strongly believe that “Digital marketing is not a trend that will pass, but rather is a part of the marketing strategy that is imperative to the success of your business.”