GaryVee is one of the – if not the biggest – name & personal brand in digital marketing.
Gary’s initial fame came from marketing his family’s liquor store & creating one of the first notable wine ecommerce websites on the internet. He’s now famous for his inspirational speeches & being a perpetrator of “hustle culture”, with a cult following across various platforms.
Is Gary still the king of digital marketing? Let’s break it all down.
Not so humble beginnings? The rise of Wine Library; from $4m to $25m🍷
As mentioned above, Gary’s initial success came from marketing his father’s liquor store (Shoppers Discount Liquors). The store was reportedly doing around $4m annually but Gary’s online marketing efforts (Wine Library) took the store to a huge $24m in 30 months. Gary did so by utilising email marketing, Google pay-per-click adverts, content marketing & display advertising.
As digital marketing was a relatively new concept, the cost of advertising were extremely cheap in comparison to traditional advertising such as TV adverts.
To grow a company like this is no small task, & even the most qualified business experts would struggle to replicate his success. However, it’s important that we acknowledge a few reasons why Gary’s beginnings should not be looked at as a “rags to riches” story:
Firstly, being financially comfortable enough to risk capital on an experimental advertising method is not something the average working class individual can do. This financial security also provides buying power to negotiate better prices with wine companies.
Secondly, he was able to make a mailing list of over 10,000 emails simply through talking to foot traffic in the store for free. That’s pretty improbable for 99% of business owners out there.
Thirdly, (& most importantly), marketing a brand with little resources is very different to an existing multi-million dollar/pound brand.
If a business with one or two employees had a sudden influx of sales or leads, they might not be able to fulfil these orders. In addition to actually packing & shipping the items, they also have all the sales admin such as customer support, in addition to managing the marketing & all the other responsibilities. Maybe they hire some additional employees, but they then have to learn about the recruiting process in addition to teaching new employees their systems (which is extremely time consuming).
Whereas a brand with a decent team of employees has the infrastructure in place to fulfil orders, & if they need to employ more people there is already an on-boarding process that doesn’t destroy productivity.
I recently had a similar lesson with my own brand. When marketing a company with similar sales numbers to Wine Library’s (prior to Gary’s scaling), I found that the sales process was straight forward as all the departments follow their processes & already had solutions for potential problems. When marketing my own brand I saw insanely good marketing results, but proceeded to fumble many leads as I had to play multiple roles within the business & learn solutions for common issues.
So whilst Gary’s successes within the wine business should be congratulated, he commonly points at his initial success as some kind of “from the mud” story; which is wrong. It takes one type of individual to take a business from $0 to $3m, it takes a different type of individual to scale that beyond $50m.
Gary falls into the latter, which is definitely a more valued role within the business world. So why does Gary pretend he’s the former? Because the majority of his audience aspires to be the $0 to a million founder, & doesn’t relate to the type of “suit” that scales companies… Which is what he is.
Gary’s current business’s & how he markets them 📣
Gary has several companies (12 businesses, if you go by this phenomenal video by Noah Kagan).
- VaynerMedia – A Fortune 500 marketing agency.
- The Sasha Group – A marketing agency.
- VaynerRSE – Venture capital firm.
- Wine Library – Wine shop (his father’s business but I imagine he has equity).
- Vayner Sports – Athlete management agency.
- VNFT – NFT consultancy company.
- Vayner Productions – Video production company.
- VaynerTalent – Talent management agency.
- Vayner Speakers – Speaker booking service.
- Gallery Media Group – A group consisting of several media businesses.
- Vayner Commerce – Commerce solutions for businesses.
- Tracer – Data processing software.
- & probably much more I couldn’t find which fall under VaynerX.
Obviously when you’ve grown to be as successful as Gary, you probably aren’t involved a great deal in the running of each brand’s marketing. What Gary clearly does spend his time doing, though, is content marketing for his personal brand.
Gary reportedly is constantly being documented by his production crew. Name pretty much any social media platform & there’s a strong chance GaryVee is on there. His content marketing strategy is clearly unrivalled, & this helps market several of his brands.
- VaynerMedia & The Sasha Group – Most of Gary’s content is centred around entrepreneurship & providing free advice to help businesses. The viewership of this content provides social proof for Gary’s marketing companies & attracts business owners to use them so his team can execute the marketing plans he speaks about.
- Vayner Speakers – As someone that constantly creating motivational content & speaking about out “hustling” competition whilst also having a huge following, Gary is a business convention’s wet dream. Gary (self)reportedly makes around $100k per speech.
- Vayner Productions – Gary’s nonstop content & how he utilises every platform possible acts as an ongoing case study of the production crew’s work.
- VaynerTalent – You can’t out-content GaryVee, which is exactly what would draw you to his talent agency if you were a young upcoming social media star.
- VaynerRSE – Talking about your successful investments & businesses makes you a desired investor for startups… According to Mike Winnet, Gary reportedly charges $10k per business pitch.
- & in addition to these, it helps him continue to sell his books.
Some of his brands get promotion simply from him mentioning them in the content, but their benefits are more indirect.
Gary isn’t the kind of marketer that’s sat looking at Google Ads for hours (like me), & that’s what makes him the best in the industry at content marketing.
What is Gary’s marketing advice, & should you follow it? 👨🏫
Unsurprisingly, Gary’s marketing advice mainly focuses around creating content. He wants you to release content constantly, nonstop, every single day of the week.
For retail businesses, Gary suggests posting at least 10 times a day. For B2B, he wants you to post at least 4 times. He wants you on every platform possible. Fuck it, stream your entire existence with a full time camera crew.
Gary’s advice isn’t bad, it’s just not feasible for small businesses. A sole-trader who tries to follow Gary’s advice would probably burn out in a matter of months. Which could be on purpose. After all, there’s a chance one or two of his audience decide to outsource their marketing to The Sasha Group so they can do this insane amount of content output.
If the average business owner tried to execute this advice on their own, the likelihood is that their content would be so dry & uninteresting that it simply fails to gain traction & would potentially have a negative effect on growth.
Unfortunately this is pretty much the extent of Gary’s marketing advice. If you listen to one of his Q&A sessions you’ll hear him dish out content ideas for tens of industries, but that’s about it.
He doesn’t detail PPC keyword research advice or Facebook Ads targeting ideas, & that’s probably because he’s not done those forms of marketing in a long time. He doesn’t even talk about website UX or graphic design.
As a result you end up hearing Gary repeat the same advice constantly but changed slightly for new platforms that come into existence. Often he’ll say the exactly the same advice twice, but will cover it in flowery inspirational talk as to keep you engaged.
Outside of this, his notable advice includes hustling at garage/boot/lawn sales… which is actually really good to see as I’m sure he’ll have inspired a 15 year old somewhere to start making good money & learning new skills.
Not practicing what you preach… Do Gary’s own companies listen to him?👺
With this in mind, how is Gary’s own businesses doing in terms of content marketing? What I will say now will shake the ground to its core. At the time of writing:
- Vayner Commerce has not posted on Instagram in over a month.
- The Sasha Group has not posted on YouTube in 5 months, or Instagram in 5 days.
- VaynerTalent seems to have no profile on TikTok, & has never posted to LinkedIn.
And this is all I can be bothered to investigate to prove my point.
Outside of Gary’s own advice, if you take a second to look at the website of Wine Library… One word: hideous.
Is GaryVee the real deal? 🥸
With all this in mind, is Gary really a marketing mastermind? Well, in a way, yes. Nobody is putting out the amount of quantity he is or constantly being active on every platform like he is.
Do I think he could run a successful PPC campaign? No, I don’t. Which is kind of funny when you consider this is how he grew Wine Library, & that this validated him as a marketer.
Whilst it’s disappointing that his own companies don’t hold themselves to his standard, that’s just evidence you maybe shouldn’t invest in using his companies (his production company seems amazing, mind you).
Additionally, maybe don’t try & follow his advice too much, or you’ll burn out in a matter of weeks.