Glassie’s Christian Sagert and Cameron Oehlers on Breaking Out and Getting In With Gen Z

illustration of phone with shopping bag emerging from the screen
Published on
Feb 1, 2023
Written by
Kasey Hickey
Kasey is the Senior Director of Content Marketing. She loves to travel, dabble in amateur photography, and practice yoga. She calls the West Coast home.
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Learn how Glassie is getting more screen time with Gen Z shoppers and winning their trust.

If you’re reading this on your phone, there’s a good chance you’re looking through a screen protector. But, we’re willing to bet that you can’t name the brand—unless it’s a Glassie.

The screen protector industry is estimated to hit $84.96 billion by 2030, yet most companies in the market sell generic products with generic branding. Glassie’s founders, Neels Visser, Christian Sagert, and Cameron Oehlers, hope to change that with their patented screen protectors, which feature images that disappear when the screen turns on.

In addition to creating customizable options for consumers, their product represents an opportunity for brands to put their logo and designs on what Sagert describes as “the most valuable real estate in the world”—phone screens. For Glassie, it means becoming the brand people immediately think of when they need to protect their precious devices. “We don't want people to think of Glassie as just a screen protector: We want people to think of screen protectors as a Glassie,” Sagert says.

Sagert and Oehlers chatted with Ben Jabbawy, Founder of Privy, about how they’re using SMS to connect with their phone-loving Gen Z customers, and how working with influencers gave them an all-important foot in the door.

Keep reading to get the highlights, or listen to their full conversation here.

Don’t sleep on Gen Z

Older generations have been known to give Gen Z a little grief for being glued to their phones—but the first generation of true digital natives represents an increasingly important market for digital products.

Born after 1997, the oldest members of Gen Z were 10 when the iPhone came out. They’ve watched smartphones transition from a glorified version of a Filofax to a necessity for navigating everyday life. Recognizing that Gen Z’s social, private, educational, and professional lives are stored in their phones, Glassie took the opportunity to create a screen protector geared toward this younger generation.

“Not a single company in the market was even targeting Gen Z,” Oehlers says. “The branding for most screen protectors is very techie—it’s in a box that’s silver or metallic, and it doesn't connect with your lifestyle in any way. It just feels very sterile.” 

In contrast, Glassie built their product and branding with Gen Z’s love of customization and personalization in mind. Rather than settling for a plain screen protector, Glassie customers can show off a design with a unique flair.

The Glassie team also developed their communication strategies around Gen Z’s preference for texting over email. Branded emails are one-way, but replying to a text feels easy and natural, especially to a generation that’s been using this form of communication their whole lives.

“They don't want to be sold to, they want to talk with you, they want to be part of a dialogue,” Sagert says. “Texting allows us to come across as a friend or a brand that really cares and values our community. We're able to have a back-and-forth conversation.”

Never leaving SMS subscribers on read

The Glassie team makes it as easy as possible for their customers to get product information and answers to their questions by being upfront with resources. 

For example, they created a video showing how to apply a Glassie, which is linked through a QR code displayed on the packaging and in a text message customers receive when their order has been delivered. “You don’t need to do anything other than take out your phone—which you need to apply the Glassie anyway—and then it gives you the full instructions in a video,” Oehlers says. “We made it really easy for them.”

They also respond to every single text message and social media comment, because they feel that this is the most effective way to foster that direct communication their audience loves. “People are more open to having conversations on SMS and asking questions about your brand,” Sagert says. “They’re asking us, ‘When's the next drop? What phone size does this Glassie fit? What are you guys looking to do next?’”

When customers do have support issues, solving them over text also feels less formal and more accessible. “We’ve found that through SMS, we're able to turn those conversations around much more easily because it creates less stress,” Oehlers says. “We don't need to type lengthy emails. It's more like, ‘Hey, I'm so sorry that this happened, let's make this right.’ They feel heard—even more than in an email—especially if you're responsive in a timely manner.”

Beyond customer service, the two-way nature of text conversations and Glassie’s commitment to respond to every message have made it possible to engage customers in authentic branded communications. “Even if somebody's like, ‘Why are you texting me?’ we'll respond back—and it's fun because you can turn that into an opportunity to get them to fall in love with your brand,” Oehlers says. “I'll send them a meme or use a colloquial phrase, and they're not expecting it.”

Building buzz through user-generated content 

While the Glassie team knew they had a great opportunity, they were still the new kids on the block, trying to make a name for themselves in a market where customers are used to buying from established brands.

But they had one ace up their sleeve that could help them stand out. As a bona fide influencer, Visser was able to draw on his network and personally ask people to test out the product.

Brands send products to people with large social media followings all the time, in the hopes of getting access to their followers and piquing their interest. But because Glassie’s request came from a fellow influencer, it carried more weight and got a stronger response. 

To make the products even more special, the team created 250 custom Glassies, to make sure they each matched the personality of the phone it would be used on. It was “a bit of a nightmare,” Oehlers admits, but the influencers were impressed, and the extra effort paid off and introduced Glassie’s brand and product to a wide audience.

“Almost everybody on that list posted, and it was very authentic—everybody was super excited and showing the product off,” Sagert says. “That drew a lot of buzz right away. We wanted to have these influencers and celebrities that people have seen before break the ice for us, and have somebody that they were very familiar with show them this new product.”

With so much competition for attention, new brands have to work their connections and find creative ways to stand out. Glassie as a company is a lot like Glassie the product. They’re unique in a field of generics, engineered to withstand shocks, and very clear on where they’re going.

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