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‘We’re excited to see top brands choosing to market themselves to the SOS audience’

By Rajiv Raghunath - June 24, 2022

Julian Chu, Head of Strategy and Growth of US-based SOS that operates a network of wellness vending machines with advertising media, talks about the company’s pioneering business and brand associations, in an interview with Rajiv Raghunath

Julian Chu, Head of Strategy & Growth, SOS

SOS has set up easy-to-operate machines dispensing health and wellness products for women on-the-go. Are you satisfied with the customer response to your service offering, and how scalable is your business? 

Consumer response to the SOS amenity has been tremendous. People regularly tell us how beautiful the machines are and how much they appreciate being able to obtain essential products where and when they need them. Our Net Promoter Score is off the charts -- around 75 to 80.

We are building our business to be highly scalable -- all SOS machines are managed remotely with real-time data on uptime and usage, including shopping and transaction activity. We are employing start-of-the-art technology to manage both the front-end content and shopping experience and the back-end infrastructure. And we’ve designed an operating model that ensures the machines stay in stock 99% of the time in all markets around the country.

What kind of brands are associated with SOS?

We’re defining “health and wellness” broadly to include a wide range of personal care, beauty, PPE, supplements, and even apparel products that people often need as they go about their daily lives. All of our retail partners are modern brands that share our mission to improve lives through elevated, better-for-you consumer experiences. Examples include:

  • Hero Cosmetics -- Their Mighty Patch Duo pimple patch product is flying off the shelves. Frankly we were a bit surprised by this but SOS consumers love the brand!
  • H-PROOF and Jems -- These are two new brands in our “Discovery” category, one’s a hangover remedy and the other is in the sexual wellness category (Jems is a condom brand). Both brands have been conducting successful sampling campaigns with SOS and are transitioning to paid sales through our machines.
  • Hanky Panky -- This is a great example of what’s possible with an integrated marketing and commerce platform like SOS. We’re successfully selling full-price apparel (thongs) in our machines and driving greater brand awareness for the brand and their broader product line.

In addition, brands outside of the above product categories are working directly with SOS as sponsors/advertisers because they want to reach our highly coveted audience that skews younger, higher-income, and socially conscious. These include brands as diverse as real estate companies (e.g., Compass) and home decor brands (e.g., Art at Home).

SOS has partnered with Vistar Media to offer DOOH advertising media, are you seeing a good response from advertisers?

As we continue to build our machine network and awareness among programmatic advertisers, agencies, and DSP, we are seeing increasing demand through the Vistar exchange. In fact, as much as 50% of our screen time has been consumed by exchange advertisers in some locations, during peak periods! We’re very excited to see nationally recognised brands choosing to market themselves to the SOS audience, not only B2C companies like Starbucks, Levi’s, Hulu, and Target, but also B2B companies like Boeing, Dataiku, and Ubimo. 

SOS is also associated with sports activations, what teams do you have a brand presence with and what are the monetising/advertising opportunities there?

SOS has gone live in the stadiums of both the Boston Red Sox and Jacksonville Jaguars. And we’re about to deploy in the Florida Panthers’ arena in south Florida. On the heels of these exciting launches, we’re seeing tons of inbound interest from other teams across the MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA -- our inboxes are literally filling up nearly every day with a new inquiry.

The great thing is that the SOS business model offers sports teams a win-win-win proposition: We help them address a universal health need (menstrual care) that they frankly have not done a good job of addressing in the past, as well as open the doors to a whole new group of sponsors (advertisers) that the sports world has traditionally not focused on.

So, working closely with the teams, we are engaging with brands in industries such as CPG, health and wellness, fashion, and technology that are excited about the opportunity to reach potential customers and employees in new and relevant contexts where they spend significant amounts of time outside of the home.

Do you have any plans of expanding your business to other geographical markets?

As word spreads about SOS, we are opening up opportunities in markets coast-to-coast. (We’re currently live in MA and FL.) We are close to signing agreements for our first locations in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And are in active discussions with partners in Chicago and key cities in Texas. Our vision is to eventually be in all the markets and prominent public locations where the SOS consumer needs us to be!


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