Szymanowski calls it an epiphany:
"I came home from the grocery store, and I needed to come up with something for the meeting," he remembers. "And I said, 'You know what hipsters love? Mustaches... and Ray Bans.' So why not slap those together?"
Levich sold Spirit on the idea. Then he moved on to other retailers. By the fall, Sun-Staches were in thousands of stores. ***
But how did Bieber & co. find the Sun-Staches? WorldWide Dynasty employs fewer than 20 people and doesn't have a marketing department. According to Levich, beyond the cost of production, the company hasn't paid for anything to build the Sun-Stache brand besides fees associated with filing patent applications and sending online press releases. Yet, even before "the Bieber video," as they call it, Levich and Szymanowski had begun to devise ways to develop their new brand on the cheap.
They set up a Facebook page, had giveaways, and sent 'staches to Hollywood-types who seemed interested. It started slowly. But then a girl who received a free pair passed them off to Carlos Pena, and things started moving faster. (After the girl took credit, the company sent her a few more pairs.)
With more exposure to manage, Szymanowski saw his job mutate. Initially, he just compiled photos on the website. As things accelerated, he started spending more and more time on Facebook concocting promotions, and managing the brand's Twitter feed under his new persona, "Stache Man." He started pushing the hashtag "#MustacheSwag." And, recently, he's tried to popularize a new mustachioed emoticon— :3 .
"It's become a lot of work," Szymanowski says. "I'm a designer, first and foremost. But, to see my random idea morph into something unto itself—that's fun, too."
Sun-Staches are now showing up in unexpected places, and Szymanowski pounces on each photo op. In March, Aubrey Plaza of NBC's Parks and Recreation threw on a pair to walk the red carpet at the premiere of Will Ferrell's Casa De Mi Padre. Photos were picked up by celebrity blogs and teen-centric websites across the Internet. Worldwide Dynasty sent her more pairs.
"I don't know what traditional marketing is, really," says Levich. "If that means hiring a firm, and all that, I don't think we need it. These are not traditional products. So far, this guerrilla strategy has worked really well."
Of course, most Sun-Stache-wearing Beliebers still haven't heard of the Levich's company. But that's probably okay, says Hema Yoganarasimhan, a professor of marketing a the UC Davis Graduate School of Management: WorldWide Dynasty, intentionally or not, is undergoing what he calls a "cloaked" campaign. The result feels more organic and less engineered than a mainstream ad campaign. But in seeking to disappear, the company risks losing control over the information that starts to swirl around their product, and finding themselves stuck with a product that means something entirely different than what they had in mind.