How Mini Katana Scaled on Social Media with Ads

Scaling without Paid Ads

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Read Time: 11.4 Minutes

Happy Sunday Operators ⚙️

I’m on the 3rd floor of a co-working space near Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. There are 6 fire trucks blaring alarms outside, with everyone scattering. I wonder what’s going on?

While I watch that mystery unfold, let’s talk about another mystery.

What do you do if you can’t use paid ads to grow your D2C startup like everyone else?

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Setting the Stage

Mini Katana’s Ad Blocker

The best operators are able to turn constraints into strengths. One such person is Isaac Medeiros, the founder of Mini Katana. 

Mini Katana sells miniature samurai swords.

What started as a passion project run out of Isaac's Los Angeles apartment has grown into an 8-figure DTC brand.

All without being able to run paid ads.

Determined to turn his love for Japanese katanas into a thriving business, he started selling mini sword replicas online.

But, he soon ran into a major roadblock. Because he was selling “weapons,” Isaac was banned from running ads on social media platforms.

Not all products are well-suited for paid advertising. Certain categories, such as weapons or adult content, are subject to strict advertising policies (or even get banned).

This was the exact problem faced by Isaac Medeiros when he first launched Mini Katana.

As a brand selling miniature samurai swords, Mini Katana fell under the "weapons" category and was prohibited from running ads on most social media platforms.

This meant that Isaac could not use the traditional DTC playbook of leveraging paid acquisition to drive growth.

He understood that to succeed, he would need to get creative and find ways to build brand awareness and engagement organically.

He poured all his energy into creating viral content to capture attention.

Because of that focus, Mini Katana has achieved $15M+ in annual revenue in just three years. All from from organic sales.

His social media stats speak for themself. Mini Katana currently has:

  • 2M+ TikTok followers and 45M+ likes

  • 290k+ engaged Instagram followers

  • 3.6M YouTube subscribers with over 2.5B views


That cut was so clean…😩 #asmr #satisfying #katana

By cracking the code on viral organic marketing, he was able to build a profitable brand without spending a dime on paid advertising.

By focusing on:

  • Creating viral content

  • Cultivating a loyal community

  • Leveraging the power of organic social media

Isaac was able not only to overcome the paid advertising ban, but also unlock a highly effective growth engine for this business.

Ops Tactic: Reverse-engineer virality in your niche with high-quality short-form content

Why this Matters

DTC Usually Rely on Paid Ads. Not Mini Katana

For many direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, paid advertising has been THE growth strategy.

However, this approach comes with its own set of challenges.

Firstly, social media advertising costs have increased over the years as more businesses compete for limited ad space.

This means that brands need to constantly optimize their ad spend and creatives to maintain a positive return on investment (ROI).

Changes in privacy regulations and tracking restrictions have made it harder to measure the effectiveness of paid campaigns accurately.

With social media ads' rising costs, having an organic marketing strategy can be a game-changer for your brand.

Isaac's approach was to:

  1. Create compelling content that resonates with your target audience and encourages sharing

  2. Build a loyal community of customers who will become your best brand advocates

  3. Leverage the unique features and algorithms of different social media platforms to maximize your reach and engagement

  4. Optimize your website and sales funnel to convert organic traffic into paying customers

  5. Continuously test and iterate on your organic marketing strategies to stay ahead of the curve

In today's e-commerce landscape, relying too heavily on any single growth channel can be risky.

Algorithm changes, policy updates, or a global pandemic can disrupt your typical acquisition strategies and leave your business vulnerable.

By harnessing the power of organic marketing, you'll be better equipped to weather these challenges.

Whether you're a startup founder looking to scale your business on a bootstrap budget, or an established brand seeking to reduce your dependence on paid ads, you can learn actionable strategies to help you achieve your goals.

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