Is FaZe Rug the Willy Wonka of Gen Z?

Is FaZe Rug the Willy Wonka of Gen Z?

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When YouTuber Brian Awadis suggested dropping out of college to focus on his gaming career, his parents weren’t exactly over the moon. Ten years and 23 million subscribers later, he’s managed to cheer them up.

Known to his fans as “FaZe Rug,” he’s the closest thing to a household name the esports industry has, with over seven billion views on his YouTube channel, a signature G-Fuel energy drink (“Sour Blue Chug Rug”), and an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated beside the other founders of his breakout esports team, FaZe Clan. Now, the 26-year-old influencer is parlaying his platform into a brand extension literally tailored to Gen Z’s tastes: candy. Launched on May 17th, 1UP Candy is exclusively available on the company’s website for the time being.

Becoming The Candy Man

“For over 10 years, I put my blood sweat and tears into content creation,” Rug told Entrepreneur. “Recently I took a step back and considered what other challenges would excite me as much as making videos.” To find the answer, he did what any good entrepreneur would do: took stock of what he loves and figured out how to monetize it.

Related: Is This $100,000 Candy Testing Job For Real?

“At first, I thought about merchandise.” (Rug’s love of designer streetwear is clear from his Instagram). “Then I thought about a drink.” (His 2020 video Extreme Sourest Drink in The World Challenge!!, is one of his favorites.) “But I kept coming back to candy. Candy is for everybody.” The idea began to take shape when the self-declared “candyhead” posted two YouTube videos called I Turned My House into a REAL CANDY STORE!!, and Last to Leave the Candy Store, Keeps It. They garnered over 10 million views each.

Sweetening the Deal

Understanding the power of teamwork from his years in esports, Rug approached his business manager about finding partners to land a deal. Enter Matt Weiss, a former Ferrara Candy Company exec and current board member for VOID, a talent agency that helps social media and sports influencers launch businesses. After months of strategizing and brainstorming marketing plans, Weiss arrived at the following conclusion: “What the world needs is not necessarily a better-tasting gummy bear.”

What we do need, he believes, are shared experiences and social connection. Result: the #1upsourchallenge, a burgeoning online craze connecting Rug’s fanbase of fellow candyheads—and potential 1UP consumers. Playing off the success of 2015’s viral WarHeads® #DareToBeSour campaign, the challenge encourages candyheads to:

  1. Pop a few of the shockingly sour gummies in your mouth and suck on them for 30 seconds, while maintaining your best poker face.
  2. Drink some sort of neutralizing magical soda to cleanse your palate and resuscitate your tastebuds.
  3. Post a video of steps one and two on social media for all your followers to see.

As part of a collaboration with Cash App, challenge participants can win cash, concert tickets, and a chance to be featured in a FaZe Rug video—so long as they use the hashtag #1upsourchallenge in their posts. The idea is for fan-produced videos to function as earned media. Translation: free advertising for 1Up, free swag for fans.

Related: New Yorkers Are Helping Ray’s Candy Store Stay in Business

Sugar highs. And lows.

For Rug, the best part of launching the new venture has been interacting with fans. On a recent trip to a local mall, he gave shoppers free samples and filmed their reactions. The resulting video shows him handing out prizes to the lucky few who managed to maintain a straight face despite what their tastebuds were telling them. As for the worst part, it’s the same challenge every entrepreneur struggles with at one point or another: the fear of flopping.

Related: How This 13-Year-Old Entrepreneur Built a Multi-Million Dollar Candy Company

“With success comes failure,” Rug says, matter-of-factly. “I always tell people not to be discouraged when something doesn’t work out. I’ve failed many times on my journey with making videos and so on. You just have to one-up from that fail and keep going.”

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