It seems fitting to reach back into a deceased automaker’s final brand message when trying to describe how differently today’s fast-emerging direct-to-consumer brands market their products than most of the brands we grew up with.
D2C brands like ThirdLove (lingerie) and Dagne Dover (bags) are not your father’s marketers — not by a mile.
I started the week in Phoenix, attending the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting (as all who read my columns know, I attend a lot of conferences). This year’s event was entirely focused on the revolution in marketing and the consumer economy from the emergence of “direct brands,” a phenomenon that particularly fascinates me these days.
I traveled to the IAB event trying to learn how these brands are likely to change the advertising ecosystem, and I wasn’t disappointed. I not only met a number of inspiring founders who are changing big markets with digitally born D2C brands, but I was particularly fortunate to get to interview four on stage: Jessy Dover of DagneDover, Bryce Goldman of Kopari Beauty, Josh Hicks of Plated (food) and Imran Khan of Verishop (ecommerce).
Below is some of what learned:
D2C marketing is not about advertising, but about innovative products solving well-known, widely shared and seemingly intractable consumer problems. I’m sure that Procter & Gamble brands like Tide and Gillette have some fascinating 100-year-old “origin stories.” Unfortunately, not unlike Levi’s stories about 1849 Gold Rush prospectors using rivets to turn canvas into jeans, the stories are interesting relics with virtually no personal relevance to today’s consumers.
ThirdLove’s founder told a great story about having to make a last moment, pre-meeting run to a Victoria Secret store to get an ill-fitting bra and then having to hide the branded bag, being embarrassed by it. She also told of the dehumanizing experience of being fitted for bras at department stores.
The founder of Dagne Dover, a former designer at Coach, told about wanting to make bags that she and her millennial friends would want to carry, not bags from Tumi.
Kopari’s founder talked about wanting everyone to access and experience the positive health effects of coconut oil products.
They don’t dwell. They act. “We make hard decisions. We have to do things differently. We have to do them fast.” So said husband and wife team Heidi Zak and Dave Spector of ThirdLove about taking on Victoria’s Secret in a full-page ad in The New York Times — against the advice of their public relations firms.
Not likely to have “media whisperers” running their paid media. When they talk about advertising, it’s clear that they’re not worried about conforming to the traditional customs of media companies, channels and relationships.
Instead, they are all about hacking the ad ecosystem to work for them. They want data analysts and operations specialists running their media, not relationship whisperers.
They’re just getting started. When asked if it’s too late to start an ecommerce company, given the massive scale of competitors like Amazon, Alibaba and eBay, Verishop founder Khan, the former chief strategy officer at SnapChat, reminded us that ecommerce is only at 9% of sales in the U.S. today. That other 91% leaves a lot of room for growth and upside for new digitally centric marketers and merchants.
What do you think? Can the Oldsmobile brands of yesterday hold off the Quip toothbrush brands of today?