Commentary

4 Ways Next-Gen D2C Brands Can Crack Creative Marketing

Companies frustrated by marketing intermediaries can learn from direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, which are now flourishing by cutting out the middleman.

Casper, Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club are commonly credited with kickstarting brand interest in going direct. Soon, people will be buying toothbrushes directly from P&G or its D2C competitor Quip, but not the retailer.

D2C companies want to establish direct relationships with consumers. They’re the essence of brand marketing -- a distilled version in which the importance of brand personality is heightened and impact is amplified.

D2C brands Peloton and Brooklinen, are taking that marketing message to traditional media.  D2C brands are created and born online, yet TV ad spend by direct brands is booming. However, they treat these channels as they would a digital one, testing multiple TV ads and using tracking codes to analyze the best creative.  

Anyone aiming to follow the same path will need to ensure they have expertise in both marketing and ecommerce. So what does the next generation of D2C brands need to know?

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1. Understand your audience. Have a detailed concept for who those customers are. To unlock the direct opportunity, you need to be granular and insightful -- unlike the old marketing world of limited, broad demographics.

Produce a value proposition and creative that is going to grab consumer attention. Would-be D2Cs need to gather consumer insights that will help their creatives learn and continually evolve.

2. Hang on to that funnel. Direct-to-consumer does not necessarily mean immediate purchase. With just one model and a core brand promise, bed-in-a-box company Casper was able to simplify the consumer journey and drive significant sales growth.

Content plays a key role in this journey, but firm objectives, used with various tactics at different points, are also needed.

Use content to ignite interest and bring a product to life, paid ads to deliver those messages, and pixels to facilitate retargeting and drive purchases directly through social platforms with features like Instagram checkout.

3. Develop a test-and-learn creative mentality. There’s a misconception that, if you’re a direct brand, your marketing is best served by price discounts. Price cannot be a prime driver; great creative and value proposition should be at the forefront.

D2C brands need to capture user attention and imagination in a short space of time, placing a premium on visually impactful micro-storytelling. On social, this gives great focus to D2C brands who typically only provide one to three products, compared to their traditional incumbents who may have hundreds of items for sale.

Developing a test-and-learn approach to constantly evolve creative is key. From this, actionable creative insights can be developed and drive better ad performance on social platforms.

4. Budget for multiple formats. The hidden reality of D2C is that truly “direct” is an overstatement. A brand may dream of taking ownership of its own marketing, but a hybridized option is required using third-party platforms.

Brands that want to go truly direct must now factor in Amazon as part of their growth strategy, understanding how to use it as a distribution tool for their products.

A Bain & Co report last year found many brands lack the talent, budgets and organizational capabilities to undertake ecommerce. Before clicking the “D2C” button, brands should cost out the associated impact of these new content production requirements.

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