Resilient Reign: Why Content Remains King In D2C Economy

My most recent subway ride through Manhattan was full of content.  Three of six riders near me scrolled through Instagram feeds, thumbs halting whenever interest was piqued.  Another rider consumed Snapchat stories, her smile widening at each story’s dynamism. Another scrolled through Spotify for a song attuned to his mood, while still another read a transit ad for GREATS, a D2C startup self-identifying as Brooklyn’s first sneaker brand.

This group’s content consumption, consistent with patterns across America, justifies how D2C brands go to market.  They have turned each medium mentioned -- social, audio and out-of-home -- into an important retail channel.  Without those channels and their audiences, D2Cs wouldn’t grow.  They depend on these channels not because subway cars are inherently effective vehicles of commerce but because consumers crave content.  When D2Cs integrate with content that consumers crave --  and, at best, take that content viral -- brands strike gold.



Consumers crave content because they love meaningful stories.  From Dia&Co’s "Road Couturier" TV spot featuring plus-size models on a road trip in a pink Wrangler to MeUndies’ "Join The Comfortable" video featuring millennials of different shapes and skin tones taking selfies in their underwear, meaningful stories bring marketing to life.  

Stories by D2Cs and incumbent brands alike compete for consumer attention, with D2C stories earning extraordinary media coverage and sparking social movements (like Eloquii’s demonstration of body positivity and Bombshell Bay Swimwear’s embrace of eco-friendly materials).  

Why?  D2C stories are, by and large, newer, seemingly more authentic, more ethically charged and aesthetically distinctive than  stories by incumbent brands.  D2Cs imbue their transactions with special excitement, turning the act of buying underwear, for instance, into an expression of generational identity.   

D2C companies’ storytelling expertise not only showcases their creative brilliance, polished by agencies like Gin Lane, Red Antler and Partners & Spade, but also reveals storytelling expertise that retail channels like Instagram demand.  Instagram shows sharp imagery filtered to become eye candy and videos offering exciting vantage points.  Instagram’s prescription for what images and videos should say, mean and do is perhaps the strongest determinant of how D2C content looks and feels.    

D2C brands know how crucial great content is.  Will Flaherty, vice president of growth at Ro, for example, tells Modern Retail that “creative is your one lever to drive performance.”  Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes,  acknowledges that “people don’t just wear our shoes… they tell our story,” according to  Medium. 

The emphasis on storytelling also explains D2Cs’ recent spending growth on TV, a proven trustworthy and artistically rich storytelling medium.  Recent research from the Video Advertising Bureau reveals that the top 125 D2C brands spent $3.8 billion on TV ads last year, up 60% from 2017.  

The near-immediate sales lift from TV is real.  Because of the TV industry’s developing digital-like buying, measurement and optimization technology, TV has become a bona fide customer acquisition channel on which growth marketers test, learn and scale.  

By integrating with content that consumers crave, whether on social, out-of-home or TV, and producing content worthy of craving, D2C brands become storytelling masters.  As they deploy content, their greatest asset, in new and often thrilling ways, D2Cs help each of their sales channels transcend its transaction value, turning commerce into acts of cultural, ethical and aesthetic significance.  

Do you agree?

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