Appearing Everywhere: The Celebrity Culture Of D2C Brands

D2C brands need to become ubiquitous.  Ariel Kaye, founder of D2C bedding brand Parachute believes, for instance, that “the big win” is when people say, “I see Parachute everywhere,” according to ModernRetail.

Ubiquity comes from a potent mix of paid, owned and earned media, all of which are only as effective as the stories they tell.  The most viral (and valuable) D2C brands tell stories, often highlighting product craftsmanship, on a comprehensive variety of media.  By doing so, D2Cs appear everywhere, both online and offline, and can become larger than life. 

Does this strategy sound familiar?  It should, because the D2C growth playbook is substantially similar to the PR playbook used by celebrities to gain widespread recognition.  D2C oral care brand Quip’s frequent press coverage in Fast Company, TechCrunch, and New York magazine, for example, and its significant social, out-of-home, audio and TV presence are on the same page as Ariana Grande’s PR strategy, which includes Vogue, Elle and Refinery29 coverage, viral Instagram posts about her 26th birthday, and behind-the-scenes videos. 



It’s no coincidence that both Everlane and Karlie Kloss are represented by D2C-focused PR firm Derris.  Celebrities and D2Cs alike are pursuing a uniquely American type of branding that prioritizes media dominance and pop cultural relevance.    

Earned media, in particular, has proven especially valuable for D2Cs while paid media’s efficacy declines.  PR firms like Gin Lane and Jennifer Bett Communications place D2C stories with journalists and influencers that, when published, add third-party credibility to D2C products.  

This credibility is pretty cost-efficient.  Parachute, for example, would’ve had to “spend $2 million on Facebook in… January for the same number of impressions it received through earned media. That’s roughly 100 times what the brand spent on PR and product gifting,” again according to ModernRetail.

Earned media, such as press coverage in Medium and Wall Street Journal, user-generated Instagram content, and appearances in lifestyle magazines’ gift guides afford rich storytelling opportunities that paid media, often transactional and product-centric, does not.  What’s more, Instagram audiences are increasingly desensitized to -- and, at times, skeptical of -- the superabundant video and carousel ads optimized for online shopping.  

Audience desensitization challenges D2Cs to cultivate authenticity and a distinctive customer experience in the right place at the right time instead of contributing to paid and earned media’s noise. 

Seeking similar credibility, ubiquity and storytelling opportunities that earned media affords, D2C brands are testing TV, the ultimate mass-reach medium.

Though TV’s effective, it’s hard to find the right customers on TV at the right time.  Audiences are fragmented on TV like they are on digital, meaning that viewers likely to convert are spread across hundreds of channels.  In fact, the average U.S. household receives nearly 200 channels, up from 27 in 1990, so competition for audience attention is high.  To solve for fragmentation, D2C brands are using people-based TV advertising technology that finds high-value viewers across an extensive variety of undervalued networks, programs and dayparts. 

In the pursuit of ubiquity, D2Cs are becoming masters of omnichannel marketing.  Running playbooks similar to celebrities’ PR strategies, D2Cs tell distinctive stories on a comprehensive variety of media, with earned media and TV proving particularly valuable. 

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