Solving For Polygamy: Brand Loyalty In D2C Economy

This article originally appeared on MediaPost.

Direct-to-consumer brands are masters of making news. They create conversations tuned to the zeitgeist, like ThirdLove’s transgender models reshaping Victoria’s Secret’s contrived fantasy. They go viral on their audience’s favorite channel, like Dollar Shave Club’s pithy YouTube debut. They pursue policies that challenge norms, like Everlane’s ethical factories in an industry known for opaque supply chains.

D2C brands’ news coverage attracts consumers to their products, but is that enough to sustain their growth?

Most consumers, especially light users who generate much of any brand’s demand, are “polygamous,” to cite author and marketing professor Byron Sharp’s descriptor, meaning they switch between a few competing brands based on price and availability.

No brand’s growth can be sustained by a small-scale community of deeply loyal users. Growth depends on a mass of polygamous users, necessitating mass reach marketing for customer acquisition.

Fortunately, D2C brands are made for mass reach marketing. Their savvy for turning owned, earned and paid media into news heightens their memorability. In addition, their digital storefronts feature endless aisles, offering broad distribution and efficient product discovery.

Most consumers, especially light users who generate much of any brand’s demand, are “polygamous,” to cite author and marketing professor Byron Sharp’s descriptor, meaning they switch between a few competing brands based on price and availability.

D2C consumers now choose between Saatva, Leesa, Purple, Nectar and Casper mattresses, for instance, making it crucial for each brand to remain top-of-mind.

This competition for mindshare induces a game of media one-upmanship, contributing to rising CPMs on Facebook and spurring questions for brands like: How do I create lasting impressions in a market full of new and established competitors? How can I convert my brand’s memorability into user growth?

One answer is TV. The sight, sound and motion of TV ads reinforce a brand’s story better than any other medium. TV is an essential channel for customer acquisition and competitive differentiation. Consider these stats:

– TV penetrates nearly 120 million households, comprising over 95% of the U.S. population. By comparison, 76% of suburbanites, 73% of urban dwellers, and 63% of those in rural areas are home broadband users, according to Pew Research.

For smartphone usage, the numbers are marginally better: 79% of suburbanites, 77% of urban dwellers, and 67% of those in rural areas own a smartphone.

In other words, a significant portion of the U.S. is shut out of digital advertising.

The sight, sound and motion of TV ads reinforce a brand’s story better than any other medium. TV is an essential channel for customer acquisition and competitive differentiation.

– People watch a lot of TV. People watch more TV than the cumulative amount of time adults 18+ spend on their phones, tablets, and PCs every day. Even millennials (ages 18-34) watch roughly 3 hours of linear TV a day, more than they cumulatively spend eating, shopping, and using social media.

D2Cs create value as their brands become status symbols and their products, often mixing the premium with the everyday, harness the visual rhetoric of Instagram’s Feed.

Given their need and prowess for mass reach marketing, D2Cs’ brand campaigns are their greatest assets, even more essential than patented physical products. Their growth, however, can’t depend on a few loyal consumers who prioritize committed relationships with brands over price and availability. Most consumers are polygamous, necessitating mass reach marketing to grow. TV, the highest performing mass reach medium, is crucial to growth.

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