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How Direct-to-Consumer Brands Can Grow With Scaled Video

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan  |  Executive Chairman
Published: Nov. 16, 2021

Creating a great “unboxing” experience is how so many direct-to-consumer brands stand out and differentiate themselves from both legacy retail buying experiences as well as from other DTC alternatives. It's also how they have been fundamentally disrupting traditional brick-and-mortar retail in the process.

These brands' media strategies have been a big part of their disruption as well. Underwear maker Mack Weldon is famous for targeting a significant portion of its social media budgets to Sunday afternoons, when it will find heavy concentrations of its target customers -- young and middle-aged men -- aimlessly browsing their social apps and news feeds while watching sports on TV.

Who can forget Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin directly taking on Gillette and Schick, first in social video ads and then at massive scale on television? That chutzpah -- and quickly creating brand relevance and distinctiveness for tens of millions of shavers -- helped the company achieve 8% market share in men's razors in just a few short years from start-up, unheard of for one of the world’s oldest, most valuable and most contested packaged goods markets.

If you unboxed the video plan of a successful, scaled DTC brand, what would you find? First, you would likely find a strategy right out of the book How Brands Grow, Byron Sharp’s legendary and groundbreaking work on what it takes to build and grow brands.

This formula is pretty straightforward. After creating a product that solves their customers’ problems (for example, a subscription service for people tired of paying too much for razors), DTC brands leverage ecommerce platforms, direct supply chains, attractive packaging and tailored customer service to create true “physical availability” of their products – ensuring that virtually any target consumer in their target geographies can buy them easily. This includes making their products easy to find on search, which to them is not really a media channel, but is all about fulfillment.

Then, starting small and scaling up as success dictates, DTC companies tend to develop their customer personas, offers, promotions and brand messaging in real time like the tech companies they are, leveraging flight after flight of search, social, retail media and affiliate marketing campaigns, constantly iterating to develop brand messaging and creative that is distinctive and memorable to those target personas. All powered by smart, real-time analytics of course.

In the parlance of Sharp, this is how to achieve “mental availability” to their target customers, ensuring that when those people are ready to purchase in that category, they will not only find the brand’s product easily, but that the product is memorable enough to be considered.

Sharp doesn’t believe that consumers build complex positioning maps in their heads and consider lots of different products. No, Sharp recognizes that we are “satisficers” who go to what is easy and familiar and usually only consider two different brands for any purchase need.

The key for a marketer is to become one of those two at the moment it matters. How does a DTC brand do that? More and more often, once they have had “success in the small” finding the sweet spot for distinctiveness and memorability, they turn to scaled video, a la Dollar Shave Club and hundreds of direct brands that have followed its well-trod path.

They go for scale. And why not -- with ecommerce and search, DTC brands can now be physically available to virtually everyone. And video as an ad medium is not only highly impactful and engaging, but can reach virtually anyone today, whether in digital video on PCs or mobile, or on CTV to reach streamers, or linear TV to reach the masses.

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An earlier version of this blog was originally published by MediaPost.