DTC brands are changing traditional consumer-brand dynamics and forcing creative agencies and legacy brands to re-evaluate how they operate, but each side can usefully learn from the other, say two industry figures.

Writing for WARC, Sue Mizera, co-founder of strategic brand consultancy TorchFish, and Alessandra Cotugno, global strategy partner at Ogilvy, note that the old model of the four brand pillars saw differentiation drive relevance and esteem drive knowledge.

But among DTC brands, they say, knowledge is driving esteem and relevance is driving differentiation; “esteem often rises before differentiation, which is also contrary to classic brand-building dynamics”.

They put this shift down to what they call ‘social spread’ – the new currency of DTC brands, that taps into the way people communicate and how they experience brands – a development which enables disruptive brands to win consideration and preference over traditional brands.

But clever use of digital infrastructure to grow fast and connect directly to customers doesn’t necessarily help with longer-term brand building. That’s the role of creative agencies, who “need to make serious shifts in new, creative servicing for their clients”, the authors say. (For more, read the full article: What creative agencies and legacy brands can learn from direct-to-consumer brands (and vice-versa).)

That means recruiting new talent with new skillsets and redefining the agency team to include different types of people working differently.

Many of those people will have a facility with data and research, the sort of skills that have typically driven digital start-ups. But the authors’ work with digital-first SMEs across Europe has highlighted a common failing among the latter group.

“They admit they lack ‘softer skills’ that focus on the more creative and emotive aspects of brand-building,” say Mizera and Cotugno.

“Mostly technical and engineering types, they are completely new to traditional agency disciplines of planning and creative, and acknowledge that they lack the skill sets and mentality to develop either.”

It is the absence of these softer skills that leads to a plethora of banner ads and pop-up ads that are about reminder and awareness-building rather than story-telling, they note. That absence is arguably one of the factors that led to the recent demise of slipper brand Mahabis.

Ultimately, the authors say, “The future of branding, marketing and communications is a triumvirate of content, data analytics and technology: seamlessly integrated and strategically aligned, right from the start.”

Sourced from WARC