For all that direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are disrupting categories and rewriting many rules of marketing, it remains the case that DTC brand-building is still fundamentally brand-building, which means the standard principles all still apply.

So says Nazia Du Bois, the founder of Ricebowl Strategy and the lead strategist in building the men’s grooming brand Harry’s globally.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, the focus of which is the evolution of DTC, she explores how, in the absence of big advertising budgets and traditional retail support, DTC brands can still apply traditional marketing principles to build long-term brand equity within their unique model.

It’s an area DTC marketers need to be especially aware of because of the huge volume of data DTC brands generate in their various interactions with consumers.

The positive side of this data mountain is that trends can be anticipated, targeted recommendations can be constantly optimised, and consumers can be served up only the crafted and curated content they’re likely to engage positively with.

The downside, Du Bois warns, is that “DTC marketers can easily fall into the trap of addictively tweaking variables to achieve constant growth through immediate acquisition, losing sight of the wider, long-term imperative of building a deeper brand ecosystem that engenders loyal, repeat, high-value custom”.

Customer data should be used in a smart way to increase the value of each transaction in terms of loyalty, brand love and influence, she argues. “At the end of the day, the goal has to be to win consumers, not a quick sale.”

While data can help build a strong relationship with individuals, DTC brands lack large advertising budgets and have to find other ways to build wider awareness. “Use the ‘everything is media’ approach to build a rich brand ecosystem,” Du Bois advises.

“While consumers love the personal touch, there’s a big part of them that also loves and gets reassurance from the broadcast feel of a brand that’s entrenched in culture,” she adds.

And part of what makes the best DTC brands stand out is that they have crafted a distinctive voice.

Harry’s, for example, established a meaningful and engaging point of view on modern progressive masculinity when it launched in the UK. “British guys identified with the message, and razor sales followed.”

This issue of Admap features seven articles by thought leaders from across the globe. WARC subscribers can access a deck which summarises the key thinking and advice from all the authors.

Sourced from Admap