Mark Ritson:

Barely a month went by without one bright-eyed team of white-shirted millennials or another springing forth with a hot new startup that had a strange, slightly misspelled name, newsworthy origin and hot new design. Crucially, all of them  had a “different model for marketing” too.

Leesa, Lola, Winc, Ayr, Nanit, BarkBox… the names and the categories they aimed to disrupt changed but the DTC model each ascribed to was strikingly similar. Gradually, as the army of casually dressed founders multiplied and their stories piled on top of each other, a model for DTC marketing became apparent.

The model for DTC marketing

First, you had to circumvent the traditional indirect channels and forge a direct distribution model that allowed you to keep all the profits, and enabled optimum proximity and data access with the target consumers. Wholesale distributors and physical retail were dead.

Second, you had to avoid traditional media channels and utilise only digital media because it enables precise targeting and new modes of interaction with the target market. Use influencer marketing, TikTok and whatever newfangled approach comes next.

The medium was not the message, it was the signal. Irrespective of its reach or effectiveness, it had to communicate the newness of the company behind the campaign. Vague allusions of digital ennui were needed to ensure the DTC business seemed radical and contemporary, and not simply another late entrant in a traditional category.

Third, you had to use these new digital channels to communicate a different kind of message. Use storytelling – yeah, storytelling – to move beyond product benefits and onto emotional tales about the company, its founders and core purpose.