How Do DTC Brands Compete with Established Brands?

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Direct to Consumer brands have successfully used a variety of guerilla marketing tactics over the years to compete with large established brands who have bigger budgets and long-term consumer awareness. Today, these large brands are adapting the same tactics in their marketing mix and are forcing DTC brands to fight back in more innovative ways.

How do DTC brands stay nimble and compete? We used E-Score Brand to identify some distinctive tools DTCs are using such as connecting through social causes, building an active community, and engaging celebrity influencers to do the heavy lifting.

DTC Tactic 1: Connecting with Consumers Through Social Causes

At the heart of Allbird’s values lies a commitment to sustainability. Fans praise the apparel brand’s use of natural materials, regenerative agriculture, and cleaner energy sources. Additionally, Allbirds is a Certified B Corp company, meeting the high standards of social and environmental performance.

In Q1 2023, the company announced the world’s first net-zero carbon shoe ‘M0.0nshot’. Will this design breakthrough spur additional sales and lead the company to greater profitability?

The Allbirds eco-friendly messaging is resonating with consumers (comments taken from open-end):

  • “This is the eco friendly shoe company that’s popular in Silicon Valley”
  • “Safe for environment”
  • “Sustainable, durable, comfortable, high price”

DTC Tactic 2: Building an Active Community of Brand Fans

Duolingo’s highly rated app has made learning and translating new languages easy and accessible. To maximize engagement with consumers, the educational tech company has found great success giving their brand a voice using a mascot (Duo the green owl) and generating buzz with content on TikTok that keeps the brand fresh and funny. 

As of early 2023, approximately 80% of users were acquired organically (social media/word of mouth). This has turned Duolingo into one of the top 10 most followed brands on TikTok with over 6 million fans and provided the company with a cost-effective marketing solution that works.

Duolingo is clearly benefiting from the use of the mascot and outperforms the Corporate Mascot average for key affinity metrics.

Here’s what consumers are saying about Duo? (comments taken from open-end):

  • “Duolingo users will know this mascot well, and it also has a presence in meme culture on social media”
  • “Nice character design, good personality, warm and has good interests at heart”
  • “I like that it is very pleasing to look at when studying. Also is on TikTok now and can be relatable and funny while promoting the app”

DTC Tactic 3: Using Celebrity Influencers to Break Through the Clutter

MANSCAPED has been dedicated to destigmatizing the conversation surrounding male hygiene and grooming products by applying humor-based advertising and introducing innovative products.

To promote products with names such as ‘The Lawnmower’ and ‘Weed Whacker,’ MANSCAPED has looked to one of comedy’s rising stars in Pete Davidson, as both a brand partner and shareholder. Pete’s relatable persona, combined with his comedic talent, aligns perfectly with the goal of creating a more approachable brand image.

MANSCAPED is an above average performer across several KPIs that are important for an emerging brand.

The MANSCAPED advertising is resonating with consumers (comments taken from open-end):

  • “Funny advertisements, catchy name”
  • “The first thought that comes to my mind when I see MANSCAPED is ads”
  • “Ridiculous ads”
  • “I think of the commercial with the tennis balls”

MANSCAPED hit the trifecta with Pete Davidson as he brings strong name buzz, strong endorsement potential, and a big score for the attribute “Funny” (all above the Spokesperson average).

The direct-to-consumer business model has revolutionized the way consumers interact with brands. As the popularity of this model continues to adapt, other companies will want to know more about DTC tactics that have proven successful in building exposure and engagement with consumers outside the traditional retail practice. E-Score Brand delivers the answers you need to navigate the rapidly changing brand marketing landscape.

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