How often are you captivated by a story?
Brands are funny when it comes to telling, selling and caring. They’re often not sure if they have something relevant (or real) to say. Because of this things get homogenous. That stale formula has “worked” forever. They could spend their way out of having a great story or add/remove a feature to differentiate itself in the market. The loudest brand would win, but because of the growth of retail, many brands could play along. Some people liked the product enough to to buy it frequently (that’s not loyalty, although most brands believed it was), but if there was shift in price (or a stoppage of advertising), the market beneath the brand’s feet would shift. It seemed like spending their way to the top, layered with a different story than the competitor, great (or decent) placement at retail, and the right pricing model was the formula for success.
When you can sell direct, the tectonic plates of the brand really do shift. And, with that, change comes a knocking.
This change is not happening because craft-like brand makers are here. The change is not happening because on Google, anybody willing to spend enough will get the top search result. The change is not happening because Amazon allows regular consumers (like you and I) to rate and review products. The change is not happening because retail (and some traditional media outlets) seem to be impacted by digital. The change is happening for one reason: consumers can now (cheaply and easily) buy direct from brands. Brands – of course – are every type of business – from an artisanal local coffee brewer to the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the world. The web lead to the web browser which led to ecommerce which now brings us to direct-to-consumer brands.
It has to be much more than a consumer’s ability to buy direct?
Buying direct is just the channel. The brands that sell direct have a tough hill to climb. They’re competing with many inputs. While there are many reasons why DTC brands work (like first party data, mobile first, the ability to sell for less by cutting out multiple middlemen, etc…), consumers seem to be latching on to more than just convenience, personalization and price. They like these brand and the stories that they tell. Correction: maybe they don’t “like” them more, but they feel more connected to them. These brands are doing a superior job of telling a story, they (usually) tie their business model into a greater personal purpose, and consumers feel more connected, because they can “feel” the brand through their content marketing practices (which, to be fair, is nothing new, but they’re using social media and online publishing to tell human stories in a more human way – stories that are inspiring or add value without the constant shill of rebates, promotions, etc…). It’s this delicate balance (and many other factors) that is pushing the DTC revolution forward.
There will be a need for pressure on consumers to buy for there to be scale.
As with all businesses that grow, the need for increased sales and growth (for those DTC brands that want to me more than a mom and pop type of operation) is imminent. How will they scale, grow their consumer base, up their consumer’s basket and keep them coming back? Subscription models and content marketing will be a huge component of this for DTC brands, but there’s something that lurks beneath the surface that needs to happen: Pressure. Nobody likes pressure. Nobody likes to feel pressured. Nobody wants to be pressured into buying something. Still, when we think of brands and pressure, we think of sales tactics and other snakey things. Pressure is something that needs to be reclaimed and redefined for the DTC revolution. Look no further than other media formats that are forced to grab an audience, and keep it quickly (and for a shorter period of time). Think standup comedy. Think about a new series on Netflix. How do they grab an audience? They create pressure in a story (very quickly) and then allow the audience to release it through storytelling. Through punchlines. Through cliffhangers. Through letting the audience solve the story in their mind, a nanosecond before it is revealed to them. Through quick punch-ups from the beginning.
How much of your brand’s content marketing and storytelling creates this kind of pressure?
Easy to say. Easy to write. Hard to do. This is why I never subscribe to the notion that people hate advertising, or that advertising doesn’t work like it used to, or that advertising is no longer effective. These are all patently false claims. People hate crappy adverting. Crappy ads don’t work anymore, because even if you pay your way to the top, the audience demands quality. Crappy advertising is no longer effective. Those are truisms. Reclaim pressure. Reclaim (or develop) the same storytelling techniques that a standup comedian uses, and that writers who work on Netflix series must deploy to get noticed in a sea of everything. Think about how quickly a great comedian can grab your attention, change your emotional state, build up that pressure and then… at the last possible moment… get everyone to laugh, release and to be open to more. Your content and stories don’t have to make people laugh, cry or anything like that, but it must create that same emotional response… it must move them with pressure.
When your brand reclaims pressure…
Your brand will suddenly see how its purpose and values connects to an audience. You brand will see how the cheapest price isn’t the only deciding factor. Your brand will see what true loyalty looks like (hint: consumers will be sad when there’s nothing new from you in their feeds). Your brand will see how much a well-structured story – that creates positive pressure – can help a brand go from here… to a billion dollars over there.
Reclaim pressure. Redefine pressure. Then, let your consumers release it.