It’s no secret that consumers are looking online for many of their shopping needs. With the click of a mouse, anyone can have a car delivered straight to their home, groceries stocked in their refrigerator shelves, and more. Direct-to-consumer brands (often referred to as D2C) are continuing to innovate and evolve to attract and retain loyal customers. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, some are even going beyond digital advertising to deliver an omnichannel experience with retail partnerships, pop-up stores, creative direct mailers, and even opening up their flagship stores. Despite the latest trends, one thing remains true: brand storytelling is a constant part of the D2C marketing evolution.
Marketing Insider Group describes brand storytelling as “using a narrative to connect your brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers.” Connecting directly with customers is the linchpin in any marketing strategy and has the power to not only increase customer lifetime value (CLTV) but also access to better data, real-time customer feedback, and brand affinity.
Now, let’s take a look at a few examples of successful brand storytelling to determine what these D2C brands can teach us about creating a compelling narrative, cultivating like-minded communities, and building customer trust and loyalty.
23andMe: Build connections with user-generated content
The biotech trailblazer, 23andMe, was founded with the belief that customers should have unbridled access to their health data — a revolutionary idea that has rocked the healthcare industry. Since then, their mission has expanded to connecting people with their genetic roots through reports that show customers’ ancestry based on their DNA and helping customers spot potential diseases with their genetic health risk reports.
Their storytelling strategy has revolved around consolidating highly technical language into something that is both understandable and useful to their customers. Their most recent campaign encourages you to “meet your genes” with video ads and even a pop-up experience in New York.
Possibly the most compelling aspect of their storytelling is the way they let their customers tell their own powerful stories. These stories highlight how their products have allowed customers to learn more about themselves through greater access to personal health information, their ancestry, and even relatives they were previously unaware of.
Key takeaway: Get customers involved in the brand storytelling process.
· No matter how technical your subject matter, there’s always a way to leverage storytelling and human connection to market your product. Simplifying your language can help ensure customers feel comfortable contributing to your brand story.
· Stories of customers’ experiences with your product are a powerful way to generate trust and subsequently drive your potential customer to your desired action. Happy customers can be your best salespeople; according to HubSpot, 77% of people have shared positive experiences with companies in the past year.
Outdoor Voices: Create brand loyalty with community marketing tactics
On a base level, Outdoor Voices creates athletic wear in technical fabrics that look and feel good for any activity, not just the ones that are traditionally associated with fitness. In a time when there’s very little distance between what constitutes a real-life wardrobe and a gym wardrobe, this is a story that resonates with a wide audience.
Their hashtag, #doingthings has been used over 130,000 times on Instagram and consists of pictures of people wearing their Outdoor Voices leggings, skirts, shorts, caps (featuring the motto), and tops while, well, doing things. This spans from hiking to running marathons and even a night out. The brand encourages people to make fitness fun by engaging in physical activity that feels good — no rules, no restrictions, no pressure.
They tell the story that health and fitness aren’t just things you do, but they’re the way you live your life. In addition, yet no less important to their brand is their message that fitness and fitness apparel is for everyone. They’ve made a significant effort to make everything — marketing campaigns, products, and in-store experiences — reflect what they learn from their customers. They solicit feedback and ideas regularly and implement them in a variety of ways. The results are an experience and product that customers recognize and are invested in because they helped to create it.
Key takeaway: Get customers invested in your product.
· Make it as easy as possible for your customers to give feedback. It can be as simple as sending out a survey to your email subscribers or responding to customers’ comments on social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram.
· Don’t underestimate the time and resource commitment needed to truly listen to customer feedback. A customer may indicate a preference for a certain fabric or style — details, small and large, need to be tracked and accounted for in a strategic way. Ensure you are able to field all the feedback in a way that allows your team to prioritize what matters most to your customers.
· Put the feedback into action! Let customer insights inform how you create targeted products and marketing campaigns. Audiences appreciate personalization in their marketing campaigns, and product experiences and brands who do it right have the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of their audiences long-term.
Summersalt: Use research to tailor your marketing and products
What started as an answer to the need for fashionable, yet functional swimwear has now turned into a travel essentials brand, producing a growing line of products meant to make your next beach vacation (or a trip to the local pool) a little more comfortable. The shift changes the product offering, but it doesn’t change Summersalt’s desire to produce eco-friendly products that are “made for going places”.
With their social media presence and marketing campaigns, they tell the story that women don’t have to choose between fashion and function, at least not when it comes to their swimwear. They publish content meant to induce a healthy dose of wanderlust and share product pictures, including a variety of different women with different body types to drive home the message that their product is meant for everyone.
Key takeaway: Get to know your target audience.
· Know your target audience. What do they want? What are their pain points? Where do they gather inspiration? Building an audience profile can help you create better content that, in turn, helps you achieve your business goals.
· Clarity around who you’re talking to allows you to create campaigns and individual pieces that resonate with the right people, increase your ROI, and set you up for ultimate success.
· Use that knowledge not only to message your campaign appropriately but to target the right people. This will help with creating more personalized customer journeys.
Purple: Leverage video to create a one-of-a-kind customer experiences
Purple relies on a mix of science and quirkiness to represent their innovative products, mainly mattresses but recent additions have included pillows, seat cushions, and even pet beds. From their Kickstarter beginnings, the brand has relied on video content to showcase their quirky personality, from their video explaining the mechanics of a mattress through the “Raw Egg Test” featuring a snarky Goldilocks, to the retro robots who show off the Purple PowerBase. Through all of these videos, they drive home their story — which is that just because things have always been done or made a certain way, doesn’t mean that has to always be the case.
The creativity, science (one of the founders is an actual rocket scientist), and good-hearted fun bring a welcome breath of fresh air to something that most people don’t enjoy: mattress shopping.
The story they tell is that even something as snooze-inducing as finding a new mattress can be a fun, new experience. Not only are they asking you to purchase a new mattress, but they’re also asking you to rethink the entire process, from the way you shop to the way a comfortable mattress should look.
Key takeaway: Embrace the things that make your brand unique.
· Don’t be afraid to do things differently. To truly differentiate yourself from the competition, make sure to communicate what makes your brand unique.
· Video, in particular, is a medium that lends itself to highlighting an interesting aspect of your product, sharing your brand’s personality, and telling your story in a new and innovative way that resonates with your customers.
· Use video across the customer lifecycle for increased engagement and brand awareness.
How Do You Know if it’s Working?
Marketers are aware of the power of brand storytelling; however, they’re still grasping at straws when it comes to tracking and measuring it. That’s why it’s important to incorporate a data-driven strategy and to monitor efforts from a full-funnel perspective. While brands may not be able to track sales directly from their video content, it may be a huge contributor to upper-funnel concerns, such as awareness and education. It could be the piece that makes lower-funnel campaigns perform even better and keeps customers coming back time after time.
The same applies to content marketing or display advertising efforts. Looking at ROI from a direct-conversion perspective might lead you to believe that these campaigns don’t net many conversions on their own, but being able to see how these campaigns assist in driving conversions would show you that they’re an integral part of your entire marketing strategy.
Another metric to watch is CLTV. Brand storytelling creates a memorable, emotional connection between a brand and a target audience. This, in turn, keeps customers coming back time after time. Not only that, but they’re more likely to become a brand evangelist — sharing products with people they know.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) brands, especially D2C brands, rely heavily on developing and telling their brand story to help differentiate themselves from their well-established competition. This is a particular skill that can serve any brand well and open up opportunities for more effective campaigns — as long as they think holistically.
Your brand story is something that should be apparent throughout all of the places your brand is represented. Keep in mind, video and social media advertising present specific opportunities to tell that story in more detail and make it easier to connect with your target audience.
While proving success can be difficult from a direct-conversion perspective, viewing your data holistically and getting an idea of the full impact of your brand storytelling efforts will set you up for long-term success. It’s also important to measure your CLTV since effective brand storytelling has long-lasting effects on your audience’s behavior.
Are you looking to replicate these brand storytelling tactics for your upcoming holiday marketing campaign? Check out some of our other pieces of holiday-related content.
Megan is AdRoll’s Principal Product Marketing Manager who helps uncover and tell important stories to audiences inside and outside of the company. She pulls inspiration and expertise from her experience in marketing for a variety of different organizations, including agencies, technology, education and more. In her free time, she enjoys running (preferably in the beautiful Utah mountains), chasing her two kids and reading anything and everything.