In the past few years, we have seen a wave of direct-to-consumer brands offering niche products and services through digital channels.
These brands also set themselves apart through clever digital marketing, creating content that captures the consumer’s imagination.
Here are five examples that are worth checking out for inspiration.
Patch Plants is an online plant company that specialises in plants for urban spaces. As well as selling and delivering plants, Patch also offers value through education, using online content to teach customers how to pick the right plants as well as care for them.
Its ‘parenting course’ is particularly clever, not necessarily for the content itself (though it is valuable and seemingly useful for plant-owners) but mainly for how it is pitched. It involves a wide range of short instructional videos on topics ranging from bugs to watering.
Described as a ‘video course’ – it deliberately looks and sounds like the type of content you’d usually pay for, instilling the sense that the consumer is getting something of real value.
The videos are also easy-to-digest and nicely produced, listing helpful details such as what each video covers and how long each ‘course’ is.
Patch Plants recognises that, while most people want to buy plants, the biggest barrier is often knowing how to care for them – and its online content cleverly taps into this. The brand invests heavily in paid social (where its videos are also highly clickable); I was targeted on Facebook immediately after browsing the website.
The brand also takes real-time context into consideration when rolling out content; see the below email referencing the UK’s current heatwave.
Away is a direct-to-consumer luggage brand, selling a range of highly desirable and functional suitcases.
It has become known as an ‘Instagram brand’ – i.e. one that has capitalised on its popularity via the social media platform, both through influencer partnerships and paid ads. However, its digital presence elsewhere also involves an online magazine which cleverly expands on the topic of ‘travel’ to target an experience-seeking audience.
With brand blogs a bit passé these days, it uses a magazine concept, alongside the name ‘Here’ to differentiate itself from the main brand. As well as a comprehensive selection of city guides, the magazine also has a community feel, including interviews and personal essays from influential people within the travel industry as well as specific cities and locations.
This, alongside the slick design (reminiscent of New York’s ‘The Cut’ magazine), gives it an arty feel, making it a cooler and almost cult-like alternative to something like Airbnb’s travel guides.
This foray into publishing has also allowed Away to expand into a lifestyle brand as opposed to a luggage company, which has been reflected in its expanding product line, which now includes backpacks and packing cubes.
Beardbrand does pretty much what it says on the tin, selling male grooming products to beard-enthusiasts. In order to differentiate itself from others in the male grooming industry (which are typically larger beauty or cosmetics brands that have a male vertical), Beardbrand has created a highly distinctive brand, characterised by content marketing which is informative, educational, and surprisingly comprehensive.
When signing up to the brand newsletter, consumers aren’t just met with a bog-standard welcome email, but a long email detailing “Top 10 Bearding Tips”. This is the type of content that also populates the brand’s online blog. Here, Beardbrand has created a wealth of articles that align with typical consumer search queries, such as product comparisons, explainers, as well as more amusing and whimsical articles.
Beardband also has a heavy presence on YouTube, with regular videos relating to beard care but also entertainment rather than education, such as barbershop transformations. Overall, Beardbrand uses content to ensure that it dominates this niche topic.
Forbes named MVMT the ‘world’s fastest growing watch brand’ in 2017, after it generated revenue of $60 million the previous year. Since, MVMT (pronounced as ‘movement’) has continued to grow, and further developed a social media strategy that the brand recognises as intrinsic to its success.
Borne out of the idea that a stylish watch shouldn’t break the bank, MVMT mainly targets a millennial audience, and as a result, typically relies on Instagram to generate reach and new awareness.
Its content on Instagram stands as a visual representation of the brand and the lifestyle that it promotes – one that is inspirational as well as aspirational.
Its ethos of “dress with intent, live with purpose” also seems to resonate with its audience, which is why user generated content plays a big part in strategy. Using the hashtag #JoinTheMVMT, users are keen to show off their own coveted watches, as well as the chance to be featured on the brand’s feed. So far, there’s been nearly 150,000 posts using this hashtag.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, MVMT has also capitalised on influencers, partnering with a number of online creators to widen its own audience. As part of this, MVMT also gives its influencers a unique discount code to share with followers, which rewards fans and allows the brand to directly track sales.
Eve Sleep has generated steady growth within the direct-to-consumer mattress market, reportedly seeing unprompted brand awareness rise from 1.4% in December 2016 to 6.6% in November 2017.
This has in part been put down to clever content marketing, which aligns with the brand’s position at a ‘sleep and wellness’ brand rather than a mattress-in-a-box company.
Its blog, ‘Sleep, etc’, is a manifestation of this, allowing the brand to flesh out its tone of voice and brand identity. Alongside sleep, it also creates content related to topics such as home interiors, health, and parenting – each one shrewdly relating back to the core product in some way.
As well as leveraging this content on social, Eve Sleep also invests in a paid strategy, targeting consumers on Facebook. It incorporates reviews into these ads, using social proof to immediately reassure and prompt users to click through.
The brand also steers clear of too much ‘conversation’ with users, interestingly, as its focus is on building authority within a wider category rather than relationships.
Speaking to Marketing Week, CMO, Eve Cheryl Calverley commented: “What we need to do is build a really effective brand that people like. That’s what we’ve always had to do and yes we will try email marketing and a bit of the relationship channels to help feed that but we’re not building a relationship.”
With a strong brand identity, borne from authoritative content and a recognisable tone of voice, Eve Sleep continues to dominate what remains a highly competitive market.