I see so many new DTC brands through pitches or just browsing around, and it feels like we are at a place with DTC brands where people get bored, find a product to sell, find a way to message it differently, raise a million dollars, and then light up a store. They commonly don't really build out a full brand foundation and assume that the power of Facebook ads will take them to the moon.
When they are unable to attract real press (not just pieces that are paid for, or a product roundup), they get frustrated and just try to find another PR firm. When their ads don't work to sell the product, they get mad and find another agency or another consultant. Many times it's not even that the product they are selling is a bad one, but it's that they don't build a brand around it that people are interested to be a part of, or sometimes even interested to try out.
7 years ago, a good simple Facebook ad was good enough to acquire a new customer, but today that doesn't work. When consumers buy from independent brands, not talking about buying paper towels on Amazon, they buy into more than just the product itself. Let's be honest, it's rare that one company sells something that's marginally different than another brand. When you look at some of the largest brands in the world, the materials of fabric, the taste or the product might not be different at all, but they all still have their own audiences of customers. Why? Because they built themselves into a brand that people desire to be a part of, more than just from the product itself.
When someone buys a bottle of water before going into the gym or crowds her bathroom shelf with one brand's vitamin C serum versus another, they make those choices because they represent who they are. As a brand, if you're just selling products (vs building a brand), you'll never be positioned in a way where people want to represent you.
Over the last few months, we've been building a brand internally and tore down the first two versions of it because we felt in both cases it didn't have a real purpose to exist. They are fantastic products, and in this case quite different in the market, but it still didn't have that story or positioning that would make someone want to join that tribe, or get excited to wait for it in the mail while it arrived. And without those characteristics or proper work on positioning, there's a good chance that the brand won't last, no matter how great the product is.
Now that we understand the importance of having a real brand foundation, I wanted to share some learnings from a session we did internally around building the brand's personality. I hope this helps you out, too.
Building a good brand personality and foundation happens when you get hyper-specific and personify your identity. To do that, you have to start asking yourself defining questions that will help position your brand in the market and stand strong among competitors.
By asking yourself the following questions, and other who/what/where questions, you'll be forced to build your brand's interests, which end up being the basis for forming the brand’s presence and outward voice. You get a deep understanding of your brand's likes and dislikes to build a unique persona. Lastly, you'll build your brand’s mission, values, and core belief pillars by flushing out the answers to these questions.
The key is to have fun with this, and make it as detailed as possible.
- What is their order at a coffee shop?
- Who would their brand crush be?
- Who would they look up to?
- Who would they admire and see as their muse?
- Who would their alter ego be?
- What publications or services would they subscribe to?
- What podcasts would they listen to?
- What would they retweet on Twitter?
- What celebrities or influencers would they follow on Instagram?
- What would their most-used apps on their phone be?
- What would their mantras or favorite sayings be?
- What would they protest?
- What is their attitude towards life?
- What would their home look like?
- What would their phone background be?
- Where would they spend most of their time?
- Where would they live?
- What do they watch on Netflix?
- Who are their favorite YouTubers?
- How do they prefer to listen to new albums — top to bottom, or random songs at a time?
- What type of hotel do they stay at when they travel?
If you think of your brand as you go through these questions, you'll start to recognize almost instantly there are so many opportunities to create content and build a community around the type of "friend" you can be to consumers.
Now having all of this positioning work figured out and also emulated in your content in addition to really sound performance marketing gives you a much better chance of success as a brand. There is now uniformity across every piece of the business from the social content, to paid media, to customer service, to the note in the box that arrives.
One last thing I'll say because I know a lot of people say, "Well, what if we don't need our customers to become infatuated by us, they just need our product?" Well, sure. There are going to be a lot of people who couldn't care less about being a part of the brand, but that's also not where the majority of your revenue comes from. The customer cohorts that engage with the brand more significantly outperform those who don't (across reviews, social, customer service, events, etc) in terms of LTV and revenue. So, sure, you can get customers and they can just get in, buy, and get out, or you can find customers that become evangelists by making sure your brand is one they can relate with.