The D2C Playbook: How Top Disruptor Brands Strategize Their Digital Ads [Part 2]

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AllBirds, Quip, Casper, Glossier, Slack, Robinhood: what’s the common denominator?

A few weeks ago, we kicked off part one of our two part series on The D2C playbook: How Top Disruptor Brands Strategize Their Digital Ads, with useful insights on what to look out for, so your company can combat the D2C marketing powerhouses.

We discussed how important it is to be wary of “vanity metrics”, ie where your brand is paying for every click or view generated from a given ad, but your audience doesn’t demonstrate interest by clicking through other pages on the site, contacting, buying, or downloading (marked as a “conversion”), the views/clicks are a waste of money.  As well as, the importance of understanding customer acquisition costs (CAC), as Daniel Gulati of Comcast Ventures calls it “the new rent”.

Today, we’re discussing the ins and outs of omnichannel marketing, and how you can optimize creatives for ad placement:

1.Use Sophisticated Omnichannel Marketing

Top D2C brands are incredibly creative when it comes to figuring out how to best grow their customer base in a cost-effective way. Rather than strictly utilizing social media and search engine marketing, some have delved into podcasts and pop-up shops. These ventures demonstrate their adeptness at leveraging as many platforms and solutions as effectively as possible to access niche, cohesive audiences.

Bombas, a sportswear sock disruptor company, tested advertising on podcasts like The Dream, The Armchair, and Myths and Legends. This strategy might seem like traditional radio ads; Bombas, however, in the effort to track conversions and calculate CAC, verbally directed listeners to vanity URLs (i.e., in the podcast. These announcements offered a discount for the product, and measured the effectiveness of the campaign by tracking how many listeners directly typed in the URL.


This method allowed Bombas to estimate that in a given week, 15-40% of their new customers were coming directly from the podcast ads.

This allowed Bombas to understand, backed by results, that podcasts are working to target the customers they’re after.

Disruptor brands are also famous for igniting the popup shop culture, where they create highly curated, experiential spaces, a sort of brand utopia for customers. Casper, the mattress company, has launched a popup shop in New York City called The Dreamery, where customers can book naps to test out the mattress. While this is largely brand awareness campaigning, the spaces collect email addresses of potential customers to bring into the fold of all marketing efforts.They also ask customers prior to online purchase if they’ve visited a physical retail location, allowing the brand to assess the conversion rates of the space. Notice this shift in the method of retail, which we covered in our last piece: legacy companies grew with a physical shop first and their brand followed. With D2C companies however, the brand comes first, followed by the retail shop after sufficient online sales.





2. Optimize creatives for ad placement

One of the biggest takeaways from the IAB’s deck is that 40% of all e-commerce sales are mobile. From 2017 to 2018, while online shopping generally grew 23%, mobile shopping grew about double that rate at 42%. By the end of last year, 40% of all online sales were purchased on a phone (or tablet).

This makes mobile ads on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat all the more important for reaching customers. D2C brands experiment with creatives by putting music to their ads on Snapchat, or with highly colorful but minimalistic posts on Instagram, making it easy for a brand to catch a consumer's eye quickly on a small screen.

Likewise, a D2C app has no business targeting desktop users with ads that call to “download”; they’ll need to run those ads on mobile exclusively.

Desktop advertising would make sense, however, when advertising for longer-form content; it’s easier to read a long piece on a large screen in a comfortable chair, not on the go. If the ad is encouraging a political or mission-driven conversation through building momentum around a hashtag, they might want to prioritize placement on Twitter, where conversations are short and easy to start and spread (140 characters or less). This worked for AirBnb’s #WeAccept campaign, encouraging people to share their stories of accepting diversity and difference while traveling around the world.


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What’s the Next in the D2C Playbook?

As D2C brands continue to iterate and sophisticate their ad techniques and strategies, it’s hard to keep up. After all, that’s what allowed them to entirely uproot legacy industries with institutional marketing and sales teams.

If you want to learn more, we’ll continue to cover patterns that make D2C brands so successful, insight we pull regularly from BrandTotal’s platform.

For more insight on how D2C brands are optimizing their ads, check out our blog or contact us to get a demo.