In our last blog, we spoke about how physical stores in the retail industry might be making a comeback, that companies like Leap are working with dozens of DTC brands to set up stores that help with brand building?
Meanwhile, in another part of the retail world, Lush Cosmetics announced that it was going to go off social media in order to raise awareness about mental health. This essentially means that Lush will be out of all the channels where brand campaigns run and traditional brand building happens.
And, Lush isn’t the one one shunning conventional branding channels. Several brands including Patagonia and Accessorize are also channeling their thanksgiving shopping season sale proceeds to charity. Patagonia has done this for years, but so many more brands are following suit now.
We are, for sure, in the era of virtue - where brands that take a stand for a cause (whatever it may be) are far more respected than ones that shy away from voicing their views. The world is getting more and more polarized by the day and brands are having to keep up with this and ensure their messaging resonates with consumers’. There is a risk in riding the coattails of mass movements without conviction.
Moment marketing is fine, but any eyeballs it brings will be transitory and even damaging. For a brand to be able to earn loyalty, it has to carve out a personality that today’s discerning consumers admire and want to associate with. What companies ought to do to establish their brands and gain loyalty has changed from consistent quality and imagery to something more ethereal – what does the brand “believe” in.
It’s not the only way to build a brand and the traditional playbooks still work but iron-clad loyalty seems like an insurance against price erosion and an antidote against forcefully designed business models like subscriptions for DTC categories that can do with repeat purchases. See this:
Already we’ve been seeing in the last couple of years that the holiday shopping fest which was originally just a BFCM event has now spread across the year-end. The pandemic and the supply chain issues changed (or forced the hands of) shoppers. Brands had to, of course, swiftly keep up and spread their offers/discounts out as well, as they had to their branding campaigns.
This, for brands that depend on the BFCM season and other traditional routes for their branding. For brands like Lush that I mentioned earlier, what’s happening outside in the industry doesn’t really matter.
Lush, and its like, are totally unhinged from these constraints, and are growing their brands purely by nurturing communities. They foster loyal communities of consumers and advocates - typically by working for a cause such as sustainability or diversity or such social issues - and use these communities to ensure growth.
Manscaped is one such brand that focused on building a large, loyal community, and managed to grow strongly without really investing in traditional marketing. Since the very beginning, they focused only on their niche communities and these loyalists propelled their growth.
Patagonia, Allbirds, Lush, all have similar stories.
This activism and community approach also works pretty well because social advertising is a challenging piece in itself. Depending on social platforms for growth, burning huge amounts of money on ads...all of these not guaranteed ways to grow revenue at the right ROAS. Brands need to build brands the way the consumer has come to expect. If they do, the reward is a buy, a repeated buy, and advocacy – all without having the erode price integrity.
Is activism for brand building going to become the norm, replacing (at least in part) traditional branding methods? Are we going to see similar things during the next advertising fest - the Superbowl? Or did what we see this holiday season a blip?
What’s your take?
Every week we send out one deeply researched essay that captures the eCommerce industry and its evolution, right to your inbox. 50%+ open rates for a year now.
Trusted by 22,804 DTC & eCommerce industry insiders.