How Storytelling Is Fueling the Direct-to-Consumer Movement


How Storytelling Is Fueling the Direct-to-Consumer Movement

Phat X. Chiem
March 22, 2019

Consider the likes of Away, Glossier, Warby Parker, TOMS Shoes, Harry's and Casper.

Not only are these some of the most successful brands of the last few years, they also share something else in common.

      1. They're all direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies

      2. Storytelling is at the heart of their marketing

It’s no coincidence that the brands that are most successful at forging direct connections with consumers (and getting press attention) are also the same ones that excel at leveraging the power of stories.

If direct-to-consumer is the new retail, then storytelling is the new marketing.

Why is that?

The consumer economy has undergone a massive shift. No longer is mass media the only way — or even the preferred way — to build a brand these days.

We are living in a post-advertising era. Consumers are more fickle, media-savvy, and advertising-adverse than they’ve ever been. If they choose to interact with a brand, then it needs to happen on their terms. They don’t want to be marketed to. They want brands to fit into their story — not the brand’s idea of what that story should be.

Brands that can find a way to be part of their customers’ stories win hearts and minds, and eventually, an unfair share of pocketbooks.

Storytelling is even more crucial for direct-to-consumer companies. These brands live and die on their ability to create an authentic connection with customers. Without middle-men retailers to help market and distribute their products, DTC brands have both the burden and the opportunity to build relationships and spark conversations with their audience.

If direct-to-consumer is the new retail, storytelling is the new marketing.

Here are a handful of stats worth noting about this drastically changed marketing landscape:

- 54 percent of consumers are connected to at least three brands on social media, and almost half connect with brand manufacturers on social media at least weekly. Storytelling is key to engagement on social media.

- More than half (55 percent) of shoppers prefer to shop directly with brand manufacturers over retailers, and about 37 percent of respondents said they expect a more engaging experience on a brand manufacturer's website than a retailer's.

- Only 1 percent of millennials surveyed claim that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. They value authenticity above everything else.

What are brands supposed to do in this brave new world? Tell a better story. Tell a story that consumers can’t ignore. Tell a story that truly resonates.

Just ask Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes: “I realize the importance of having a story today is what separates companies. People don’t just wear our shoes. They tell our story.”

Ask Steph Korey, co-founder of Away, the hugely successful luggage brand, who says: “Storytelling is a central part of our marketing.”

Her co-founder, Jen Rubio, unpacks this a little more when she says: “The difference between a good product and a good brand is emotion. Context is everything. To that end, while the wheels or the zippers on our suitcases are great, what gets people more excited is when they think about what they can do with that suitcase.”

Storytelling helps you create a world — the context — that attracts fanatical followers.

Ask Cotopaxi co-founder Stephan Jacob, who credits storytelling as key to the outdoor brand’s seemingly overnight success: “We felt strongly we wanted to empower customers to tell our story versus relying on ads… The organic growth and organic traffic from these stories is far more superior and valuable than any generated by an ad campaign.”

Ask Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of Thom Browne, where direct retail makes up 45 percent of sales: “We’ve never invested any money in advertising. Instead, we invested in great shows and communication, with magazines and retailers telling the story. That has now shifted to us telling the story.”

If you’re a modern brand and you’re not investing in good storytelling, you’re already falling behind.

Posted on:

Friday, March 22, 2019