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Best Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) Social Media Campaigns

Best Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) Social Media Campaigns

Nomad consumer acquisition is the new aim of the game. New and fancy direct-to-consumer brands with great social media campaigns are bypassing third-party marketplaces and trying to grab your attention while surfing the web. Learn how Warby Parker, Away, Glossier & Co try to emerge on social media with smart marketing tactics and inspirational authenticity.

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Customers buy online. More and more. Ecommerce accounts for 12% of all US purchases by end 2019, with a fast-growing trend.

Statistic: Quarterly share of e-commerce sales of total U.S. retail sales from 1st quarter 2010 to 4th quarter 2019 | Statista

Growing share of ecommerce sales in the US market

The ecommerce ecosystem is structured by a power triangle where brands need to find their spot in the game:

  1. The new online marketplace: leading online marketplaces such as Amazon and Alibaba, which are often offering their own generic brands besides endless contenders.
  2. Classic companies such as Unilever and Nike, playing a dual game by trying their own direct-to-consumer approach with limited editions on their own corporate website or via online retailers.
  3. New digital native vertical brands with a fresh tone of voice, a new story, innovative products that are meant to resonate within Millennials’ needs and desires.

At first glance, DTC seems to only have advantages: profiting from the web’s unlimited reach, its automated personalization, dynamic pricing methods, quasi supersonic speed to market and low capex as companies don’t need to store tons of goods at thousands of warehouses. In the end it’s all about economies of scale.

Traditional vs digital DTC D2C commerce

Traditional vs D2C business models

One of the biggest and often forgotten advantages of the DTC model is consumer data. By cutting out the middleman, big-box companies and new niche innovators have direct access to consumer voices and insights. Collecting audience demographics, social profiles and chatbot records gives companies unprecedented tools to personalize and monetize their customer relationship. AI-driven social analytics solutions can help to turn this first-party data into actionable insights and new product ideas.

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But...there’s always a but. 2020 has seen many stars fading:

Outdoor Voices’ co-founder Ty Haney had to step down early 2020. The company, that offers Mmillennial style muted pastel at leisurewear, was successful with a creative hashtag campaign #DoingThings.

Talkwalker Quick Search #DoingThings Hashtag cloud

Outdoor Voices’ #DoingThings hashtag generated creative engagement

DTC hero Brandless, which started in 2017 by selling a vast choice of groceries and home goods at a flat price of $3 each, closed business early 2020 after being praised as a Target contender.

Brandless tried to sell $3 staples to hipsters

Building top-of-mind retail names such as Macy’s took ages, building monumental brands such as Coca-Cola even longer. Beyond fancy packaging, well crafted dog-and-baby-empowered Instagram pics, VC cash-burning paid ad campaigns on Facebook and sleek websites, DTC founders are slowly figuring out that being visible on social and being profitable is a very tricky combination these days. Paid ads are the new rent, and customer acquisition costs are rising.

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Social media is key. 61% of all D2C brands will tell you that social media is their top acquisition channel. So better have it right.

Top 3 DTC acquisition channels

Let’s have a look at the very best DTC practices on social media. Who is in to stay and why?

ThirdLove - 100% women centricity

ThirdLove is a data-driven lingerie start-up that uses tech to perfect its customer experience. They are cleverly targeting underwear consumers that don’t want to follow Victoria’s Secret’s pushy brand mentality but are looking for comfy, beautiful and fitting apparel.

ThirdLove’s main social media approach is authenticity by showing “real” real women and focusing exclusively on fit, women’s main pain-point when purchasing a bra as the brand says.

ThirdLove is praised on social for their real product visuals

There’s nothing better than a brand fight on social: ThirdLove’s love-hate relationship with Victoria’s Secret is integrated in the brand’s content strategy, further sharpening its women-first brand status.

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New York Times Sunday, full page letter from @heidi to @victoriassecret - Dear Victoria’s Secret, I was appalled when I saw the demeaning comments about women your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, made to Vogue last week. As hard as it is to believe, he said the following: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.” I’ve read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I’m even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements? You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a “42-minute entertainment special.” Your show may be a “fantasy” but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country. Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend. I founded ThirdLove five years ago because it was time to create a better option. ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm. Let’s listen to women. Let’s respect their intelligence. Let’s exceed their expectations. Let women define themselves. As you said Ed, “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last. To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own. -Heidi @heidi

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ThirdLove’s full-page response to Victoria’s Secret in the New York Times was used by the brand to elevate its cult status

Key learnings

  1. Focus on inspiring authenticity and true customer pain-points to establish a strong and relevant USP for your brand on social
  2. Attacking legacy brands is an option if you have a stable and loyal fandom

Away - the aspirational lifestyle luggage brand

As Conde Nast Traveler would say, “Away made a relatively boring necessity into an enviable statement piece at an affordable price”. They managed to make people look at you when you take your Away bag off the luggage belt.

Away managed to add fashionability, lifestyle, and personality into a travel commodity, with a medium price model.

Fueled by polished user-generated posts, influencer written travel-tips books and an own brand-agnostic online magazine about the world’s most remarkable places, they created a unique emotion around their fancy suitcases and bags, perfected with their straight to the point #travelaway hashtag campaign.

Talkwalker Quick Search #TravelAway word cloud

Positive emotions around Away’s #TravelAway hashtag campaign on social media

Sports and travel influencer Serena Williams is an Away addict

Key learnings

  1. Besides the product, focus on how you can nourish emotions around the product to make it special and desirable, especially on social media
  2. The more your brand is in a commodity segment, the more unique user-generated-content can leverage your brand impact, as a broad base of consumers can relate to the situations (travel experiences for Away).

Glossier - the generation Instagram beauty brand

Turning a beauty blog into a brand - it sounds like a marketing fairy tale and it is.

Emilie Weiss, a former Vogue fashion assistant, turned her personal beauty blog into a millennial-fit beauty label.

She simply used the tools at hand: her own story and credibility as a beauty expert, giving the brand a unique tone and authenticity, cellphone-curated product visuals with no Photoshop effects, boomerang visuals on social to trigger interest, and a first crowd-invented product that ignited stardom: Milky Jelly Cleanser.

IntoTheGloss, Glossier’s original blog, has a strong 836k followers base, an industry first

The brand’s original blog features products from all competitors. Below’s social media share of voice report showcases that the blog’s biggest peak in mentions came from an artist influencer post mentioning a competitor. This enhances the blog’s credibility and the mother-brand’s authenticity. The Glossier brand does not fear their competitors but considers them as neighbors with another concept and target group.

Talkwalker Quick Search IntoTheGloss share of voice on social media

IntoTheGloss social media share of voice

Glossier is also heavily hyped by its users who love to share the products’ effects with short videos.

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Glossier customers love sharing their use cases on social media, generating engaging content

Key learnings

  1. Have a unique and credible founder’s story to explain why you know what matters in your segment
  2. Start with an inspiring vendor-agnostic blog to create a fan base
  3. Let your passionate customers tell your tremendous brand story with engaging social media content

Brooklinen - the internet’s favorite sheets

Before Brooklinen, sheets were a women’s thing. Now, even men can buy sheets without screwing it up.

The NYC Brooklyn based online bedding and luxury sheets seller founded in 2014, started its business with bloggers and influencers which they asked to write about their new sheets.

Since then, targeted Facebook ads, Instagram stories, polished outdoor advertising & the whole classic DTC spiel has followed, with video being its strongest hit in terms of mentions on social media.

By partnering with the Chatwins, an internet celebrity family with 702k subscribers showcasing their grand family lifestyle and cozy interiors, they hit gold in terms of engagement.

The Chatwins video featuring Brooklinen sheets and bedding articles generated 199,438 views for their products in a “perfect US family” setting

Brooklinen managed to generate social media engagement with strong positive sentiment, as shown in below’s sentiment analysis.

Talkwalker Quick Search Brooklinen Social Media Share of voice and sentiment analysis

Brooklinen generates nearly exclusively positive sentiment on social media

Demographics analytics show us that Brooklinen has a gender equilibrated audience, with a slight tendency to males (51.4%) and an interesting audience age emphasizing the 25-34 years bracket, a perfect audience as it is a classic "Dual Income, No Kids" group of prospects that needs to buy their sheets on their own for the very first time.

Talkwalker Quick Search Audience Demographics Brooklinen

A well balanced social media audience for Brooklinen

Key learnings

  1. Introducing a gender-neutral communication style in specific industry verticals allows you to reach hidden targets, such as masculine sheet buyers for Brooklinen
  2. Use video testimonials and relatable product placements in influencer videos for nationwide impact

Warby Parker - socially conscious designer glasses at affordable prices

Warby Parker’s founders cracked the US eyeglasses monopoly by circumventing traditional eyewear shops by selling online, by producing themselves without big brands...and by telling a great story on social media.

Warby Parker is nowadays the US gold standard for a successful go-to-market DTC strategy.

Many had tried to offer cheap glasses, but when you add some meaningful purpose (buy one pair and offer one to people in need) and let consumers try their new glasses at home for free (“Pick 5 frames to try on at home (it's free!)”).

Warby Parker cracked the scale nut by adding a powerful CTA to their free at-home trial pack, inviting customers to share their new eyewear visual on social media while adding #warbyhometryon.

#WarbyHomeTryOn gives customers the power to showcase their new glasses on social media

Everyone’s a bit frightened to wear new glasses. Getting social acclaim turns this awkward moment into a kind of catwalk experience, thus reinsuring customers while creating trustworthy user-generated content and engaging brand buzz.

Talkwalker Quick Search Warby Parker Emoji Cloud

Glasses, love, and happiness are emojis associated with the Warby Brand on social media

By giving customers the possibility to try on new models with augmented reality (AR) on their mobile phones, the company created a real tech hype for the brand. The social media video featuring the new virtual try-on feature generated 27,000 views so far.

Warby Parker’s Virtual Try-On—a new tool located in the latest version of their app


Key learnings

  1. Let your consumers be your ambassadors by turning their purchase into a true and engaging lifestyle experience
  2. Associate your brand with a purpose customers can check on social media - buying glasses for those in need makes more sense than planting trees
  3. Be technologically savvy as you speak to digital natives, by using new AR technology as a sales technique

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Quip - a toothbrush goes online

Quip is an NYC born designer toothbrush delivered on a subscription basis every three months. Its initial success came from targeted Facebook ads and intense outdoor advertising in urban areas.

Quip’s target audience are educated design-oriented social media savvy Millennials and the brand profits from the new hype around bathrooms turned into social media stages.

Instagram’s visual-first approach is key to the brand’s design showcase.

View this post on Instagram

But does he floss? 🙃

A post shared by quip (@quip) on

Quip’s easy tone of voice and polished look leads to engagement with the right audience

The brand works with many lifestyle influencers but relies mostly on edgy product “nature mortes”.

Quip recently pivoted to a YouTube referral program, jumping on the powerful video marketing bandwagon, which makes sense as by 2021 80% of all social media content will be video.

Talkwalker Quick Search Quip Top Social

Quip’s most engaging results on social media in the last 13 months are mostly generated by YouTube videos

Key learnings

  1. If your product design is high-end, use the full Instagram capabilities by telling true stories, authentic “daily life” user-generated content and inspiring day quotes to be remembered.
  2. Include video referral into your strategy as you can target different target groups with specific yet engaging content(gaming, home & living, travel,...)

Rothy’s - the sustainable stylish shoe brand

Shoes - and now bags - made of a proprietary 3D knitting of marine plastic and Rothy’s own thread spun from single-use water bottles. Isn’t that a cool thing these days?

These flats are even approved by Meghan Markle.

Innovation, design, and sustainability are the brand’s key pillars, a brand invented by two men for Millennial women wearing yoga pants. Born in San Francisco, the new unicorn shoemaker rapidly turned into a must-have fashion item for successful business females all over the place, driven by immense word-of-mouth and celebrity-induced desirability.

Talkwalker Quick Search Rothy's Audience Demographics

Rothy’s audience on social media is fueled by a young and female crowd, active on Instagram

50 million plastic bottles recycled and turned into fashionable flats for Millennials

Handwritten message from the Founder to the Facebook fanbase - a direct emotional call to core customers and brand ambassadors


Rothy’s announcing that they now also offer handbags


Key learnings

  1. Make things look homemade and personal - especially your brand messaging. Be cautious with your tone of voice, be sensitive with your fonts and background colors, try to trigger emotions and look true and authentic
  2. Your story needs to fit your audience - Rothy’s eco-sensitive female West Coast clientele was desperate for fashionable & convenient flats that reduce plastic waste on their favorite outdoor spot - beaches. A winning approach that resonates with its specific audience.

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