13 DTC Branding Guidelines
Once you’re crystal clear on what your brand stands for, you’re ready to dive into building that personal connection that sets the DTC market apart. To do that effectively, we’ve identified our top tips and guidelines for you to follow as you build your brand.
1. Develop a Comprehensive Brand Strategy
Your strategy is the big picture view of building your brand via DTC branding steps and connecting with your customers. This high-level view is the rudder that will guide your ship as you create content that will reach your audience. You need to nail this first step as it guides the rest of the tips that follow.
Many of the best practices below will help you create your strategy. And they’ll provide tips so that you can get this right the first time. But, it would be best if you had a great strategy in the beginning that everyone on your team understands and can use to guide their decisions.
If you need to, you need to work with an expert to ensure that your strategy is on brand and can influence the rest of your company from the inside out.
2. Identify Your Brand Essence and How It Fits in the Market Next to Your Competitors
When was the last time you ran a competitor analysis for your market? You need to know how you fit into the larger landscape within your industry. And you need to know what you bring to the conversation and how you’re set apart from everyone else. The good news is a brand essence is very short and sweet. It should knock out who you are in just a few words at most. Many of our clients use just a single word. DTC branding is just not complete without this because the noise online today requires your pinpoint brand accuracy.
Take the time to analyze your market and then create a strategy that highlights the gaps your company fills that no other company can fill for your customers. You need to articulate what your core characteristics are and how they set you apart from everyone else in your field. This is essential before diving into advertisements on networks such as Facebook or Instagram. Ads created and launched without respect to how they’ll operate in a traffic funnel from a branding perspective will feel disjointed. This mistake will cost you in the form of poor marketing performance.
Your brand essence can be difficult to get right because these tend to be the intangibles that are hard to qualify and quantify. You’re creating a feeling around your product and marketing message. If you’re unsure how to do this properly, be sure to work with an expert to know that you’re creating value within your market that makes you different and gets you noticed in a crowded field.
3. Make Commitments and Promises That You Will Always Keep
While it’s tempting to try to ride the marketing waves of social trends to drive ecommerce performance, the fact is your customers want to know that they can trust you with their hard-earned money. This means fewer smoke and mirrors and more transparency. When customers buy directly from a brand, they are putting faith in the promises you made throughout your marketing. So don’t make any promises you can’t keep.
This is vital to creating a unique voice within your industry that your customers can have confidence that you will take care of them. People want to work with brands they can trust. DTC branding principles suggest that when you build this trust, you’ll have amazing success in the DTC sphere. If you look at the most successful DTC startups, you’ll see that they too follow this guideline. For them, the vein of this commitment runs from the investors to product development and out to platforms for conversations with potential customers.
4. Identify a Voice and Tone and Stick With It
You need to have one uniform voice that you use in all your content marketing across the internet. When was the last time you requested feedback from your customer base to better understand how your brand is coming off? Each time a customer interacts with your company, they need to know that they’re in the right place, with the right company. Your customer experience can help present that story through even rote ecommerce engagements and transactional interfaces. Otherwise, you lose the confidence of your customers in what they can expect when they work with you.
You need to have a unified voice and tone across different audiences in your market. And you need to ensure that each transactional moment is cohesive. From your invoices and receipts to your tracking and shipping pages, everything needs to work together.
Lastly, regardless of whether you’re writing a blog post that educates your customers or creating a sales page, everything needs to be consistent and tied in together.
5. Invest in a Killer Design System
Yes, we started the article by saying that branding is more than design. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t incorporate design. In fact, having a killer design system will set you apart from your competition.
A design system ties together your logo, palette, photo compositions, illustrations, iconography, etc., to continue the brand tone and voice you’ve already identified, but through visual components that you can integrate across the entire customer experience.
Of course, it helps to have a logo that is iconic and recognizable. This takes time. Focus on delivering on your promises to customers who appreciate what you offer.
6. Regularly Talk to Your Best Customers to Understand the Language They Use to Describe Your Brand
In the DTC market, your relationship with your customers doesn’t end at the sale. You will continue the conversation long after they’ve purchased. And one important aspect you need to listen to is the language they use to describe your company, products, and brand.
And when you do take the time to talk with your customers, you can start to adopt the very words they use to describe their problems and how your company solves those problems. Then when you use those words that you hear from your customers in your marketing, your prospects will feel like you truly understand them.
This kind of insight is invaluable in your marketing campaigns. So, take the time to listen to your customers regularly. And then understand where they’re coming from and use the language they use back in your marketing funnel to communicate how you can help them too. DTC branding applied correctly, will always use this information to improve how it meets customers and their needs.
7. Make Sure Your Company’s Values and Your Brand’s Values Align and Strengthen Each Other
Today’s consumers want to know what your company stands for. You need to know what your company stands for and then use your brand messaging to convey those values to your customers. You can also analyze your product or service delivery via customer insights surveys to better sense if your corporate values really are bleeding through in how your brand interacts with customers. The fact is, if you want to build a group of ambassadors or fans, you’re going to need to align your brand tactics with these values.
Your new DTC branding can’t be confusing or misaligned with your current company’s values. You don’t want to confuse your customers. This is why you must start with your company values and ensure that your branding values strengthen and align with your overall mission.
8. Engage Employees in Discovering New Ways to “Be Your Brand” in Everyday Work
As you create your branding, you must regularly communicate it to your entire workforce. Your employees must be able to understand and internalize your branding. This will allow them to become successful brand ambassadors every day at work.
This isn’t about dictating to your employees how they must act while on the job. In fact, this is the opposite. This is about getting complete buy-in from our employees about your brand and how they can personally embody that brand image.
So, how can you do this? It starts at the top with full endorsement from your senior leadership. You must make this a priority if you want engaged workers who are proud of where you’re taking your organization.
9. Make Sure Your Product, Value, and Customer Experiences Don’t Violate Your Brand Promises
Again, your values must align and be uniform with the rest of the company. When you promise an amazing experience through your marketing and brand promises, you must deliver on all fronts. And this includes not only your product but also stellar customer service because when a purchase decision is on the line for a customer, DTC businesses with brand integrity across the entire CX are the ones who pass the test.
Your customers must get what was promised to them in the marketing. Otherwise, they won’t see the value in what they purchased, and they won’t continue to purchase from you. Remember, the value a customer perceives is often intangible as well, held not only in what they buy but rather why they buy it.
And, in the direct-to-consumer ecommerce market, customer retention is key to ultimate success.
10. Let Your Promotional Strategy Be Influenced Uniquely by Your Brand
The internet is a busy and overcrowded place which is why DTC branding is so critical. If you want to create a winning promotional strategy, you must stay true to your unique voice and brand. Whether it’s on social media or a blog post, your unique brand voice must shine through.
We’ve talked a lot about brand voice and personality. But you need to offer your customers consistency across the internet so they feel they can trust you; this is true as well for the discounts, deals, and promotions you are running. Are you using promotions as a tool to reinforce your brand or simply drive sales? In DTC strategy, customer trust is key to loyalty which will lead to overall improved customer retention.
11. Develop a Healthy Ambassador Program and Learn From How They Represent Your Value
As mentioned, the DTC space focuses on developing a relationship with your customers long after they purchase from you. And as you do this, encourage your loyal customers to share their love for your company.
Please don’t make your customers think about how they can do this. Instead, send them an email with a link to your Google My Business profile or review add-on and ask them to leave you a review. Create a hashtag and encourage your customers to link to you and use your unique hashtag on their social media profiles.
You need to show your customers how they can help you by sharing how great your product is. And when you create a great product and offer superior customer service, your customers will be happy to remain loyal ambassadors for your brand.
12. Keep High Standards for Meeting Best Practices in UX
You’ve spent a lot of time and money investing in creating a branding message that conveys your values to your clients. You’ve built up a product that your customers are excited to use. You must ensure that their user experience at every touchpoint they have with your company gives an amazing experience. If you aren’t proud of the user experience you are offering, you can always train your folks in-house to advance their skill sets.
You can’t afford for basic issues to undercut your brand’s image. Think about your favorite brands that you’re always loyal to. The chances are that your loyalty has been nurtured through great user experiences with that brand.
And that is the standard you must meet when building the best user experience for your own brand.
13. Invest in Robust Content and Experience Personalization
Today’s customers are savvy and have high expectations. You must give them a personalized experience on your website. If you aren’t actively collecting first-party data on your customers, then you’re leaving money on the table.
You need to listen to what your clients are telling you by analyzing what content they consume. What emails have the highest open rates? What pages on your website are the most often visited or searched for?
There are many reasons that Amazon has the most successful DTC shopping experience on the internet. One reason is that they know what their consumers want and offer more of that to them, and your website must do that as well.
If it doesn’t, then this needs to be a top priority investment for your company. Each customer that interacts with your brand needs to experience a tailored version for them and their needs.
Here at 2 Vision, we’ve worked with thousands of brands. And through it all, we always seem to get asked the same few questions. Here we answer the most common DTC questions we get as they pertain to branding.
What Is a DTC Brand?
DTC stands for direct to consumer. This means that your company can cut out the middle man and sell directly to your customers.
Traditionally, manufacturers made their products and then sold them to wholesalers at a wholesale price. These wholesalers then marked up the price and sold to either retail stores or distributors. Who then also marked up the price and sold it to your customers.
These days, however, you can connect directly with your customers with the tools you can utilize online. You can then use that connection to sell and ship your products directly to your consumers.
What Does DTC Mean in Marketing?
In the marketing world, this means that your company needs to create a relationship with your end-users. This might be a new concept if you’ve traditionally only worked with wholesale and 3PL companies. However, when done right, you can create an experience online that rivals traditional marketing.
When you jump into the DTC market, you need to focus on a few key marketing concepts. And those include personalization, authenticity, and relationships. This is a far jump from traditional marketing, so take the time to work through the thirteen tips above so that you nail these three key aspects of your marketing strategy.
What Is DTC Strategy?
So what is your DTC marketing strategy? In the DTC market, you are in control of the entire customer journey. From acquisition to retention and everything in between, you’re now in control of the entirety of your marketing.
The DTC strategy can be a simple concept but difficult to implement. Here we break it down into the four basic steps; however, to build your full strategy, we suggest working with an expert to ensure that you get it right the first time.
- Understand the market
- Understand the consumer through research and data
- Offer personalization through tailored content and a great experience
- Start with one great product line and build from there
Many companies try to fit the round peg of traditional marketing into the square hole of their DTC strategy. But when you understand the key concepts to build your DTC strategy, you will see unparalleled success.
How Do You Grow a DTC Brand?
We’ve talked a lot about building your DTC branding. However, once you’ve established yourself, it can be hard to scale. DTC growth comes through traffic, automation, using data for personalization, and being proactive in customer retention.
If it fits your product category, a great way to be proactive in customer retention is to create a subscription model. This will ensure monthly revenue for as long as you continue to do everything we’ve already talked about to give your customers an amazing experience, quality products and build a personalized relationship with them.
How Many Direct-to-Consumer Brands Are There?
The number of DTC brands is growing every day. Back in 2018, data showed there were more than four hundred DTC brands. Of course, that number today is at a whole other level. The DTC market is growing by double digits year over year, so if you’re considering jumping into this hot market, then now is the time.
What Are Some of the Best DTC Brands?
Some of the most well-known DTC brands have included Dollar Shave Club, Stitch Fix, Bonobos, Warby Parker, Everlane, and of course, Casper mattresses. One thing you’ll notice is that they started simple and grew. They focused on a niche offering and nailed it before moving on to anything else.
In the case of Casper, which has seen unprecedented success, they took an industry that was overwhelmed and inundated in too many choices, and they gave you one. One singular choice for your mattress. But they shipped it straight to your door.
When you’re analyzing your industry, you need to look at every aspect of the market. What are the consumers in your industry most frustrated with? In the case of the mattress industry, everyone hates going to the store, having to check out thousands of options, dealing with pushy salespeople, and then figuring out the delivery.
Casper eliminated every single frustration by only giving you one choice. Did they alienate a segment of the market by not offering extra plush or super firm? Yes, they did; however, they went with the two most common types on the market and combined them to appeal to the largest segment of the population.
In doing this, they are appealing to the masses and offering what nobody else is. An amazing experience. And that is what we’ve talked about throughout this article. Create one product that fills a need within your industry and then create an unrivaled experience and personalization for your customers.
Follow these steps, and you’ll soon be listed in this section for the best DTC brands on the market today.