DTC brands: How can DTC brands build and innovate for new-age consumers?

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Direct to consumer (DTC) brands witnessed a surge in growth during the pandemic with behavioural shifts in consumer buying and online channels taking centrestage. However, challenges around scalability, profit and uniqueness remain for such brands to stay relevant in the long run.

The DTC segment is looking at a potential $100-billion addressable market by 2025, according to a report by financial services firm Avendus Capital. So how can DTC brands aim to build well for new-age consumers? In what way can a brand be made loveable for consumers in the digital age?

Piyush Pandey, Chief Creative Officer Worldwide & Executive Chairman India, Ogilvy, says earning the trust of the consumer comes first. “Trust is a very big word. Trust comes from the consumer, not just from saying on how one can earn the trust. The purpose should be to create a sustainable brand by having a great relationship with the consumer. My client may or may not like me, that does not matter. But if a consumer likes me, it is what counts eventually in the larger scheme of things and the client will appreciate that as well,” he said, while speaking at the recently held virtual Amazon Smbhav Summit.

Delving further on how brands can interact more effectively with consumers, Pandey said that respecting the audience and their intelligence is the key. “If, for instance, a consumer understands the functionality and process of detergent making, you don’t have to take him to the research lab and tell him how you made it. The difference between a product and a brand is very simple. A product actually is the delivery of a need. A brand is when the product becomes loveable by the consumer. That is the only difference between a product and brand,” he said.

Substantiating his views with examples of his popular advertising campaigns such as “kuch khaas hai hum sabhi mein” for Cadbury, Pandey highlighted how he tried to make it all inclusive in its reach. “There was a concern that if I go too adult as the target audience for the brand, the huge market of children may be lost. Thankfully, the thought came to me on how there is a child in each one of us. So ‘kuch khas hai hum sabhi mein’ is a creative rendition which says that each one of us has got something bubbling. So, we brought out the child In every human being – the children loved it, the adults loved it. The market changed overnight,” he recalled.

DTC brands also have to evolve with the number of storytelling mediums that have come up now. How can they become more adept at handling the multiple formats? “A storyteller has to embrace the varied ways by which his story can reach 20 vehicles as opposed to, say, two earlier. Don’t touch the storytelling aspect. Why do movies like Avatar or The Lion King still do well? The Lion King still touches billions of hearts all around the world. The most important element for a storyteller is how best can he or she engage. Everything is an opportunity,” Pandey said.

Responding to a question on what is the right time for a young brand to approach creative agencies, Pandey said that everything — right from brochures, leaflets to campaigns — is communication. “Everything is brand building and it starts from day one. It can be presented even in one line in a way that would make the person remember the name. One can spend more money when they have more money, but thinking like a brand builder should happen from day one itself,” he said.

Elaborating further on what makes a brand tick, Pandey said that purpose needs to be understood clearly by a brand along its journey. “Never misuse purpose. Never try to ride on purpose. If you have something, do it sincerely. Everyone wants to know that you are sincere. Anything negative spreads faster,” he added.

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