What DTC brands can learn from classic luxury brands

DTC is trying to disrupt luxury by being modern, data and product centric. They talk a lot of smack about transitional incumbents but particularly the luxury set. Some of this is merited, of course.

But they have a lot to learn from luxury brands. The most important is tightened of brand standard, and context: where the brands are placed in media and culture, how, and why.

Why would a glossy DTC brand want to advertise in a grubby, malfunctioning subway that fails to work most of the time as is the case in NYC? Yet you see everyone under the sun including glossier do it. Sure the reach relative to economics are cheap, but this doesn’t consider the longer-term implications of associating your logo with grime, stress, and misery.

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Why does Away, one of the most lauded brands, advertise in the airport security bins, another stressful annoying touchpoint in which no one wants to be sold anything. They took their eye off of the context ball, for all the other great marketing they do. It’s failing to catch that item in the media plan.

Why would a brand throw caution to the programmatic winds and end up in less than desirable environments? It happens all the time on the Web, and the idea of brand safety is a thing for a reason.

A recent study explored what types of ads people expect when they’re online. And surprise surprise, it reflects their purpose. If people are in “entertain me” mode, give me visuals, light, ad supported content. If I am task driven, then it is more informational, messaging.

While not rocket science — this is something that traditional luxury brands have understood well.

When the brand in present in the well edited the in-flight magazine, they are reaching an audience who has time, who has disposable income, and often besides similar brands. Contrast this to autoplay video on Facebook, who knows what inane piece of content the user just scrolled past before and then after consuming your crafted content?

When Nike has exclusive focus with an athlete that will only appear in pre-determined channels, only appear in the channels they prescribe, the image maps to the aesthetic. Contrast this with today’s ever promiscuous influencers, who may be on SnapChat with Brand X one second, Instagram with Brand Y the next and then ranting at the White House the next day.

Private showroom events, curated guest lists, hidden tastings. The experience of turning up, your name is on the list, the music, the smell, the lighting exude the brand. Contrasted with live streams on Facebook where context is lost.

In an earlier piece on LeanLuxe, I argued that a tasteful, exclusive, media take is what is needed in an all accessible world. I’ve highlighted the likes of Hyatt on T Brand Studio or Mercedes on WSJ — publisher hosted branded content is one such way of getting that same context in a digital context.

OTT offers similar opportunities today if done correctly, take Apple TV and the existing apps, with full screen, at home executions. It just needs the creative push to fully manifest.

But for all of the hubris about disruption and arrogance shown from the DTC world, these brands would probably be better if they looked at the subtle ways other companies, even the incumbents, steward their brands. Their experiences will become much tighter, with much less wasted spend, as a result.

Thanks for reading,

-Ben Young, CEO of Nudge

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