Direct-to-Consumer Marketing takes brands directly to consumer when there might have previously been an intermediary – such as a retailer or traditional publisher. DTC brands are considered disruptive both for how they access their market – the logistics behind their offering – and their marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at these two criteria:
Direct To Consumer Distribution: The First Frontier
Let’s take a look at eyeglasses. In the past, the only way to get prescription glasses (in most Western markets) was to make an appointment to visit a doctor’s office, pick out a pair of frames at that office, then wait a few weeks to pick up the glasses at the same optometrist’s office. With the arrival of Warby Parker and others in the eyewear space, no more! Suddenly glasses could be delivered Direct To Consumer, with the doctor only involved for the eye exam. After a prescription is uploaded to the site, users can order their frames directly from the brand. Voila! Eyewear is shipped directly-to-consumer.
Direct to Consumer distribution applies as well to industries of products traditionally sold on a B2B basis. A great, early example is domain registration. In the mid-90’s, domains were the, well, domain of the few web developers in existence. It was a club of nerds, and a highly inaccessible process for the average person just signing on to their dial-up internet. Then came GoDaddy. In 2005, it ran a superbowl commercial offering its registration services, suddenly offering a niche product for the web developer subculture to the masses. This Direct To Consumer, approach was integral to GoDaddy’s business plan, but also, later, its marketing.
In advertising, DTC is often assumed to be pharma advertising. “A 1996 marketing campaign for the allergy medication Claritin found a loophole by intentionally excluding information about the medication itself from its advertising (which only included imagery, slogans such as “It’s time for Claritin” and “Clear days and nights are here”, and instructions to ask a doctor or call a phone number to request more information).” This move led to a surge in pharma advertising, and ultimately the establishment of clearer guidelines for manufacturers to advertise directly to consumers, rather than just the B2B medical market. Media spending surged and DTC was born.
Let’s look at the second criterion for DTC, and the creation of “Second Wave” DTC advertising:
Direct To Consumer Marketing: The Second Wave
Before digital, consumer goods and media had a symbiotic relationship. The only way Johnson & Johnson could announce a new baby product was through TV airtime, print ads, billboards, radio spots and, well, advertising. And the only way media could monetize was through partners like J&J. While the latter is true, advertisers now control the game, with more avenues to reach consumers.
DTC brands’ signature move is using content, amplified via social media, to attract consumers in a nontraditional model.
WSJ, CMO Today | DTC Marketing is Disruptive and Popular, But it Isn’t Easy
United States Federal Drug Administration | FDA Definition of DTC for Prescription Drug Advertising (Note: contents available at this site is specific to the US. Laws vary by country).
Criterion Global Expertise | DTC and Startup Media Buying
AdWeek | How DTC Brands are Tearing Down and Rebuilding The Marketing Scene