The Overrated and Underrated DTC strategies

In the book, Billion Dollar Brand there are two ideas which are widely misunderstood. The first is the idea that billion dollar direct to consumer brands like Warby Parker, Glossier, Tuft and Needle, Casper, Quip, Hello Fresh, and so on depended on viral marketing. This, is overrated. Many of the brands relied on traditional media to generate buzz, like the 2010 Warby Parker profile. Yes, there was the viral Dollar Shave Club video, but it’s not clear how much ‘virality’ kept an idea top-of-mind as much as legacy media plus the low-cost but high-effectiveness of social media advertising.

The more important aspect, and underrated part each brand’s success has to do with the stakeholders in each industry. One consistently good (though hard to execute) business strategy is to compete where incumbents cannot. Dollar Shave Club sourced low-cost razors and shipped them direct to the door, whereas Gillette could not upend the retail apple cart. Ditto for mattresses, cosmetics, and eyewear. The strength of retail distribution was also a weakness in the world of online-ordering-last-mile-delivery-services. Stakeholders affect the restricted action section.

But this isn’t the story. It’s easier to count views. It’s fun to flaunt the fabulous. It’s harder to structure an organization and create a culture.

There’s no single moment to point at and say: see there, that was the key pivot for Billion Dollar Co.. Rather, it’s a lot of little things. But some moments are overrated, which means expensive. And the underrated are cheap, which makes them valuable.