How to Create a Brand Story
Why direct-to-consumer (D2C) challenger brands must establish & project a strong brand narrative to succeed.
By Sonal Gandhi
Chief Content Officer at The Lead
Direct-to-consumer (D2C) challenger brands have revolutionized the market by marketing directly to customers primarily through social media and disintermediating retailers. However, as the D2C space has grown incredibly crowded its reliance on bottom-funnel tactics in order to acquire customers is no longer viable. D2C challenger brands must establish and project a strong brand narrative in order to succeed.
Why Do Challenger Brands Need a Brand Story?
- Product attributes and clever design are no longer enough to drive sales.
- Paid social media tactics are expensive and an emphasis on profitability over growth means brands can rely on LTV to justify high CPAs.
- Brands need to make an emotional connection to stand out in the sea of competition.
“Warby Parker is a great example of a company that has successfully built a strong brand narrative,” According to Ben Billingsley, Founder and CEO of Broadsheet Communications. “Warby Parker revolutionized the eyeglass market by positioning itself as an affordable, customer-centric alternative to traditional, impersonal eyeglass stores. Because of Warby Parker, consumers now know that only one company (Luxottica) makes the vast majority of consumer eyeglasses – and that high prices naturally follow. With a smart brand story, Warby Parker has taught consumers that the shopping experience for eyeglasses doesn’t need to be unaffordable, impersonal, or inconvenient. The brand prioritizes its customer base, and growth has followed.”
Challenger brands can likewise establish themselves by tapping into a shared sense of community and purpose with —
- The Creation/Origin Story: Consumers, like all people, are drawn to narratives. The story of the product’s inception – the “aha!” moment – can convey an emotional appeal to shoppers who make decisions based on uniqueness and a clever solution to a problem.
- The Founder’s Vision: People want to do business with those they find genuine, thoughtful, and appealing. By building a focused narrative around the founder and the problem they’re solving, D2C challenger brands can amplify the appeal of their sales pitch.
- The Need for Community: As the pandemic recedes, people are rediscovering their need for community and human connection. By providing a means to connect with other like-minded individuals, brands can establish an emotional connection that drives loyalty and revenue.
- Sustained Relevance: Narratives can grow stale on the vine. It’s important that brands update and augment their story as market conditions evolve. This is where influencers, events, and other types of outreach can be helpful.
Ben, who was part of the selection committee for 2023’s Foremost 50 and Ones to Watch lists, cites two examples — Born Primitive and Air Company. “CrossFit enthusiasts, for example, have formed local groups of fellow practitioners across the nation. In 2014 one CrossFit fan, Bear Handlon recognized a need for a new kind of padded shorts more suitable for CrossFit’s particular rigors. An active-duty member of the military, Handlon found a supplier and business partners and launched the brand Born Primitive. Born Primitive has since been able to tap into the community of CrossFit enthusiasts who associate fitness with patriotism, and the brand has flourished. Handlon’s background and the brand’s origin story have been essential to its success.”
“In the case of Air Company, the brand extracts carbon from the air at a plant in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and uses it to make products ranging from spirits and perfume to hand sanitizer and aviation fuel. By marketing its products as carbon-negative, Air Company appeals to the discomfort many consumers feel about their energy footprint. The combination of environmental sensitivity and cultural relevance constitutes an emotional appeal that goes far beyond the mere qualities of the products themselves.”
Far from being a flash in the pan, selling directly to consumers promises to remain a profoundly effective business model in the years to come for the brands that are able to leverage its unique attributes. By catering to people’s emotional needs for connection, higher purpose, and community, D2C brands can take advantage of the evolving behavior of a population that’s more online than ever before.
Broadsheet Communications is a full-service PR and marketing agency based in New York. They work with startups and established brands to increase valuations, drive sales and build trust – their approach is interconnected and combines traditional PR with digital strategies to inform audiences, influence buying decisions, and deliver tangible ROI.