Our Perspective: How Direct-To-Consumer Brands Break Free From Retail Norms

Instagram users are spending on average 53 minutes per day on the app* and 83% of users say they discover new products and services on Instagram^.

For start-up brands, Instagram is easy to use and of course free to set up. Gaining followers, likes, reviewing and replying to comments is a quick way of understanding if you are gaining traction with your target audience and even helps to uncover who your audience really is. Consistent consumer relevant posts, hashtags and stories are of course the key to showing up in your followers feeds.

More and more we are seeing direct-to-consumer brands offer one key product, building their brand online and attracting a large following while they convince their audience to purchase through digital platforms instead of traditional physical retail channels.

Examples such as Nuud a Netherland based company who sell an all-natural anti-odourant in a bioplastic sugar cane tube. Their simple, bold and clean packaging is often the main feature of their Instagram posts and on their website.

Bold and understated packaging is a common theme across a lot of the successful digital start-up brands that don’t need to follow typical FMCG category codes. A few examples include:

Scratch – Who have 12.7k followers on Instagram. They sell one type of dog food which uses local high-quality ingredients, at an affordable price due to them selling online without the store mark up. Their packaging is a cardboard delivery box, with minimalist 3 colour design and bold logo mark, unlike typical dog food packaging that follow a formula of including dog photography.

Koh – with 83.1k followers, sell an effective, eco-friendly cleaning product for the whole house. All of their products us the same 2 brand colours, white and green, which looks consistent and stylish vs the usual highly loud and busy cleaners found in supermarkets

These businesses are all following a ‘simple, honest and real’ marketing approach. They use the pack as a stylish symbol of the brand with a minimalist approach and use other channels to build a relationship with their audience, unveiling information about the brand personality and values overtime. This in turn creates a consistent brand message and an air of confidence by not bombarding their target consumer.

Of course, online consumer brands don’t have the challenges of the retail environment, where each product sits directly next to its competitor. They don’t need to shout for attention, and they don’t need to communicate everything in one go as the shopper walks past the shelf.

Arguably these online brands are targeting a niche audience, and without selling in retail they won’t penetrate the mass market. However, what they are doing, is reminding consumers and other FMCG businesses that commodities can still be aesthetically disruptive yet pleasing.

*Recode 2018 https://www.vox.com/2018/6/25/17501224/instagram-facebook-snapchat-time-spent-growth-data

^Facebook 2019 https://www.facebook.com/business/news/insights/how-instagram-boosts-brands-and-drives-sales