Direct to Consumer (D2C) digital marketing and advertising has dominated online retail in recent years, due in part to D2C brands’ digital-first mentalities and often digitally-native founders. By incorporating the tried-and-true hashtag and the personality-infused emoji, these innovative brands are interacting with consumers in nontraditional ways to build relationships and increase revenue.
Before you make the 🤔 face, note that a recent study by Adobe showed that 81% of emoji users believe that fellow emoji users are more approachable, and 44% of emoji users are more likely to purchase products advertised using emojis.
Curious about what all of this means for the future of digital advertising? Here are three D2C brands that are mastering the art of # and 🙂.
“Raze” the Bar With UGC
Georgina Gooley, the co-founder of D2C women’s razor brand Billie, told Time magazine in 2018, “We want to be a brand that women are proud to have in their shower.” Billie accomplished this with products that skirted the “pink tax,” the sexist pricing strategy by which some women’s products are priced up to 7% higher than similar men’s products.
Billie also approached their customers, women accustomed to being shamed for body hair, with the attitude that hair removal was a personal choice, not a mandate. Their techniques are paying off: the company has raised $25 million in series A funding since their 2017 launch.
Billie’s strategy of building deep connections with their customer base extends into their advertising, where they let their fans tell their story. This is a smart strategy, given what we know about word of mouth and social influence in today’s over-saturated advertising landscape. They take advantage of User Generated Content (UGC), frequently reposting customers’ and influencers’ Instagram stories – filled with hashtags and emojis – as paid social ads.
Billie seems to be taking the results of the Adobe study to ❤️: In the past six months, roughly 50% of their top-performing creatives include user-generated Instagram stories. Another interesting trend: almost 80% of their top creatives are Facebook video ads.
Make a Spectacle of Hashtags
Warby Parker, the ecommerce giant that revolutionized eyewear shopping, is valued at $1.75 billion. Their current marketing tactics look a lot like they did when they launched in 2010: cultivating a community of fans to build strong word-of-mouth. Hashtags have always served an important role in their messaging, highlighting their ingenuity as a brand and often giving a sense of whimsy.
April Fool’s Day 2012 was the genesis of the #WarbyBarker hashtag, which celebrated dogs wearing glasses and morphed into a website of its own. Their strongest hashtag (other than #WarbyParker) is #WarbyHomeTryOn, which capitalizes on their customers’ natural tendency to take selfies with their new glasses to ask friends and followers which frames they should choose. Public posts using the hashtag send a Bat-Signal-like beacon to Warby Parker’s personal stylists, who give advice on which glasses look the best.
While hashtags appear in abundance on Warby Parker’s social media pages, their digital advertising is hashtag-free. Insights from Pathmatics Explorer show that the retailer, while historically spending most of their ad dollars on Facebook, introduced desktop video in 2018 and added desktop display in 2019. In the past six months, their social spend has decreased to just 44% of their total ad spend, a hint that they may have shifted budgeting away from the typical D2C style of advertising and toward a more traditional approach.
Build a Movement With Emojis
Luxury watch retailer MVMT utilizes both hashtags and emojis in its messaging. The hashtags found in their social media posts encourage customers to share photos of their MVMT watches, elevating the brand and strengthening community. The #jointhemvmt hashtag was initially used in a 2016 contest to win $500 in store credit and is still going strong today with over 150,000 posts.
What sets MVMT apart from the other D2C brands we’ve examined is that their paid media are often adorned with emojis. They use flames or eyeballs to announce sales; drops of water to emphasize the cool slickness of a new watch style. These tiny symbols are eye-catching enough to noticeably boost engagement: emojis appear in 60% of MVMT’s twenty top-performing creatives from the past six months.
Eighty-five percent of MVMT’s ad spend this year (to date) has been on Facebook ads, as we’ve seen with other high-performing D2C brands such as Casper. Will they diversify their ad formats as the company continues to grow? Will emojis withstand another year of advertising? We’ll check back in 2020 to find out.
Stay on Top of D2C Trends
D2C brands have revolutionized the way that products are advertised and sold, and we’re definitely keeping an eye on how they’re bucking tradition and pioneering their own trends. Pathmatics Explorer lets you review competitive marketing intelligence on hundreds of D2C brands to gain actionable insights on today’s most innovative advertising. Schedule a custom insights session to take a deep dive into the brands you care about most.
With over a decade of experience across digital marketing, content, creative, and PR, Sarah is a creative and dynamic thinker who loves to delight clients with unique and relatable content. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology.