Digital marketing: this is what a good approach looks like

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Content & Context, to receive more insights and updates on the world of content marketing from Skyword CEO Andrew C. Wheeler.

It used to be that supply chain dominance equaled market dominance. That changed when an explosion of D2C newcomers like Dollar Shave Club, Drizly, Warby Parker and Stitch Fix proved that a native, social media-friendly digital marketing strategy was enough to steal significant market share even from brands. well-established consumption.

In the process, these brands have pioneered the use of content to simultaneously build direct relationships with customers, convey a unique brand identity and collect audience data – activities previously siled respectively within marketing teams. direct, brand marketing and customer experience. In summary, they established a modern content marketing playbook that more traditional brands started to copy.

Especially since the pandemic, the sheer number of brands claiming rights in the digital economy has introduced a new set of challenges:

  • Digital advertising costs are being pushed up by intense competition, especially from established brands with deep pockets.
  • Consumers and professional buyers expect a premium omnichannel experience, whatever the brand.
  • Brands are having to fight harder to differentiate themselves online, where it’s easy for shoppers to research and compare prices.
  • It’s harder to maintain a strong brand identity and message across an increasing number of digital channels.

As a result, many brands are seeing lower returns than their usual marketing investments.

So I want to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the lean principles that have made D2C marketing surprisingly effective and how any brand can adapt them to succeed in today’s digital climate. Here are three of the most important:

1. The Goldilocks Principle

In the early days of D2C, many brands targeted mature markets, found traction with niche audiences, and then found success doubling down with laser-focused messaging. Now we see this playing out in reverse. Just take Discord, a brand that went from being a bespoke chat app for gamers to disrupting the wider social media landscape precisely because it catered to a powerful niche audience so well.

With the tools to access more audience data than ever before, your brand has the ability to identify the micro audiences that consume your content and, more importantly, identify the micro topics that characterize their buying process. . Use this data to identify your niche and own it.

Too often I see brands spending time and effort ranking terms or addressing topics that aren’t likely to drive their brand forward. Instead of trying to be an expert on “everything” for a broad audience, tailor your content to the people most likely to benefit from your products and the information they need and that you are uniquely qualified to provide.

Imagine for a second that your brand is a mortgage lender. Your target audience isn’t just people curious about mortgages or even homeowners—of which 93% don’t look for new mortgages; these are people in the market for a mortgage.

What content suits them? (This is where the Goldilocks concept comes in). It’s likely the content that helps them compare interest rates, understand what they can afford, and navigate the loan process. Perhaps those needs vary depending on whether they are first-time homebuyers, single, or married with children. Focus on those questions, channel all your passion into answering them, and be the most qualified expert to show up with help when and where they need it.

This allows you to focus, first, on truly mastering the conversations that are core to your business and native to your expertise versus those that are tangential to your brand.

2. The principle of true fans

D2C brands disrupted marketing early on, in part because they leveraged timely shifts in consumer culture:

  • Adopt innovative subscription models;
  • Communicate via influencers;
  • and positioning themselves in opposition to “stuffy” brands they describe as disconnected from customer needs.

A perfect example is Dollar Shave Club, which went to market with an affordable subscription-based razor delivery service. Its irreverent approach to the “old school” razor market immediately struck a chord with young consumers. The brand was so quick to gather a cult following after legacy giant Unilever – which failed to crush DSC’s credibility – bought the brand for around $1 billion.

The enduring lesson here is to compete for fandom, not just attention. As anyone who has ever watched a Marvel movie or followed the rise of NFTs can attest, the ability to tap into the aspirations of a passionate group is a powerful thing.

How to grow an embedded fan base with content?

It takes commitment, not just campaigns. Create a post, host a community, and create experiences that reflect your customers’ cultural identity, deliver exclusive value, and drive community interaction. The more you are able to invite customers into a distinct community that they identify with and want to join, the greater your competitive advantage.

This only reinforces the need to partner with creators who are:

  • Craftsmen who are experts in the specific storytelling mediums you want to use;
  • Immersed in, and not just aware of, the industries, topics and/or cultures you cover;
  • Representative of the audiences you want to connect with;
  • And far enough away from your brand to bring a customer perspective and new ideas to the table.

3. The principle of the salad bag

D2C brand fame is all about cutting out the middleman from the customer value chain and exploiting the digital marketing shortcuts along the way. The way they reinvented the supply chain and the dynamics of marketing is precisely how brands today should consider reinventing their customer experience. Professional buyers and consumers are looking for brands that deliver quality with simplicity and convenience.

The best analogy I’ve heard to describe this is the salad bag. Grocery brands spent years evolving the way they package lettuce: lettuce heads, lettuce leaves, spring mixes…until one day someone brilliant decided to focus on the game instead final. When consumers buy lettuce, their ultimate goal is usually to make a salad. So why not make it easy for them and combine the ingredients for them?

Lo and behold, the salad bag was born and fueled an entire class of portion-controlled food eaters.

Evaluate your customer journey based on how you help your customers achieve the desired outcome. Are you using content strategically along this journey to eliminate, simplify, or combine the steps necessary for your customers to consider, evaluate, choose, and experience solutions?

The primary purpose of content is not to gratify executives or glorify your brand; it’s about “driving” customers towards your products by removing barriers and presenting information that helps them make better, more informed decisions. Clarify your mission and declutter your content experience accordingly.


As a marketer, I fully recognize that delivering unique and personalized content experiences across all channels and touchpoints can seem out of reach. It forces you to constantly focus on your fanbase, create messages that resonate on an individual level, and create unique experiences.

I’m excited to announce that in the coming months we’ll be adding a new feature to our Skyword360 technology that uses AI to support this effort, making content personalization and atomization easier and more profitable for specialists. marketing.

Ping me if you want to discuss it now, or stay tuned for more details in my next article.