User Generated Content

8 of the Best DTC Brands (and What Makes Their Strategies Work)

Looking for lessons from the best DTC brands? This guide breaks down 8 top direct-to-consumer companies and how they engage customers.

direct-to-consumer drop-off

Customer experience is everything in today’s cutthroat world of retail.

Maybe that’s why so many brands are hopping on the direct-to-consumer (DTC) train.

Bypassing third parties means merchants can engage with consumers directly and sell on their own terms. With DTC brands now responsible for $151.2 billion in ecommerce sales, the power of the direct-to-consumer model speaks for itself.

But as the DTC space expands, merchants need to understand what success actually looks like for companies that have “made it.”

That’s why we put together this breakdown of the best D2C brands.

8 of the Top DTC Brands (and What They Do Right)

Listen: more consumer brands are thriving than ever before.

Competing in the DTC space is not for the faint of heart, though. Exploring new tactics and tapping into creativity is key for up-and-comers that want to make it.

Need ideas and inspo? These DTC brands have you covered.

1. Billie

Billie represents one of the biggest DTC brands crushing it thanks to their subscription model. The company was founded on the belief that women shouldn’t overpay for razors. On a mission promote to body positivity through their clean and colorful products, Billie is the definition of selling with a purpose.

Billie website homepage

What This DTC Brand Does Right

  • Mission and vision. Billie has never been shy about its goal of eliminating the “Pink Tax” that women pay for razors in a male-dominated industry.
  • They got a head-start on the subscription model. The brand literally went directly to consumers from the word “go” in 2015. They were way ahead of the game, too — subscription services are projected to account for 75% of DTC brands by 2023.
  • They solve a simple, specific problem. Billie’s line of products offers an affordable, consistent solution to achieve smooth skin. Customers don’t have to worry about overpaying or remembering to buy razors month-to-month.
  • Transparency in their values. From their site to their social presence and beyond, Billie is transparent in what the company is all about. They show real women with real body hair and the result is a combination of fun, relatability and a whole lot of empowerment.
  • Trust among their customers. Billie clearly connects with its customers. They earn strong social engagement and frequent shout-outs for a reason.  

Billie social media body hair post Billie "pink tax" social post

Source: @billie

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

Being purpose-driven is a huge plus, not to mention bringing big value directly to customers through subscriptions. Although razors are a seemingly “ordinary” product, Billie’s branding and messaging make them seem like so much more.

2. Haus

Haus provides a modern spin on the traditional apéritifs, positioning itself as a solution for those that want to enjoy alcohol guilt-free. Natural ingredients and low-ABV options are Haus’ trademark, all bundled in a membership package that gets drinks sent to your doorstep.

Drink Haus website homepage

What This DTC Brand Does Right

  • Exclusivity as a selling point. Haus’ membership model makes customers feel like a million bucks. Access to exclusive flavors, events and free shipping are all enticing. 
  • They solve a specific problem. DTC brands need to find their niche and Haus has theirs figured out. The brand appeals to its health-conscious audience by removing artificial ingredients and refined sugars from its drinks. In their own words, “more hangouts, less hangovers.” 
  • They listen to their customers. The brand actively seeks out customer feedback and makes adjustments to its product offerings. In return, Haus hooks customers up with drink recipes and inspiration.
  • Unique packaging and presentation. Haus’ snapshot-worthy packaging matches their customers’ aesthetic. Their bottles double as decorations and are ideal for user-generated content such as unboxing videos.
  • Confident messaging. Haus’s messaging aligns with their presentation. Phrases like “Set your bar higher” and “farm-to-bottle” speak to the brand’s desire to be viewed as a premium product.

Drink Haus product packaging

Source: @drinkhaus

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

Messaging matters. Whether you’re looking to present yourself as top-shelf or budget-friendly, commit to a voice that speaks to your audience. Oh, and don’t forget about the importance of unique packaging.

Drink Haus holiday recipes Drink Haus holiday recipes

Source: @drinkhaus

3. Vacation

Vacation’s sunscreen with a vintage vibe was created by Poolside FM founder Marty Bell. The idea? Monetize his existing and established community with a physical product. The concept of selling premium sunscreen might seem like a stretch, but Vacation has found a way to make it work brilliantly.

Vacation website homepage

What This DTC Brand Does Right

  • Buzz from day one. Vacation was largely successful because of its viral launch strategy. This included virtual business cards presented to “members” via Twitter (see below).
  • One-of-a-kind branding. The company’s branding absolutely oozes nostalgia. The retro vibe of their website and marketing materials looks like something straight out of an 80s catalog. We’re here for it!
  • Tapping into the power of social media. Vacation’s marketing push started on Twitter, leveraging @PoolsideFM’s existing followers. The mass “hiring” of honorary “employees” was a creative move and something tailor-made for social engagement.
  • Exclusivity. Piggybacking on the success of their launch, Vacation “card-holders” were then able to pre-order products before anyone else. This resulted in a staggering 10,000 sign-ups in two days.

Vacation viral Twitter launch

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

Non-conventional marketing tactics are often the trademark of many DTC brands. Vacation was smart to tap into their existing audience first rather than start from scratch. The brand’s aesthetic might seem risky but is perfect given that retro nostalgia is all the rage right now.

Vacation honorary employee coupon

4. Krave Beauty

Krave Beauty aims to refocus consumers on skin instead of skincare. Overwhelmed by constant trends and so-called “miracle products,” founder Liah Yoo created Krave Beauty to encourage customers to simplify their beauty routines to show their skin more love.

Krave Beauty website homepage

What This DTC Brand Does Right

  • Problem-solving products and mission. Founded as a customer-first business, Krave was founded to create products that its founder wished were on the market.
  • Clear, memorable messaging. The #PressReset hashtag is at the core of Krave’s brand. The idea? Cut through the clutter of beauty product choices and hit the reset button on your routine for the sake of your skin.
  • They put their values front and center. Krave emphasizes a product philosophy and values that resonate with their customers. This includes inclusivity and sustainability.
  • Compelling CX. Bonus points to Krave because their website is so seamless and easy to navigate. From eye-popping product icons to customer stories and in-depth descriptions, Krave provides customers a much-needed sense of comfort and confidence while shopping.

Krave Beauty before and after social post

Source: @kravebeauty

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

Know your target audience and their struggles. The power of pain points can’t be overstated. Krave’s branding and mission manage to stand out in a crowded beauty space because it speaks directly to people that are overwhelmed by that same space. 

5. Lively

Created to blend comfort and style, Lively’s bras are an intersection of lingerie, activewear and swimwear. The brand is laser-focused on community and helping modern women discover a new sense of confidence.

Lively website boss babe ambassador page

What This DTC Brand Does Right

  • They know how to relate to their audience. Self-described as being “inspired by women with wild hearts and boss brains,” the brand’s messaging and aesthetic make it clear who they’re looking to reach.
  • Carving out their niche. Lively’s so-called “Leisurée” not only serves as a branding tool but another way for the company to stand out in a crowded niche.
  • Create a community versus a customer base. The brand empowers customers and highlights them throughout their marketing campaigns. This creates a personal experience that goes beyond products.
  • They work closely with creators. From user-generated content to their robust brand ambassador program, Lively actively invites creators to be part of their “girl gang.”

Lively brand ambassador girl gang

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

Put your customers first. Branding, marketing, service, you name it. Focusing on community versus customers is the perfect way to build brand loyalty (not to mention social proof).

Lively mentorship program social post Lively repurposed user-generated-content

Source: @wearelively

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6. OffLimits

Ever tried glitter on your cereal? 

Yeah, we didn’t think so. 

Taking the DTC cereal space by storm, OffLimits’s loud branding and off-the-wall product make them impossible to ignore. 

Offlimits website homepage

What This DTC Brand Does Right

  • Distinct brand voice. OffLimits’ branding is dripping with confidence. The brand’s unconventional tone highlights how they’re different in the cereal space. Likewise, their rebellious voice and mission to overhaul the breakfast industry only make them more compelling.
  • Their product is worth talking about. Seriously: edible glitter? The brand’s unique product and colorful packaging are prime for social shares and shout-outs.
  • Harness the power of earned media. OffLimits has scored coverage from outlets including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and NPR. This sort of buzz is awesome for DTC brands, especially edgier companies that want to prove that they’re legit.

edible glitter for cereal

Source: @offlimits

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

Find your voice and personality ASAP! Consumer brands can’t afford to be boring (like, literally). Humor is one of the best ways to humanize your brand and trend on social media. We’re seeing this firsthand with many of the best brands on TikTok.

7. Zenni

Warby Parker’s domination of direct-to-consumer eyewear is well-documented. However, WP’s high price tags signaled an opportunity for brands like Zenni to stake their claim as an affordable alternative. Needless to say, Zenni succeeded.

Zenni website homepage

What This DTC Brand Does Right

    • Perfect positioning. Although Zenni is much more than a discount Warby Parker, that distinction is compelling to customers. Balancing sensibility and style, Zenni is defined by its cost-effective products in a space that often prices people out.
    • Lead with affordability. Many DTC brands rightfully present themselves as “premium” solutions. Nothing wrong with that! However, there’s no denying that affordability allows you to cast a wider net. If you want to make lower costs part of your identity, do it.
    • Get people talking on social media. Zenni’s active social presence helps them spread word-of-mouth faster. The #justgotmyzennis hashtag boasts over 63,000 satisfied customers showing off their purchases.

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

Despite popular belief, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to win in the D2C space. Positioning and pricing are easy to overlook in pursuit of being “disruptive.” That said, both are fundamental to your business regardless of what you’re selling.

social posts with the #justgotmyzennis

8. JUDY

Acknowledging that 60% of Americans have no emergency plan, JUDY emerged from a mission to help keep families safe during times of crisis. The company’s lightweight disaster supplies are practical, surprisingly stylish and designed by experts.

 

Judy website homepage

What This DTC Brand Does Right

  • Raise awareness for a universal problem. Consider the challenge of selling a product that nobody wants to even think about using. JUDY recognized people don’t go shopping for emergency supplies despite the need for them. As a result, they present themselves as a never-have-to-worry solution that puts customers at ease.
  • Getting there first. Being one of the first companies in the DTC safety space helped JUDY take over the market and cement its identity.
  • Memorable branding. JUDY utilizes a striking color scheme that works on so many levels. Orange is a bold design choice but fits perfectly for their products which need to be highly visible.

Judy business instagram profile

Source: @readysetjudy

Takeaways and Lessons for DTC Brands

If possible, present your product as a “need” rather than a “want.” Emphasize how you can make your target audience’s lives easier. These simple principles are easy to overlook but are crucial (in DTC or otherwise).

So, What Do the Best DTC Brands Have in Common?

To wrap things up, let’s recap the common threads between the consumer brands above despite being in totally different industries:

  • Thoughtful and consistent branding that speaks to a specific audience
  • They carve out a niche through pricing, presentation and messaging
  • They put customers first and make “community” part of their identity
  • Distinct, authentic and recognizable brand voices

How to Stand Out as a DTC Brand (and What to Do Next)

Emerging competition among consumer brands means that established companies and up-and-comers alike need to experiment with new strategies.

There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from the DTC brand examples above. Creative marketing and strong customer relationships are key.

And that’s why so many of the best brands partner with creators.

Because creators can be your loudest voices and biggest advocates. Especially in a crowded DTC space, these voices are more important than ever for brands eager to set themselves apart from their competitors.

If you’re interested in working with creators to boost brand awareness, we can help.  Reach out to chat with our consumer-to-consumer marketing specialists and see how we can build your next creator campaign and help you become a DTC brand people can’t stop talking about. 

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