Until recently, depending on your industry, you probably had one main channel you had to go through, and possibly a secondary one if you felt particularly motivated that year. Whether it was through direct b2b, retail, via distributors or through subscriptions. Marketing would generate interest and demand, which sales would fulfil and deliver. Even with the introduction of Digital Retail (which we cover in more detail in this article ), things were still relatively clear. But as up-and coming disruptors have shown time and again in the last few years, launching a brand through the traditional channels just doesn’t cut it anymore.
When launching a new brand, or a new product, the first thing to take into consideration is impact. You probably have a limited budget with a lot to prove, and it is vital to make every dollar work. You want every touchpoint to reinforce the brand positioning, building a feeling of intimacy with the right consumers until they accept your brand as part of their emotional world . The question isn’t whether to sell online, in physical stores, via delivery; but what is the right mix to capture your target’s hearts and minds.
Subscription models used to be synonymous with stable, old-fashioned, slightly boring – gardening magazines, milk and insurance. But trends towards community belonging, direct brand engagement, and in-the-know appeal, start to dominate the emotional landscape.
It is no exaggeration to say that Spotify has entirely revolutionized the music industry. Others tried to replicate the old models (singles sales, albums, radio channels), but at its core the nature of consumption is changing for the new generations, from ownership to access. Being able to access all the music in the world feels much more appealing than owning an album, whatever that may mean in a digital world. This subscription model is also present in Netflix and other digital players; but not only.
Larger purchases have undergone a similar transformation. Zipcar has escaped the stuffy, small-print heavy environment of car rentals to get into the fluid, high energy world of access. Make no mistake – the change here is significant not because of the technological ease, but because of the entirely different mindset. The more direct and immediate your subscription system, the stronger the associated feeling of belonging and community. This shift in attitudes is already reshaping the way General Motors and other car manufacturers see a future route-to-market. They believe no-one will own one vehicle, but all customers will “own” a share of the shared fleet.
In the fashion department, renting clothes could have seemed like an aberration to most until quite recently. However, sites like Rent the Runway are making it increasingly mainstream, democratizing access to high-end and couture pieces that would otherwise stay out of reach of all but the wealthiest. Here again, the trend is towards open access, with Le Tote letting you exchange the pack of 2 or 3 looks for another set any time you want.
At the FMCG end of the scale, challenger brands like the Dollar Shave Club have shaken their categories to the core, forcing the global giants to take notice; Eve and its successors have entirely re-shaped the mattress industry; P&G is taking a page out of the Amazon playbook and launching its Tide Pod subscription.
Throughout these examples, it is important to keep in mind that the important thing is not simply to cut corners on physical display to compete on value and functionality; it is to build a more immediate relationship between the consumer and the brand. When consumers are dealing with a store, a salesperson, an online checkout, they are naturally focusing on the process; but with each element of process that you remove, their attention is freed to engage more directly with the brand itself.
And once your consumers are well and truly connected to the brand, any other channel becomes an opportunity to expand the relationship. Take Warby Parker, the extremely disruptive, trendy-yet-affordable glasses company, who after making much noise for being online-only, direct to consumer, opened a number of pop-ups to bring the experience to life at key locations.
Likewise, Nike’s recent refocus on Direct-To-Consumer is all about enhanced experience, through personalization, immersion and immediacy in the brand’s universe and promise. It still allows for physical spaces, as does UnderArmour’s “omnichanel strategy”, as long as it builds the relationship between the brand and the consumer.
So what is the most impactful route to market for your brand launch? The answer is in the emotional payoff you want for your brand. Do you want your consumers to feel confident, savvy, connected, healthy, spontaneous? Each of these can be supported by a different approach. At Butterfly we focus on the power of emotions. Get in touch to navigate these exciting new waters together and have the highest impact in your category.