Last Saturday, I was at a D2C event with over 200+ founders, and I ran a small experiment —
I asked all the founders of these D2C brands a simple question
What makes you different?
Some talked about the products they’re creating, some talked about how they’re adding value to the supply chain, some talked about how they’re building a story of the New India — everyone’s perspectives were amazing, and very few overlaps, which meant that there was plenty white space that they had discovered, and then built their narrative on.
As a founder, the story you tell the world is prime. But there has to be substance beneath the story, and that’s when I began thinking of factors that make a brand come to life.
If I was a startup founder, what would I do to truly differentiate my D2C brand, here are some candid thoughts:
Suggestion #1: Have a unique brand name that’s memorable
When you’re fighting in a market space with even 2 more competitors — how memorable your brand name is, does matter. This, obviously, cannot take you to the 100-mile mark alone — but having a sticky brand name is quintessential.
Think of Mamaearth, Think of Sleepy Owl — they instantly leave you with a feeling, and that feeling will make you think of them, and there’s something unforgettable about them. Smart move, I think so!
Having a sticky name, is a very challenging task, but it’s one activity worth investing in. Going generic won’t help you stand out in a crowded market space.
Also, this is the biggest investment in your brand, for you cannot change this on a whim and fancy.
Suggestion #2: Find your strong point and don’t lose focus of that
Brands that succeed in the market, are great at doing just one thing. They’re great at convincing consumers they’re the best at one thing.
They gain the consumer’s trust by doing X thing — that matters to the consumer — the best
While the market will pull you in a 100 directions, can you be the best at doing just this one thing? — something to ponder about….
Consumers of today will pay the price for ‘having the best item’ in their hands. Going deeper into one category/trust enabler helps you dive deeper into your audience’s memory — think about it this way
If there’s one D2C brand that creates the best pencil there is, and they’ve repeatedly just done just that — every time you want to buy a pencil, won’t you think of them?
Price does become irrelevant after a point, for consumers who want to achieve and have the best. If you’ve positioned your brand correctly, and are talking to your TG with empathy — you’re going to win this.
I can think of Lenskart here — no matter what eyewear you think of. Their strength was fixing the supply chain and distribution for affordable eyewear for everyone.
From eyeglasses to sunglasses to lenses —they got consumers to trust them because of their range and reliability, complemented with supremely good customer service. Additionally, since they were D2C first, their at-home testing was an add-on that I’m sure brought them closer to the customer during the initial days.
Another example here is SUGAR Cosmetics- they’ve built trust on the fact that this is an affordable Indian makeup brand for every skin tone. Within that, what they’ve done well, is that they’ve built communication around the pillar that makeup is for everyone. They made makeup inclusive for Indian women.
Thousands of women now can buy SUGAR products online, for their skin tone, without worrying that the color won’t suit them.
What other products come into your mind when thinking along these lines?
Suggestion #3: Give something back to the world
Everyone is building a business here, but while we’re at it, racking up numbers on our balance sheet — what are we doing to make the world a better place?
Today’s consumers want to tie themselves to responsible brands. Brands that are adding value to the people who’re making the brand what it is.
This is a hard ask, because it requires the founder/founding team to be selfless, and think really hard about how the company values tie back into value addition for the world.
It has to mean just as much to you, as it will mean to the consumer.
It’s hard, not impossible.
Here are some inspirations:
1% of our revenue is directed towards the education of our farmers’ children in India. — Vahdam Teas
We plant 2 trees for every SVENKLAS product you purchase in collaboration with India’s most trusted platform GiveIndia. — SVENKLAS
Every time you order from Mamaearth, we plant a tree in your name, in association with SankalpTaru Foundation — Mamaearth
Suggestion #4: Build your brand story on an unrealized need
When I heard of BlissClub, Detoxie, and Bare Anatomy, my instant reaction was — simple product + a consumer pain point that I didn’t realize + a convincing and compelling story which made it a winning combo!
BlissClub has clothing for women of all shapes with fabric they’ve custom created
Detoxie helps the urban population de-stress with products for the face, hair, and body
Bare Anatomy personalizes the hair care routine with products that have ethically sourced botanical extracts
Yes, we have these problems
Did we realize we had these problems — maybe not
Would we like a solution to these newly discovered problems — absolutely
The funny part is that there’s a lot of reverse psychology playing in here — because by pointing out a problem, you’ve now been also tasked with finding the solution…. which is… your brand!
Therefore, it is the audience, and the story that is prime focus — the product is just the bridge.
Suggestion #5: Create a community vibe
Very few brands focus on creating a community because let’s be real, it’s hard work. Community ≠ UGC, community also ≠ hosting events.
Comunity is always two-way, with the focus on the ‘what’ always. What makes your community unique, why should someone invest their time with your community?
Community is a feeling. A feeling where you believe the brand is making a positive impact in your life, and their actions prove so.
Building a community is a commitment of at least 3–5 years, to do it properly because trust-building is never an overnight activity. Community-led growth is not something of the past, this is proving time and again to be a sustainable way to grow along with your customers.
D2C brands specifically need to allow communities to be a place where customers have a voice. To make the brand and community better, when communicating internally, and when communicating externally, talk about what draws them to your brand.
Two brands I can think of here are
Slurrp Farm, brings together moms who want to feed their kids healthy food
and, India Hemp Organics, that’s bringing together users to share their problems and stories.
Brands that can leverage this, will win in the long run. It’s all about assimilating voices.
The final word
Be unique in one way. Do things differently. Find YOU.
Your messaging, actions, presence, and everything in between will be the deciding factor for individuals to buy your brand… or not!
It’s not enough to “be different” — actions speak louder than words.
Let’s geek out!
Vanshika Mehta is a brand strategist for D2C and Tech companies globally. She works with purpose-led brands that are causing a meaningful difference in the world.
Vanshika can be reached on her Linkedin, and her work can be seen here.