TV may be Old School but it Works for DTC Brands Transitioning into Retail

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TV may be Old School but it Works for DTC Brands Transitioning into Retail

A few years ago, marketers were all you heard about linear TV’s demise. How TV was too old-fashioned and no one watches it. It was certainly not enough in the most desirable Gen Z and millennial populations, who were all about it. ‘cutting the cord.’This may be true for younger generations, but it is not true for all. ‘cord stackers’ — homes that have both cable/satellite TV sitting alongside their Roku or Apple TV devices connecting them to the many CTV options out there today.

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For DTC brands, linear TV is often not a media buy consideration, but it should be because at some point in your brand’s development you will reach the point where there is literally nowhere left to go for growth. If your DTC brand is like Kettle & Fire, you’re probably good at marketing, and with a product that solves problems for consumers, your brand will grow strong for the first five years. You’re building a large, loyal fan base as well as your subscription program, and you’re aggressively marketing online and social media. Everything is going according the plan.

Online marketing will eventually hit a wall and growth will slow down. Kettle & Fire realized that they might have reached a wall. They had introduced their brand to many people online, and they were willing to purchase bone broth and sign up to a subscription. That’s when, as marketers, you need to ask: what are the other audience circles that are buying our category at retail, but who have no idea who we are? How can you reach them?

The answer may be in ‘old fashion’With the caveat of purchasing linear television strategically and flexibly, A TV bought without a plan is a big waste of money. Why? Because you’re looking just for eyeballs. The Super Bowl has the biggest linear TV audience available, but they’re engaged with the game, and it’s extremely unlikely they’re going to pause the game to go to a website or an app and make a purchase.

You can use linear TV to help you grow your DTC brand. First, be clear about your goals and then find stations that achieve them. It can be hard to do this.

Marketing Goals Will Rule Your Media

It is important to understand your media goals before you dive into the current linear TV environment. There are a lot of options available, and what you’re trying to achieve will drive your strategy and the specific channel mix that will be most efficient to get you there.

Do you want to sell units or drive traffic to your website? Maybe your goal is to spread a message about branding. Each of these require different media strategies or plans, and each one should be approached in a different way. You can’t do all of that at the same time.

But, what retail stores you’re currently shopping in is the most important factor for success with linear TV. If you’re in Kroger, Target or Walmart, that’s fantastic. National cable offers a great eyeball/rate equation and you can stretch your budget to move people into retail to get the desired foot traffic.

However, if you’re only in, for example, specialty stores, like Sephora or Ulta for the beauty sector, you may want to consider waiting to launch your linear TV effort till you’re in a few more big box retailers. Target and Walmart buyers will often ask you straight if you are on TV when they meet with DTC companies seeking to enter retail. If you’re not, they will tell you to come back to them when you are. CPGs and big box retailers don’t agree on everything, but they do about the power of TV to reach a mass audience and get them into stores.

It is difficult to know which stations are best for direct response. Surprisingly, they’re often not Nielsen-rated, but are extremely efficient in their eyeball birthrate and conversion, and flexible in their pricing. In the case of Kettle & Fire, one might assume a channel like the Food Network would be ideal for them, but the reality is it’s too expensive, with too much competition.

What should DTC brands consider when using traditional linear TV to drive sales? Here are some tips:

  • Know what your goals are:Are you trying to drive consumers to a website or to retail? Different channels are better than direct response for driving retail sales.
  • For linear to be effective, there is a minimum amount you should spend. and if you’re not willing to make the investment, it may not be worth it. Foot traffic can only be moved if you spend enough.
  • Your media agency can help you evaluate your creative campaign:A good media agency will be able to give insight into what works well, e.g. Two :15s or one:30 with a specific channel or where the best place to store retail logos.
  • Your first-party data can be used to inform your initial strategies.Effectively delivering ads to your customers is possible when you know their demographics. CTV can be added to linear TV to make it even more laser-focused.
  • Customers will generally buy what you tell them to. If you tell them to go to Target or buy online, then that’s what they’ll do. However, if you include a retail logo to an ad, it can reduce your online sales.

The bottom line in media is that everything old can be made new again. Linear TV is no exception. It’s become a popular place for DTC brands to be once again, but so has outdoor, and even email marketing. We’re in a moment when marketers are looking past the hot, new and cool and reverting to the tried and true places where the CPMs are high. We’re in an efficient world right now. Performance is essential and cash is king. Many DTC brands are forced to rethink linear TV.


Stacy Durand, CEO and Cofounder of Media Design GroupSmart Media Technologies’s Owner, Partner, and Board Member. She is a nationally renowned advertising expert and has played a major role in shaping the future state for media buying, performance-video advertising, growth marketing, and other areas. In her current role, she is the Director of Brand Marketing at FightCamp and Grammarly. She plans and places video advertising for some the most successful companies in the country, such as ZipRecruiter, Amazon, Tractor Supply Company, Tractor Supply Company, and Tractor Supply Company. Victoria Belinsky is Director of Brand Marketing at Kettle & Fire. Previously holding positions at Budweiser US and KIND, Belinsky is a brand marketing professional with a focus on food CPG brands, health and wellness and lifestyle. She has a wealth of experience in digital and social marketing, strategic planning, execution of integrated marketing campaigns, and influencer marketing.

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