For Sierra Tishgart, co-founder of New York-based modern kitchenware company Great Jones, a “cardinal rule” of a DTC business in 2020 is that a brand’s value proposition can’t just be about pricing.
“The value prop of a brand should—and can—be more creative in terms of what you’re offering. That is because there is more competition within the newer contenders in the space,” she told Ian Wishingrad, who hosts Adweek’s I’m With the Brand web series, during Adweek’s live virtual speaker series Adweek Elevate: Commerce, with sponsors Attentive, Sailthru and SheerID.
Tishgart is not alone in adhering to that manifesto. Other players in the DTC food and beverage space are finding that the risky move of building a brand around product differentiation and authenticity has paid off for them during the pandemic, which has made them feel more secure about their brands’ longevity.
Claire Olshan, founder and CEO of the aesthetic snack experience brand DADA Daily, has been going against the DTC grain. Instead of scaling up for a big break in wholesale or brick-and-mortar retail, Olshan has been pushing it off.
“We work really hard for this brand and to speak to our customer. When you open up a wholesale account, it dilutes it a bit,” she said. “You don’t have the direct line and you don’t really have control, even if you have a great relationship with a wholesaler.”
For Olshan, expanding DADA into the wholesale arena would “dilute” the direct line she has with the community her brand has built, a core factor of why she believes DADA has thrived amid Covid-19.
“Being extremely authentic and understanding what the customers’ needs are and talking to them, not just as a customer but as a peer, is important right now,” Olshan continued.
DADA Daily, which is more than just pretty snack foods, was founded to bring magic to the moment when you decide to ingest something. By providing artistic accouterments and hors d’oeuvres in a bundle or a box, it renders the mindless action of eating into a more mindful experience without having to think too hard to attain whimsy.
“You work really hard for moments like this when you don’t really need to start building from scratch the communication with your customer,” Olshan added.
Per Olshan, when someone creates a brand, they do it because they haven’t seen what they hope to offer in the market before. Working tirelessly to regurgitate something that is already out there won’t help customers if you do not give them something different or something authentic.
“I personally wanted to have that magic hostess box at my fingertips,” Olshan said.
During the pandemic, Olshan and her team have been coming up with ideas roughly every two weeks to keep momentum within the DADA community strong, which, in turn, strengthens sales.
With people cooking more than ever now, Great Jones’ business is surging. Tishgart said the brand’s biggest struggle is keeping inventory in stock to keep up with exigency from the brand’s loyalists.
But it’s not just luck, Tishgart noted.
“I feel like the foundation we have put for a year and a half in business is beyond selling products; [instead, it’s] really making people more confident in the kitchen and helping teach them how to cook. We’ve been able to ramp up and meet people where they are,” Tishgart said.
Beautiful aesthetics and good branding are distinctive for Great Jones, but so are services like “Potline,” a hotline the company launched last June that is meant to answer cooking questions in real time. Once the outbreak forced people to cook at home out of necessity, Tishgart’s team increased its hours dedicated to Potline and also debuted daily cooking tutorials on social media and an upcoming cookbook club.
Instead of saying “CBD reduces anxiety,” like most mainstream cannabis brands often do, 18-month-old sparkling CBD beverage brand Recess doesn’t even talk about CBD at all. According to Benjamin Witte, founder and CEO, the brand instead focuses on how the drink is an “antidote to modern times.”
“We help you feel calm, cool and collected, not tired, not wired. So you can be your most productive and creative self,” Witte said.
Witte has observed that people are seeking out Recess more frequently because they want something that takes the edge off that isn’t alcohol.
“The secret to our success has been defining the value proposition and the feeling that consumers are going to feel or should want to feel when they take a Recess,” Witte continued.
Recess is aligning itself with communities to create an association with its value proposition of creativity and productivity, such as internet culture makers, fashion designers, artists and musicians as the communities that they are speaking to with its content. Witte understands that, as the brand expands over time, it will have to diversify who it targets with its messaging. But he also believes that if you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.
For the past 18 months, Recess has posted once a day on Instagram to measure reactions from its audience and gauge how its customers are feeling, which has been especially critical during the pandemic. Witte will continue monitoring Instagram to see how people incorporate the brand into their lives as the situation evolves.
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