When you’re building a direct-to-consumer brand there are various thoughts that go through your mind. From the platform on which you sell to how to differentiate your product from the traditional players. it’s a series of choices that a founder has to make.
We recently hosted a roundtable with a bunch of D2C founders, and this conversation was led by Shalabh Gupta, Founder, and CEO of Akiva Superfoods, where he walks us through these nuances on how to market your D2C brand.
Here are some key takeaways from the chat:
0:28 – Introductions
A quick chat between founders introducing themselves and describing the product they are building
5:07 – Identifying the gap
The inception of the idea for cold-pressed juices and how Shalabh identified the gap in the market.
10:48 – Initial market validation
15:11 – How do you position yourself with respect to the competition
The two raw materials for building a brand from scratch are congruence and differentiation. Align your packaging, product value, and distribution with the brand values, and make sure it’s different from existing players. Being different is better than being better
19:56 – Two ways of launching a D2C brand
25:35 – Decouple brand building from category building
Indian D2C markets differ from western counterparts, especially in terms of the market depth in any particular category of products. Countering popular opinion, Shalabh counsels that it’s better to start if with a relatively large range of products, with one HERO product leading the way into the consumer’s mind. The lead product penetrates the image of the brand and gives you permission to entire adjacent categories. Often, in trying to go too niche, brands lobotomize their own expansion within the walls of the categories they themselves create. It’s best not to mix category building with brand building.
29:29 – Think business for profit first
32:00 – Getting initial distribution
2021 is the ear of online-first distribution. If your product category permits, it’s far more beneficial and hassle-free to go 100% online, rather than offline distribution. Offline retail is very operationally heavy.
40:15 – Choosing online channels of distribution
42:23 – Brands are built by maximizing the number of customers
46:28 – Think like an owner, not as a fund-raiser – Profit vs Growth?
Most business decisions can be made very simple and clear when you think like a business owner, rather than a facilitator for VCs or valuations. Whether deciding between which platforms to choose for selling your products, to when to expand your range of products, the thumb rule is to do what’s in the best interest of the business, aka revenue and profit.
51:00 – Should you start with building a community?
Two things to keep in mind while building a community of the digital landscape:
a) The return on investment for building a community is dependent on how much of a role ‘consumer trust’ plays while the purchasing decision. High trust niches, like health or mother-child products, benefit a lot of community-building.
b) Communities can only be built effectively when there is an alignment of purpose in a way where different members benefit from mutual relationships. If all you’re trying to do is build a database of customers, building a good community might not be feasible.
To sum up, in the list of building a brand online, it’s important to remember that it’s the job of the brand to serve the business, not the business to serve the brand. Define the goal of your business as what’s best for the business, and things will be remarkably simple.