Managing Creative Director
deep blue networks
Brands on demand
The enduring power of campfire tales
"Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room." - Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder
Throughout human history, one thing has not changed – that those who tell the best stories are the ones who survive. Even our Stone Age ancestors knew this as they encouraged trade around the campfire. In those days, it was all about flints, blades and hunting magic; today it is mattresses, razor blades and the power of the digital brand.
So, not much has really changed in the hundreds of generations. We humans have always loved convincing stories, and today's direct-to-consumer brand stories should therefore also be told, in a credible way, around a digital campfire.
We seek meaning, identification and belonging in the stories we hear. Unfortunately, many direct-to-consumer brands still make the mistake of only responding to our needs with quality, reliability or subscription services – but not compelling stories.
These brands often have one key problem in common: The identical performance of competitors in their respective categories. This can turn today's hot product into the flint of 50,000 years ago - a stone just like any other.
The reason this happens is that too many companies are satisfied to launch a product that is “good enough”; it does the minimum in order to serve its purpose. But this does not lend itself to the telling of a strong brand story, which can then take a product that is bought or used and turn it into one that is loved.
If digitization has shown us one thing, it’s that speed is everything. Recognizing markets, developing new products and ensuring relevance in a category must all be done at pace.
Then three key steps are crucial for success: a brand must win its way into people’s minds, their hearts – and their front doors. In the age of subscription services, on-demand offers and digital shopping baskets, products find their way to people’s front doors on their own.
The path to the hearts and minds is forged by a brand and a convincing story. It makes the difference between a little-differentiated product and a world that gives us meaning, identification and belonging.
More and more agencies are now offering services that help meet this need for rapid brand development. These “brands on demand” present a new range of services that will quickly, iteratively and in partnership build a brand and a product. They stand for a central brand idea that is consistently reflected in the product, messages and experiences of the consumer.
While platform-driven companies such as Airbnb, Instagram and Pinterest, as first movers, were able to conquer entire markets with one offer, then follow up with the development of a brand and story, the situation today is completely different. This is especially the case for direct-to-consumer brands.
Think of Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Glossier and Casper. These category champions had a strong brand idea and compelling story right from the start.
The success of the American mattress company Casper shows what’s possible when you have more than a good product and a memorable name. Founded in 2014, the company already has more than one million customers and a value of more than $750 million.
Brands such as Emma, Bruno and Eve also offer "mattress in a box" solutions, but lack the brand credibility that Casper has in the mind of the consumer.
Casper’s brand positioning, “Live a life well slept”, gives the brand scope for expansion. Whether it’s through a mattress, bed frame, duvet or bed linen, Casper positions itself as a reliable provider of quality sleep; a key pillar of overall wellness.
The brand conveys this position through countless content formats on all relevant social media channels. Through its own high-quality magazine, "Wolly", Casper has also become a media brand.
The essence of the brand is physically embodied in Casper’s Nap Bar, "The Dreamery", in New York. Visitors can take a Power Nap ($25 dollars for 45 minutes) in a perfect Casper sleeping world. If they also buy a mattress, so much the better.
The Casper brand has become the evangelist for a good night's sleep and all the positive things that go with it. Coupled with a high aesthetic demand on the products and enthusiasm for social media dialogue with the brand’s fans, it has helped develop a mattress market that in 2019 is light years away from the mattress outlets of a decade ago.
John Hegarty, well-known adman and a partner in the British mattress startup Simba, wanted his brand to do what Casper had already done: "Create a brand, not a business, through an offer that people really love."