Many brands that started as pure direct-to-consumer, online offerings are now evolving into other channels of distribution. For sneaker brand Greats, this includes through department store Nordstrom and in its own brick-and-mortar stores. For Mizzen & Main, the menswear company focused on performance fabrics, this includes Amazon and its own stores as well as Nordstrom. No d-to-c retailer has a one-size-fits all approach.
When Ryan Babenzien founded Greats, a high-end sneaker brand, in Brooklyn six years ago, he went all digital. Babenzien used Instagram to market the shoes, and Greats own website to sell them directly to consumers in a native e-commerce model popular with startups eager to eliminate the middleman from the supply chain and offer lower prices. Yet as the brand has found its footing, that's changed, Babenzien says.
"Modern brands today are digitally native—meaning they're mostly digital but they have a footprint in both retail and maybe even in some wholesale," he says.
Now, Greats sells online and in brick-and-mortar. The company opened its own store in New York last year. While Greats still advertises on Instagram, a key discovery platform to attract Greats' target millennial consumer, the brand also advertises in a variety of other channels, including out-of-home and podcasts.
Similarly, in its seven-year existence, Mizzen & Main has grown quite a bit—but the menswear brand is still relying on its in-house marketing team rather than employing external agencies. The strategy is common to new direct-to-consumer startups for its financial benefits but also because it gives the retailer more control.
"When it comes to the creativity, telling that story and executing it, no one is going to do it better than us," says Kevin Lavelle, founder and CEO of Dallas-based Mizzen & Main.
Mizzen & Main, which applies performance-based fabrics to dress shirts to prevent them from becoming sweaty or wrinkled, is expanding its marketing strategy into new mediums. The company debuted its first two TV spots last year—one starred golfer Phil Mickelson.
"There are always opportunities to explore and do things a little bit differently," says Lavelle.
"Young brands like us and scrappy startups have a chance to attack things in a different way."