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How DTC Brands are Rethinking the RTB Formula

When it comes to marketing, DTC brands are taking a new approach to showing product benefits beyond the commonly used RTB formula. They’re selling emotion.

Revolution Digital  |  December 8, 2020
How DTC Brands are Rethinking the RTB Formula

In what feels like a past life, when a product was about to launch, the most important thing to receive (as an ad agency) were the product’s RTBs (Reasons to Believe). These claims were crucial to messaging and included legally approved lingo about how actual product ingredients provided specific consumer benefits. For example, shea butter = smoother skin and Vitamin C = immune support. But today, Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) brands are putting non-DTC brands on notice by flipping the script. Instead of talking about the ingredient-to-benefit formula, they are focusing on a new formula of their own invention: the ingredient = emotion formula. It’s not Vitamin B – it’s a pep in your step. It’s not rose hip oil – it’s hair so good you don’t want to chop it off.

And if you’re thinking, “well, that sounds a little lofty,” you’re right. It does. But that is precisely the point. However, it’s not based in reckless creativity – it’s rooted in real-time consumer insights. Behind that message of someone not wanting to chop their hair off because of said product, is a person who literally feels like they want to chop their hair off. And behind that ad about a product giving someone a pep in their step is someone who just told their friend they feel like they’ve lost the pep in their step. Human emotions play a vital role in decision making, and marketers are realizing that the ingredient = emotion formula really works. In fact, fMRI’s show that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features), to make their decisions. Even more, research reveals that the consumer’s emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on their reported intent to buy than does the ad’s content. Why? Because it’s far easier to relate to that feeling of wanting to chop your hair off than connecting rose hip oil to better hair days. Both products may provide the same benefit of softness, but it’s about tapping into the feelings behind why the consumer wants that softness that really matters.

It does beg the question though: do consumers believe it? And the answer is yes, that is, if you equate consumer belief on a scale of sales. According to research, brands that engage customers in meaningful ways that illicit emotions have the potential to increase basket size and purchase frequency, and gain significant profit.

In the end, it’s all about pushing boundaries, taking the risk of rethinking the traditional and taking action. And while DTC brands have the luxury of less red tape, marketers should still keep their pulse on these pioneers and take notes.

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