Another year, another acronym. As a marketer, why should I care? And what on earth is a DNVB?
Let’s take the second question first. Andy Dunn is an American entrepreneur. He’s the one you need to thank, both for those well-cut suits created by his menswear brand Bonobo and the abbreviation of DNVB. His definition?
“Digitally native vertical brands are maniacally focused on the customer experience and how they interact, transact, and story-tell to consumers primarily on the web.”
In other words, there are web-only brands delivering seamless customer experiences, and do so despite operating within narrow sales verticals. But how do they do it?
They take control: They are 100% in charge of production, marketing and distribution. They also continually mine their sales and search data, leverage social feeds and influencers, alongside CRM data for insights. All of this data focuses on delivering unique content and products to their audience.
So, if that’s the concept, what’s the reality?
Go to Instagram. Or even better, ask to look at a feed for a millennial (asking their permission of course). On that feed, you will find yourself scrolling past dozens of sponsored ads for brands that you have probably never heard of. Many of them are beautifully shot, nicely branded, and promise to revolutionise your life:
“Delivering dreams to your door.” Casper
“World’s Most Comfortable Shoes.” Allbirds
“A people-powered beauty ecosystem.” Glossier
These are ambitious brand promises, especially as they’re trying to fulfill these promises whilst having no bricks-and-mortar stores. All traffic is digital. All interaction is online. But being digital has one huge advantage for these brands: They can scale quickly without the cost of physical expansion. This means more resource being put into customisation as well as lower costs. All of this helps the DNVB to be a new breed of e-commerce animal.
Now to answer my first question — why should I care as a mainstream marketer?
You know how coal miners used to take canaries down into the mines with them? Doing so allowed the miners to test for poisonous gases and the small lung capacity of canaries meant they acted as an early warning system. The moment the bird fell silent, the miners would know it was time to leave.
This is why we are talking about DNVBs. The bird has stopped tweeting.
In the past, marketers and agencies have focused on direct competitors to understand how we should adapt our approach. Not only do we need to look in different places, we need to adapt our behaviour to stay ahead of the curve. Otherwise we risk being overtaken before we even know there is a race. Your very survival as a marketer depends on it.
DNVBs are the miners who have already adapted to the change in their ecosystem. They have recognised the change and the opportunities, finding a profit-generating niche. In fact, what we are seeing is DNVBs growing at a rate of 44% vs 16%, significantly higher than the U.S. e-commerce market.