How Top DTC Brands Use Content to Build Audiences

Recently we have been pondering on what makes a brand so strong that it can dominate a category and create a loyal fanbase. Even though we have seen many great products out there, we’ve noticed that every single one of the brands that stand out and is successful in their space understand the concept and heavily invest in content.

In this article, we will break down how some of the hottest direct-to-consumer brands leverage content to generate a cult-like following.

  1. Talentless
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Outdoor Voices
  4. Dirty Lemon IGTV
  5. Lux Unfiltered (Influencer Created Brand)

A brand is a voice. People like you for what you do, not because of what you say about yourself (except for Kanye lol)


Well, let us tell you… We relate to and become fans of people when we can relate to their actions and to what they preach. Think of the feeling you get when you listen to a song and feel like it was written just for you – everything in the lyrics hits home and you feel like it was written just for you. This is the moment when you become an artist’s fan.

The same exact thing happens when your brand’s message is consistent and specifically targeted towards your particular target audience. A brand’s message has to relate to its target audience and hit them with emotion.

The best DTC brands do this exceptionally well when marketing. They cover all the bases and forms of visual content that can create that loyalty brand effect. (To get an idea of what a loyal audience looks like, check out “1000 True Fans” by Kevin Kelly)

Your content aesthetic will be your brand’s voice.

All of these DTC brands produce and heavily invest in the following kind of content:

  1. In-house produced content
  2. Product only shots
  3. Super high quality produced content (long-form video)
  4. UGC (images and videos)

How Talentless uses in-house content to promote their brand

In-house content is when a brand organizes a photoshoot and hires models, photographers, and shoots at a specific venue.

Here is an example of what this content looks like:

View this post on Instagram

SUNSET COLLECTION- desert taupe + evening blue.

A post shared by TALENTLESS ® (@talentless) on Nov 29, 2019 at 8:35am PST

To me, this brand is nailing the voice of its target audience. You may be wondering who would name a brand Talentless. Well… someone who’s literally been called multiple times.

Scott Disick has been mocked for only being Kourtney Kardashian’s ex-husband and for just being part of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”. Rather than fighting an uphill battle against this perception, he understands the concept of energy and pulled in rather than push against. Here is the definition of his brand:

Talentless is an homage to the new wave of creators, innovators, and influencers who’ve made a name for themselves by going against the conventions of what it means to be “Talented.”

As you can see, almost all of the content on their Instagram is in-house content. Talentless chooses to spend this much money in content because they recognize it is imperative for a brand to keep control of their messaging and this is one of the best ways to do that.

However, this process can be extremely time consuming and capital intensive. Shooting content in this way can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a month. A lot depends on the following factors:

  • Quality and experience of models
  • How many models are involved
  • Equipment required
  • Costs of transportation to site or venue rental (travel, food, hotel, etc)

The most important part about social is that you want to post as often as possible to stay relevant and top of mind for your followers. Volume wins in this game. It serves no good if you are producing amazing content but only posting about once a week, it’s just not enough volume to stay relevant or stand out.

I would estimate Talentless is spending about $20-$45k a month on his content, and this is just Instagram alone.

One of the things that stands out from their account is how much content they use for their Instagram shopping products.

They’re adding about 20 pieces of content per SKU and product color variation including video! Instagram shopping is huge for driving sales for direct-to-consumer brands.

talentless instagram ad

How Canada Goose is using high-quality content to create audience experiences

Canada Goose is an example of a company that is spending millions of dollars a year on all forms of content, especially long-form produced content, and I estimate they are easily spending over $100,000 a month on content such as this one:

View this post on Instagram

The bonds of family are more than a name– for they hold our warmth, and fit no one the same. This holiday season, we’re celebrating the unique ties that bind– and the ways we all wear them differently #GenerationsofWarmth

A post shared by Canada Goose (@canadagoose) on Dec 3, 2019 at 9:25am PST

Brag alert: Not that it’s Canada Goose but one of our creators actually created an amazing piece of content for one of our customers that looked somewhat similar to this (make sure to click to the next image on the Instagram post below):

View this post on Instagram

What was your biggest fear growing up? Mine was actually heights! Can you believe it? I just finished one of my favorite drone videos to date! I’m super excited to post it on YouTube and on IGTV to show how insanely amazing this landscape is. I was sitting on that ledge for a few hours just enjoying the view, sitting on my @bigblanketco blanket honestly made it feel like I was a bird camping up on a cliff in my lush nest 😂 So much fun!! Swipe right for a video showing how high I really am. And leave a comment saying what your biggest fear is and if you wanna overcome it 💪🏼🙏🏼😊 #ad . . . . . . #mybigblanket #bigblanket #smallblanketssuck #bigblanketco #roamtheplanet #landscapecaptures #beautifuldestinations #artofvisuals #ourplanetdaily #wildnature #natgeoadventure

A post shared by M I C K (@mickstjohn_) on Aug 27, 2019 at 1:54pm PDT

Spoiler alert: We don’t support Canada Goose here at Trend. They kill animals and that’s not cool.

Notice how up to date their Instagram Shopping is:

Canada goose shopping ads

Back to knowing your audience and building your brand: Canada Goose clearly knows their audience and made some UNREAL super high-quality content for their IGTV. Highly encourage you to check it out:

View this post on Instagram

The Nomad Capsule Collection is for everyone who lives in the tension between city and nature, the everyday and the extraordinary.

A post shared by Canada Goose (@canadagoose) on Apr 8, 2019 at 8:24am PDT

How DirtyLemon created a content studio to build an audience

To add on to this, we’ve been a fan of DirtyLemon’s bold strategies (such as taking orders by text only) since day one. However, they recently suffered a rough patch where their CAC (customer acquisition costs) for Facebook and Instagram ads rose to over $50.

If you understand anything about basic business economics it doesn’t take too much math to realize that an increasing CAC is just not sustainable. So what did they do? They quit running Facebook and Instagram ads altogether.

Now take note of this – People constantly ask me what’s the ROI of influencer marketing. The ROI of influencer marketing for direct-to-consumer brands is not having your business solely depend on one revenue channel.

After Dirty Lemon made their decision to cut ads they decided to go all-in on building their own content studio. Why did they decide to build their own content studio? Because they want to build an audience. Building an audience is how DTC brands build a loyal fanbase and a sense of community.

You could look at brand building like SEO. You don’t want to do just a month or two of it and tap out. You might as well flush your money. You want to know what you’re going for, commit to it all the way through and I guarantee that what you will achieve on the other side is a non-3rd party, money printing, independent DTC company.

I noticed Dirty Lemon uses content marketing on their Instagram TV to create mini-series that literally have nothing to do with their products. However, they know their audience and know what kind of conversation topics they are into so they just have firechat conversations around that and they seem to be getting some great traction.

Content studios cost somewhere around $5k a day to get some product shots and ain’t nobody got dough for that.


So what’s the alternative?

User-generated content (UGC)!

How Outdoor Voices uses UGC to drive sales

Outdoor Voices leverages the crap out of UGC all across the board and they know how to do this well. We’ve been following Outdoor Voices for a while and since day one they’ve been leveraging UGC even so that they’ve used UGC that doesn’t necessarily have their product in it.

They also used a ton of micro-influencers to generate high-quality content that RELATES to their audience and buyer.

View this post on Instagram

The perfect pant for every season⚡️@simansays in our flattering, functional RecTrek Zip-Off Pants.

A post shared by Outdoor Voices (@outdoorvoices) on Nov 25, 2019 at 6:35am PST

Remember when I mentioned earlier that influencer marketing requires patience and is like SEO? This is because as people continue to talk about your product it introduces the concept of “earned media”. The compounding effect of people wanting to become part of a community or tribe.

If you see Outdoor Voices tagged posts, half or less are influencers engaged by them and the rest are organic.

This is by far the most effective way to generate high-quality content at scale without breaking the bank with a content studio. However, as with everything there are big challenges with generating UGC at scale such as:

  • Product and shipment tracking
  • Negotiations for rights to content distribution
  • Transfer of assets (brutally painful with video)
  • Communication at scale

Trend is your partner for all of these things mentioned above 🙂

Has influencer marketing and UGC worked for Outdoor Voices? One thing I do know is that Facebook chose Outdoor Voices as one of their partners for Shoppable Instagram and is still their partner. In this beta you can actually check out right from within Instagram. Needless to say, I’m sure this wasn’t some random contest they won to be selected as a preferred partner for these tests.

Outdoor voices Instagram shopping

How an influencer created their own in-house content to create two brands

This brings us to our last type of content: Inexpensive in-house product content. For this type of content, I want to use an influencer named Sivan Ayla Richards as example

Sivan has created two amazing brands for her base of followers:

Before I jump into Sivan’s brands and type of content, I have to reiterate: brands invest in content to build an audience and as we’ve seen they spend north of $200,000 in just one year. Most direct-to-consumer companies are raising about $250k to start their brand.

If you are an influencer with over 50k followers you should be well ahead of people that are raising over $200k just to build an audience. Take your account seriously, know who your followers are and ONLY promote or sell products that align with your audience. If do this, you will be well on your way to making your own product one day. If you’d like help or tips on this email we’d love to help you out.

You can tell Sivan has an impeccable eye for a very specific, almost vintage beach aesthetic and you can also tell she doubles down on this and only generates this type of content to attract just that audience.

It’s like the aesthetic and theme is the voice of her brand. You can see this voice is consistent in both of her brands. The 1,000 true fans I mentioned earlier that will be the ones that will ultimately buy her products.

Sivan is an expert at shooting product content in-house such as these:

View this post on Instagram

Pretty on the inside + outside 🤎 will be back soon, promise! #luxunfiltered #selftan #sunlesstan

A post shared by + LUX UNFILTERED (@luxunfiltered) on Dec 9, 2019 at 9:20am PST

View this post on Instagram

In very good company ✨ happy Sunday! #luxunfiltered #selftan #sunlesstan

A post shared by + LUX UNFILTERED (@luxunfiltered) on Nov 24, 2019 at 9:07am PST

View this post on Instagram

Q: Do I need to exfoliate between every application? A: No. I like to exfoliate once per week to slosh off dead skin for an even application. You do not need to exfoliate before every application 🧽✨ #luxunfiltered #selftan #sunlesstan

A post shared by + LUX UNFILTERED (@luxunfiltered) on Nov 14, 2019 at 10:52am PST

This content, while it looks easy to shoot, actually takes a great deal of effort and detail to create. If anything, the fact that it looks easy to shoot is a testament to the skill that goes into creating it.

She just has great content all across the board.

Now that you know all the variations of content you need, it’s time to put a game plan in place that won’t break the bank. Once again, this is just Instagram content in this article. We even encourage our customers to at least 10X the amount of content they use for their newsletter to increase those conversion rates. There is no such thing as too much content.

What is the main takeaway here? Leverage micro-influencers as your content generation studio.

Trend has an invite-only network of content creators and this is what we focus on doing best. Whether its videos, stories, IG posts and content that converts we’ve got you covered. Oh, and by the way, influencers sell to their audience for you. Is your content studio selling products to your neighbor? We didn’t think so 🙂