Over the past few years, there’s been an explosion of new brands trying to disrupt traditional industries through the power of social media and a direct to consumer model. Some have experienced greater success than others. DIFF Eyewear is the perfect example on how to do it right.
For instance, take eyewear. It’s a huge, competitive industry worth $90 billion that is projected to continue growing quickly - it’ll be a $140 billion by 2022. In part, this is because there are several new companies that have arrived over the past decade, making it crucial for companies to nail down a successful marketing strategy to stand above the crowd.
Without a doubt, the most successful company doing that right now is DIFF Eyewear. Launched in 2014 by three co-founders, the company has quickly rocketed to the top of the eyewear industry, generating millions of dollars in revenue and establishing a dynamic new brand that will continue to grow and prosper.
DIFF Eyewear's Go-to-Market Strategy:
Step 1: UGC
The foundation to DIFF's success begins with their emphasis on user-generated content (UGC). More than any other brand right now, they have invested heavily in this channel and used it as the base for all their other marketing strategies.
Because it works! User-generated content feels authentic and relatable to consumers and allows them to easily see themselves embodying the brand. Additionally, an average of 60 million images are posted on Instagram each day, making UGC opportunity one of the most scalable ways for brands to market products, recognize fans, and drive sales.
Some stats to think about when it comes to UGC:
86% of millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand
93% of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchasing decision.
70% of consumers trust online peer reviews and recommendations more than professional content and copy.
Like we mentioned, more than 60 million images are posted everyday on IG. For DIFF to stand out, they need to generate a massive amount of high-quality UGC. To accomplish this, they have built a robust series of programs to quickly and easily work with influencers. Influencers manage to kill two birds with one stone: they generate content for the brand, and they also build brand awareness as they share the content with their thousands of followers.
DIFF has not one, but two different programs they’ve built to run their influencer marketing - now that’s going all in.
The first is their ambassador program. This is a fairly straightforward program where accounts post to their feed about DIFF. In exchange, they receive free products, learn about new launches ahead of the general public, and can gain exposure by being reposted onto DIFF’s Instagram.
This is a great way to quickly and easily generate and gain exposure, all at relatively low cost to the brand. There is little to no barriers to this influencer opportunity.
DIFF also has a more complex affiliate program. The affiliate program is more targeted, in that affiliates have to meet targeted demographic thresholds. And most importantly, the affiliates can receive a commission for any sales generated through their posts!
More specifically, DIFF offers 8% commission on any sales made in the 30 days after an influencer uploads their post to Instagram. This accomplishes the same goals as the ambassador program, but also gives influencers some skin in the game.
The result? Not only do they become a valuable source of content generation and brand awareness, they also become your sales reps. Since they stand to benefit themselves, they will be more aggressive about converting their follower’s likes into actual sales. Similarly, they will continue to post recurrently as long as they’re an affiliate, since each post represents the potential for earnings - both for the influencer and for the DIFF directly.
Step 2: Repurpose UGC for ads
DIFF has laid the foundation for success with their robust influencer marketing and UGC production. They have thousands of accounts that are busy posting about the brand, actively encouraging their engaged audiences to go out and purchase a pair of their own, and all the while, a fresh, compelling stack of original content is being quickly and affordably produced.
That alone is pretty good! But DIFF Eyewear understands that to really strike out, they need to do even more. That's where repurposing content comes into play, and it's hugely important.
One of the main benefits of all the influencer programs is that DIFF Eyewear can then turn around and repurpose that content. This ensures the images continue to be useful assets long after it's been posted on Instagram.
Repurposing content is hugely important since it allows you to continue fueling the brand awareness created when influencers first post. You can retarget influencer audiences from your own end as the brand, or launch entirely new advertisement campaigns.
DIFF did just that, running a Facebook ad campaign that reached over 10 million people across the U.S, Canada and Australia. Over the course of 9 days, the campaign led to over 16,000 purchases and a 2.6x on ad spend.
Crucially, the Facebook campaign started with a large stack of images, and would swap out the creative as they learned what videos and images performed best. Not surprisingly, ads featuring influencers performed better than those that showed only colorful sunglasses.
Like we said, UGC works.
Step 3: High frequency email sequences
UGC is the gift that keeps on giving! Even when DIFF Eyewear is not running Facebook campaigns, they can continue to derive value by using the content into their own, internally-run email campaigns and promotions.
DIFF has embraced frequent email outreach to ensure the brand stays fresh in customers mind. They’ve had great success in growing their subscriber list by offering people promotions where all they need to do to unlock the discount is enter their email address.
The result is an email list of more than 300,000 DIFF customers that want to continue their relationship with the brand!
This is an important detail, since there is little value in having a large amount of subscribers if no one really cares about your brand.
While DIFF continues to offer promotions and discounts on their emails, they have gradually de-emphasized this strategy in favor of highlighting their UGC to show how the eyewear fits every season, every occasion, and every outfit.
Again, the power of rich UGC is quite potent, and they have managed to make email their most profitable channel, with a 202% increase in revenue from marketing emails between 2017 and 2018, not to mention a 24% increase in conversions for product launch emails.
DIFF has also layered in triggered emails that are activated when people first sign up to receive emails, when potential customers abandon their cart, etc. This ensures that DIFF is present throughout a customer’s entire journey with the brand and that no one slips through the cracks.
These triggered emails have helped increase revenue 142%.
Step 4: Unique partnerships
The finishing touches for DIFF’s amazing DTC marketing are one-off, incredibly unique partnerships that could be considered the icing on the cake of their whole approach to marketing.
These unique partnerships are one time activations that center around a specific theme or event and allow DIFF to diversify its reach and content.
For instance, just last month DIFF rolled out their partnership with Sesame Street to commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary.
The Sesame Street branded glasses with be available for both parents and children and they look adorable. And of course, you bet moms around the country will be posting pictures of their children and them in the cute frames - content that can then be repurposed by DIFF, further fueling the amazing marketing cycle they’ve created.
DIFF has also done this with other high profile cultural events, such as the premier of Capital Marvel or partnering with Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness for Pride Month.
All together, DIFF has created a highly sophisticated and successful DTC marketing flow. It may seem intuitive that as a direct to consumer company they go directly to where consumers are - social media, emails, pop culture events like movies - and engage with them there.
However, many DTC brands have not actually invested the effort into building out these channels, and instead continue to rely on traditional outlets like pr agencies, billboards, or television ads.
The results speak for themselves. In only 5 short years DIFF has rocketed to the top of the eyewear industry and experienced tremendous success. They’ve done it by building a strong foundation of using influencers to build brand awareness while also creating UGC that they then layer into ads and emails.
To round things off, they have one-off activations that are fun, unique, and generate even more content and attention. It’s a virtuous cycle that every brand should be trying to do as well.