Legacy Brands vs. Digitally Native Brands: What They Can Learn from Each Other


It’s hard for some of us to imagine a world without smartphones, the internet, and social media. Millennials and Generation Zers have always interacted with friends, family, followers, and even their favorite brands online.

Just like these two generations, there are also brands that are digitally native—meaning their business has only existed in the digital world, and their sales are almost entirely made online. Examples include Zappos, Casper, Bombas, and Warby Parker. On the flip side, you have legacy brick-and-mortar brands like Coke, Pepsi, Microsoft, and Nike that have existed for decades and have had to delve into the digital world to remain relevant.

With so many digitally native, direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands flooding the market, it can be challenging for legacy brands to keep up. However, this doesn’t mean that D2C brands have nothing to learn from legacy brands. Let’s explore how both business types can learn from each other.

Lessons from Legacy Brands

While legacy brands have watched as digitally native brands have flooded the market, many have risen to the occasion and succeeded both online and in physical locations. Here are some tips that D2C brands can use to improve their business:

  • Research, research, research. While it might be cost-prohibitive for some digitally native companies to conduct comprehensive market research, legacy brands have found success with it for years. Because D2C businesses are often treading into uncharted territory in the market, they can benefit from knowing how their target audience will respond to their product or service before a full launch.
  • Consider brick-and-mortar ventures. There’s a lot to be said for seeing, touching, and trying a product before purchasing it. This is, of course, where digitally native companies fall short. However, there are ways to provide this valuable customer experience without opening a full-blown store: Partner with a brick-and-mortar retailer to sell some of your products. This will help D2C companies expand their market reach and grow their business.
  • Engage in multi-channel marketing. While digital marketing is a powerful way to reach your audience, launching integrated campaigns has proven to be successful throughout the years. D2C brands may want to consider things like TV ads and, yes, even direct mail. These efforts can help diversify their customer base and connect with new demographics.

Lessons from Digitally Native Brands

Social media is the bread and butter of D2C brands. They know how to foster a sense of community and build trust with their consumers. Here are some key takeaways from digitally native brands that can help legacy brands expand their reach:

  • Know your audience digitally. While D2C brands don’t always conduct market research, they do make sure to know where their audiences are online—allowing them to target strategically. For example, if your target audiences typically don’t use Instagram, then don’t waste your time building a presence there (until you’re ready to go after a different demographic).
  • Be nimble. When playing in the digital space, it’s important to react quickly to market demands and changes. Digitally native brands often have an entrepreneurial spirit, which means they’re willing to adapt to new technologies, trends, and consumer preferences.
  • Focus on data and CX. D2Cs collect and analyze as much data as they can and then adjust their strategies accordingly. Data can indicate where customers’ pain points might be (do they add an item to their cart and never check out because the process takes too long?), allowing them to improve their customer experience.
  • Grow organically. Digitally native brands are masters at building brand recognition and expanding their social media followers. They leverage influencers and word-of-mouth marketing to reach their target audience and strengthen their brand presence.
  • Be authentic. D2C brands know exactly who they are and leverage their uniqueness to tell their story. They’re not just selling a product or service; they’re selling beliefs, ideals, and a lifestyle—and they don’t force or fake it.

One last takeaway from both types of brands is to have fun. Leveraging humor can be a powerful tool in any brand’s marketing arsenal. Take Wendy’s: Their fierce, witty tweets have taken Twitter by storm—making them relevant and giving them untold exposure to new audiences. But be warned: It’s hard to be funny all the time, so use humor strategically and carefully.

If you incorporate the lessons from both legacy and digitally native brands into your marketing, you’ll be in a good spot to see your brand awareness improve and your business grow. And if you need some extra help along the way, get in touch with us—we’d be glad to help.

See Also:

Keep it Simple: The Beauty of Brand Simplicity

Improve Your Brand’s Health: How to Build Better Brand Immunity

Logo Design Theory: 5 Quick Tips for Better Understanding Your Iconic New Logo

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