Once upon a time, direct-to-consumer startup Parachute sold high-quality sheets online, touting efficiencies by cutting out middlemen. Five years later, Parachute sells sheets, towels, mattresses, bathrobes and baby blankets to consumers online and in five stores on each coast.
“Bedding was a vehicle to gain customer trust, but it was never the end goal,” said Parachute CMO Luke Droulez. “We want to be a premium home brand.”
As Parachute expands its product assortment, it’s also diversifying its marketing. Over the past year and a half, Droulez has added more channels to the company’s marketing mix.
Parachute has invested in podcasts, tested TV and ran out-of-home campaigns. It buys on Facebook but uses more Instagram and Instagram Stories posts. And experiential marketing, including the Parachute brick-and-mortar stores, makes the brand feel more anchored and legitimate to shoppers.
Digital platforms still have their place in Parachute’s marketing – but Droulez takes a cautious approach to connecting their contribution to a sale.
“We look holistically to keep things honest,” he said. “Every platform will tell you what it thinks it did, and there is a portion of truth in every platform’s perception of how many people bought or converted.”
It’s up to the marketer to take those skewed perspectives and find out what really happened.
Parachute uses an attribution methodology – Droulez calls it “a methodology because it’s not a truth or law” – to understand how each marketing channel contributed to a sale. Historical performance and the overall media mix allows Parachute to contextualize one channel’s performance against the whole.
Factors beyond marketing also impact customer loyalty and repeat purchases. As CMO, Droulez often takes a step back to look at the bigger picture. Lifetime value, for example, can be negatively affected if items are out of stock, defective or if shipments go awry. Marketing can’t fix a bad product or poor customer experience.
The best marketing is word of mouth, “which is really powerful, but you can’t measure it directly.” To get “outside of the DR flywheel,” Parachute is trying tactics like #myparachutehome on social media to encourage more conversation about its products.
But how do you make a hashtag data-driven? Increasingly, marketers must be adept at analyzing structured and unstructured data to identify patterns, he said. Droulez’s data-driven focus partly comes from his background as a trader in finance.
“Instead of buying and selling commodity derivative, you’re buying and selling people’s attention spans,” Droulez said – a parallel he only recently noticed.
When he joined Parachute, he started in operations before taking on the marketing role. At a time when marketers are increasingly beholden to CFOs, Droulez sees the benefit of “speaking that language,” he said.
If marketers want to position media as a growth engine and finance people as a cost, Droulez settles in the middle: “You have to efficiently grow the brand while maintaining customer loyalty and brand satisfaction. It is a cost of doing business, but also a growth channel.”
Like many direct-to-consumer brands, Parachute does its marketing in house, but it must still work with agencies occasionally. Creative agencies help with strategy, and it recently handed its search engine marketing to an outside agency; as its product line grew, it couldn’t keep up with all the keywords it needed to track.
TV agencies also add value because they offer bespoke measurement solutions.
Although buying ads on Facebook is made easy enough even for small businesses to use, it still sometimes benefits from an expert eye.
“We have alternated between using a Facebook agency and not using one. At minimum I like to get a strategic audit to make sure we are considering hot things,” Droulez said.
But Parachute never lets its agencies get too comfortable. And Droulez is cautious with agencies that give the same “look” to all the brands they work with.
“We try to keep our agency partners in a formal or informal review process,” Droulez said. “Best practices can lead you to be better or to complacency. And in a lot of ways, the way to win is to be different.”