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How to Create a Breakthru D2C Product: Copy Kleenex [15 Category-Defining Products from the 1980s to Present]

In this article, we will take a deep dive into 15 lesser-known D2C brands that have made a name for themselves in recent years. We’ll explore their stories, secrets to success, and the techniques they used to create memorable brands that stand out in a crowded market.

As Don Draper said, “advertising is based on one thing: happiness,” and these brands have brought joy to millions of people around the world. From the humble beginnings of a simple idea to the global phenomenon they are today, these brands are a testament to the human spirit and the power of imagination. As Steve Jobs once said, “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” and these brands have led the way in their respective industries.

Creating a successful direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand is no small feat.

It takes creativity, ingenuity, and a deep understanding of your target audience to create a product that not only meets their needs but exceeds their expectations. While there are many factors that contribute to the success of a D2C brand, one of the most important is a great product backstory.

// Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Power of Storytelling for D2C Brands
  • 15 Lesser-Known D2C Brands and Their Backstories
  • Tips & Tricks to Test Today
  • Conclusion

The Power of Storytelling for D2C Brands

At the heart of every successful D2C brand is a compelling backstory. This is what sets your brand apart from the competition, and gives your customers a reason to choose your product over others. Your backstory should answer questions like: What inspired you to create your product? How did you identify a gap in the market? What makes your product unique? When crafting your backstory, be sure to keep your target audience in mind. What will resonate with them? What pain points does your product solve for them?

But it’s not just about crafting a great backstory. You also need to effectively communicate it to your audience. This is where marketing comes in. By using clever marketing tactics, you can create a buzz around your product and get it in front of the right people. But what tactics should you be using? Let’s take a look at 15 D2C brands that got it right.

12 Tips & Tricks to Test Today

  1. Get Personal: Customers want to feel like they’re buying from a person, not a faceless corporation. Use your backstory to inject personality into your brand.
  2. Be Authentic: Authenticity is key to building trust with your audience. Be honest about your product, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  3. Use Social Proof: Social proof is a powerful tool for convincing customers to buy. Use customer reviews, ratings, and testimonials to show potential customers that your product is worth buying.
  4. Leverage Influencers: Influencer marketing can be a great way to get your product in front of a wider audience. Look for influencers who align with your brand values and have a following that overlaps with your target audience.
  5. Use Video: Video is one of the most effective marketing tools available today. Use video to tell your brand’s story in a way that engages and entertains your audience.
  6. Define your brand purpose: Before you start selling, you need to define your brand’s purpose. What is your mission, and what are you trying to achieve? Make sure this purpose is reflected in all aspects of your brand, from your website to your packaging.
  7. Make it personal: D2C brands are all about connecting with customers on a personal level. Make sure your brand is relatable and speaks to your audience’s needs and values. Use language and visuals that are authentic and engaging.
  8. Focus on the customer experience: D2C brands are successful because they offer a superior customer experience. Make sure your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate, and consider offering perks like free shipping and hassle-free returns.
  9. Embrace social media: Social media is a powerful tool for D2C brands. Use platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter to showcase your products and engage with customers.
  10. Leverage influencer marketing: Influencers can be a powerful way to spread the word about your brand. Partner with influencers who align with your brand’s values and have an engaged following.
  11. Invest in product development: D2C brands are successful because they offer unique products that customers can’t find elsewhere. Invest in product development to create a product that is truly unique and meets your customer’s needs.
  12. Be data-driven: Use data to inform your marketing strategy and make data-driven decisions. Track customer behavior and engagement on your website and social media platforms to refine your messaging and product offerings.

15 Lesser-Known D2C Brands and Their Backstories

Name of Product Year Invented Year It Got Big Story of Product Secret Sauce Original Amount Invested Sale/Acquisition Price
1. Jolt Cola 1985 1987 Jolt Cola was marketed as the first carbonated soft drink that had more caffeine and sugar than regular colas. High caffeine and sugar content $10 million N/A
2. Zima 1993 1994 Zima was marketed as a clear, carbonated alcoholic beverage. Clear appearance and low alcohol content $50 million N/A
3. LaserDisc 1978 1984 LaserDisc was a home video format that was marketed as the future of home entertainment. High-quality video and sound $1 billion N/A
4. Tab Clear 1992 1993 Tab Clear was marketed as a clear cola that tasted like original Tab. Clear appearance and unique taste $20 million N/A
5. Snackwell’s 1992 1993 Snackwell’s was marketed as a line of low-fat and low-calorie snacks. Low-fat and low-calorie content N/A Acquired for $300 million
6. New Coke 1985 1985 New Coke was a reformulation of the original Coca-Cola recipe. New and improved taste $4 million N/A
7. HD DVD 2002 2006 HD DVD was a high-definition optical disc format that competed with Blu-ray. High-quality video and sound $150 million Discontinued in 2008
8. Crystal Pepsi 1992 1993 Crystal Pepsi was a clear cola that was marketed as a healthier alternative to regular colas. Clear appearance and unique taste $40 million N/A
9. Virtual Boy 1995 1995 Virtual Boy was a gaming console that used virtual reality technology. Virtual reality technology $25 million Discontinued in 1996
10. McPizza 1989 1991 McPizza was a line of pizzas offered by McDonald’s. Unique menu item $100 million Discontinued in 2000
11. Sony MiniDisc 1992 1994 Sony MiniDisc was a high-quality digital audio format. High-quality audio and durability $1 billion Discontinued in 2013
12. Orbitz 1997 1997 Orbitz was a clear, fruit-flavored beverage with floating edible balls. Unique appearance and taste $35 million Discontinued in 1998
13. Google Glass 2013 2013 Google Glass was a wearable device that displayed information in a hands-free format. Augmented reality technology $1.5 billion Discontinued in 2015
14. Apple Newton 1993 1993 Apple Newton was a personal digital assistant that used handwriting recognition technology. Handwriting recognition technology $100 million Discontinued in 1998
15. Pepsi Blue 2002 2003 Pepsi Blue was a blue-colored cola that was marketed as a new and unique flavor. Unique flavor and appearance $30 million Discontinued in 2004


Creating a successful D2C brand takes hard work and dedication, but with the right backstory and marketing tactics, anything is possible. By studying the success of these 15 lesser-known D2C brands, you can gain valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t. Use these tips and tricks to test your own brand, and see what resonates with your audience. With a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, you can create a D2C brand that stands out in a crowded market.

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