I am one of those people who is fascinated by branding and marketing. Who brands are, why they are who they are, how they share and connect with their targeted audiences… why did that ad campaign work? How did that company figure to target that audience in that way? And of course, why is some marketing such a failure? In my love for branding and marketing mixed with my passion for social media, I came across Gary Vaynerchuk years ago (if you don’t know him, Gary is “…one of the most sought after public speakers alive today. He is a venture capitalist, 4-time New York Times bestselling author, and an early investor in companies such as Twitter, Tumblr, Venmo and Uber. Gary has been named to bothCrain’s and Fortune’s 40 Under 40 lists.” (GaryVaynerchuk.com, 2017)) I follow Gary on social media, and was excited to see he was part of a series Apple is releasing on iTunes, Planet of the Apps. This show “…a sort of hybrid of The Voice and Shark Tank lets app developers make their pitch to four potential celeb mentors: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Will.i.am who then help coach their mentees through developing their pitches and courting venture capitalists for investments.” (Howard, 2017)
One of the most successful pitches on Planet of the Apps was Dote. Dote dons itself a mobile mall in your pocket (Dote, 2017). “The app curates products from over 130 stores, including Sephora, Forever21, and Urban Outfitters, in one place. All you need to do is enter your credit card once, and you can buy a product with a single tap, without wasting time shopping on individual store websites.” (Buxton, 2017) Dote also landed a 5 million dollar investment from VC’s from a pitch on Planet of the Apps, “one of the largest ever doled out on a TV series.” (Vogue, 2017)
Learning about social media marketing has brought up some really interesting insights around a couple of topics that peaked my interested – crowdculture and cultural branding. These are not terms that are commonly discussed (unless you are in the marketing space), so let us look at a couple of definitions by Douglas Holt, the man behind cultural branding and crowdculture:
Cultural brand: “a distinctive approach to strategy, informed by theories of culture, society, and politics.” (Holt, 2017).
Crowdculture: “the idea that cultural change can now come directly from various fringe groups, social movements, and artistic circles.” (Waterloo, 2017)
I love these two topics; I love them because they are so what is happening right now…rather a lot of what is happening with successful companies, brands and start-ups. They are finding niches, or seeing the next coming trend-wave and jumping in.
When I think of culture brand and crowdculture, I immediately think of the start-up space, though it is clear that big companies and brands are great at this, i.e. ballerina Misty Copeland, Under Armour or Chipotle (Holt, 2016). There is something special with start-ups, and break-out ones are always innovatively solving a problem – for example, Glossier and Uber – and tapping into the current needs of the market, while predicting what their targeted demographic will need next. …Even when it’s bringing taboo topics to the front lines, like Lola and Thinx, two companies who are bringing wanted and innovation solutions for women to manage their periods.
Connecting this back to Planet of the Apps and Dote – Dote is another great example of cultural brand and crowdculture. “Holt argues [that branding] efforts do not take into account how the marketing world has changed — how consumers have more power to both influence the creation of content and to tune out content they don’t want to see.” (Waterloo, 2017)
(For a full read about Dote and Planet of the Apps, check out this Vogue article.)
Looking a little more at crowdculture, Holt also notes that “subcultures can use social media to promote and popularize their ideas and innovations.” (Waterloo, 2017). Within subcultures, the “incubation of new ideologies and practices” is really being pushed (Holt, 2016). This is one of the areas that speaks to Dote’s success, essentially delivering fashion in a non-traditional media-centric format…also one that is easy and eliminates steps for the consumer (very 21st century).
The other significant component crowdculture that Dote really hit a home run with is around “the art worlds” as Holt (2016) describes it. This looks into the areas including film, television, print media and fashion (Holt, 2016). How Dote is approaching the fashion and technology industries rivals anything that really mainstream before. Yes, online shopping and shopping via pps are a thing, but the way in which Dote does it is what is completely different. They have developed proprietary technology that essentially removes the need to go from the Dote app to the website of the store to purchase; so of any of the stores that Dote has available on its app, you can one-click shop and order from multiple stores at one time. How many times do you not buy something online because you are linked from one site or app to the next, and you will have to sign into the second site, create an account, enter payment and mailing information … it is a process people no longer need to deal with through the use of Dote! That is basically the step this proprietary technology takes out of the equation. The app also sends useful notifications – for example, if an item you are watching goes on sale. Common sense would suggest that this would increase purchases for brands (particularly by not losing through conversation rates) and make shopping easier which equals happier customers – specifically the Millennial and Generation Z shoppers – who this app is targeted to. If you are subscribed to Apple Music, you can watch this Episode 2 of Planet of the Apps, which Dote is featured on.
Lessons for Others
One of the things that shocked me about Dote is their website. I have some reflections as a reader, potential customer, and someone somewhat knowledge savvy in the social space. Granted they are a mobile focused company and product, it seems the Dote website has not been user-friendly 100% thought out. It was not a great experience to cruise around on for a few identifiable reasons:
- The main landing page did not scroll easily for me (it is like it is broken into sections), and I could not get into the menu of their site until I scrolled through the entire landing page. I tried it on mobile, and it is not set up very well for that either. One of the things that drive me crazy is when companies do not have a website that modifies for mobile platforms.
- The blog for Dote is not really much of a blog, it just has some current happenings about the company, and the second part of the site “Ask Ellie” does not have any content on it, so I am not really sure what it is for. I was confused by this, because for such forward moving brand and company, I would expect they would be on top of this. Understandably they are a new start-up and their focus is likely on business and app development. I also do recognize that the first blog post was on June 8, 2017 by their two new summer interns, so it seems like a new addition to the website, and based on the first post of the blog, there is potential for some exciting content to come. However, in a significant number of articles I have read, and as mentioned by my Social Media for Business Performance course material, “[most] experts stress that a content marketing strategy shouldn’t simply be about creating content that promotes your product, but rather that contributes to a social media conversation. The best content stimulates discussion that enables people who are interested in you to see what others think about you and how you respond to them. Content marketing isn’t just about creating content — it is also about using the content to create engagement.” (Waterloo, 2017) If you are going to have interactive and community areas of your website, do not launch them until you have then properly built up or some curated stock content to have available (general good social media practice, I credited various Hootsuite articles for this knowledge).
- The blog does not link back to the main website. Dote, if you are reading this, link it back!!!
Though I have not personally used the app, knowing that they are a company run off of their app, and with the proprietary technology they have adapted and success on Planet of the Apps, I can imagine the user interface is quite strong.
Dote has done an exceptional job knowing their business, understanding their market and really recognizing a growing trend with opportunity for a business solution. It will be exciting to see how they develop and how the market space in the mobile shopping area shifts.
Industry: Online Shopping
Name of Organization Contact: -
Authored by: Joanna Clarke
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Buxton, M. (2017, June 22). What It’s Like To Have Gwyneth Paltrow As Your Mentor. Refinery29. Retrieved on June 27, 2017 from http://www.refinery29.com/2017/06/159105/lauren-farleigh-dote-planet-of-the-apps
Holt, D. (2016, March). Branding in the Age of Social Media. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved on June 26, 2017 from https://hbr.org/2016/03/branding-in-the-age-of-social-media
Holt, D. (2017). Cultural Brand Strategy: An Overview. Cultural Strategy Group. Retrieved on June 27, 2017 from http://culturalbranding.org/cb2016/wp-content/uploads/Cultural-Brand-Strategy.pdf
Howard, H. (2017, June 22). Creator of Dote App Lauren Farleigh Interview. Teen Vogue. Retrieved on June 27, 2017 from http://www.teenvogue.com/story/dote-app-lauren-farleigh-interview
University of Waterloo. (2017). Enterprise Social Media Metrics. Social Media for Business Performance Online Certificate – course material. Retrieved on June 27, 2017 from https://smpb.uwaterloo.ca
Garcia, P. (2017, June 23). Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba on Bros in Tech, Silicon Beach, and Their New Show, Planet of the Apps. Vogue. Retrieved on June 27, 2017 from http://www.vogue.com/article/gwyneth-paltrow-jessica-alba-planet-of-the-apps