Why "Taboo"​ Brands are Thriving in DTC (and what we can learn from it)

Brand Teardowns

Let’s talk about something a little uncomfortable: your swimsuit area.

Well, not specifically yours. Our collective swimsuit area.

See, some of the biggest successes in the DTC space come from brands rethinking markets that have traditionally been awkward retail experiences.

Ball razors, period products, pregnancy tests, sex toys: most of us know the pain point here. Shopping for these kinds of products is, well, uncomfortable.

Especially if you have questions or need some guidance while shopping or post-purchase- good luck with that.

Brands like MeUndies, Thinx, Unboundbabes, MANSCAPED, and more have done some great innovating where the product is concerned, but the biggest steps they’ve taken have been in reshaping the shopping experience.

They’ve tapped into the existing demand and found ways to connect consumers to their products and build meaningful relationships by changing the ways that we buy.

And honestly, these brands are really exciting to me, because they’re actively changing the culture around their products - which is retention magic right there.

So how are these brands finding so much success in a space that’s so hard to crack?

Well, humor and relatability is a huge start. These approaches help us to deal with topics that make us uncomfortable, and makes it easier to start a conversation.

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Whether it’s sharing MANSCAPED's hilarious influencer photo shoot, or making vibrator art, these brands are helping us to let our guard down and have an experience that wasn’t happening otherwise.

That humor leads directly into some of the best product education out there. After all, we’re dealing with products that previously, we culturally weren’t allowed to have questions about.

These brands are changing that.

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This is the biggest opportunity in DTC: Building experiences that are brand new.

Starting a new dialogue. And backing humor with an authoritative stance that creates long-term trust.

Finally, these brands really understand community-building. By becoming an authentic conversation partner, brands like Blume and Maude are able to position themselves as a one-stop shop for everything sexual wellness-related.

They’re something bigger than their products, and that’s a huge advantage retention-wise.


So what can non-taboo brands learn from this space?

  • Experience is everything: Aside from just being a great product, what does your brand do to reshape an existing experience? How do you simplify and improve your customer’s lives?
  • Messaging matters: Consumers are jaded. We’re tired of hard-sells, being talked to only as wallets. Your brand doesn’t necessarily need to be funny, but you need to communicate in ways that feel personal, relatable, and conversational.
  • Offer something more: It’s about proving to your customers that you’re in for the long-haul. Convenience and a better price are nice, but standing out in a crowded market means building up intangible value alongside everything else.

My conversation with Ben Acott Senior VP of Growth from MANSCAPED is a fantastic example of everything we’ve talked about here.

Kristen LaFrance

Head of community at Churn Buster, host of the Playing for Keeps podcast, and (unofficial) mayor of DTC Twitter, Kristen is an expert on all things retention. When she’s not interviewing leaders in the eCommerce world, you can catch her hiking 14-ers with her three rescue dogs.

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