DTC brand Parachute Home goes offline, doubles experiential investment amid changed digital landscape

The world of digital advertising has increasingly become more complicated thanks to Google’s crumbling third-party cookie, creeping costs and over saturation. It’s getting harder for marketers to stand out online, so direct-to-consumer bedding brand Parachute Home is ramping up its experiential marketing to stand out in-person.

“We believe that experiential is a cornerstone to Parachute,” said Foujan Volk, vp of brand at Parachute Home. “The in-real-life moments are a cornerstone to who Parachute is as a brand and how our customer wants to experience us.”

This year, 30% of Parachute Home’s budget is allocated for experiential marketing tactics, double what it was last year, according to Volk. (She did not disclose a specific dollar amount.) That investment has been steadily increasing to support things like its holiday market last year. A post-event survey revealed the favorability of the brand was higher for those who attended versus online consumers, per Volk.

The momentum for experiential has been building, dating back to 2022 with a number of in-store events, which led to a bump in sales, store traffic and first-time customers, she added. There are a slew of other experiential marketing moments slated for this Spring, including Mother’s Day.

Performance marketing isn’t going to build a brand.
Foujan Volk, vp of brand at Parachute Home

The DTC brand, which has since opened 26 retail locations across the country, has tried to use the physical space to their advantage — in part to also build brand awareness and equity in an increasingly crowded marketplace, Volk said.

To build up its experiential marketing spend, its influencer marketing budget took a hit, decreasing by 20% year-over-year to 28% of marketing budget. Volk did not disclose a specific dollar amount. Last year, Parachute spent $5.5 million on media, according to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics. That figure has significantly decreased from the $16 million spent in 2022. It’s not that the brand didn’t see success with its influencer marketing strategy. But as the space grows and influencers have gotten more expensive to work with, Parachute is reconsidering its influencer marketing strategy to be less dependent on long-term partnerships and tap new influencers to break into new audiences.

“We know that influencers are necessary, and they’re a necessary extension of our brand,” Volk said. “So we want to continue working with them, but we want to optimize who we’re working with and how we’re working with them if our goal ultimately is brand awareness.”

When Parachute launched in 2014 as a direct-to-consumer brand pre-pandemic, experiential marketing with in-person events were vital to its media mix, per Volk. “…and then the pandemic hit and everyone closed. Our retail stores closed. That budget all got diverted into digital,” she said. But as the online marketplace becomes more expensive, riddled with privacy initiatives that poke holes in targeting and measurement capabilities, marketers are looking for a media mix that balances both performance and brand.

Call it a pendulum effect in the industry, but Parachute isn’t alone in its recalibration of media spend to prioritize brand building after the pandemic’s economic uncertainty ushered in an era that emphasized performance marketing. As advertisers struggle to stand out in a saturated online marketplace, brands like Orangetheory Fitness are looking toward a more holistic approach that balances performance with brand building marketing tactics. In fact, agency execs say there’s been an influx of requests for brand building strategies recently.

“Most of our clients look and go, ‘OK. It’s not just about the leads. It’s about the partners, the amount of conversation, the social buzz and chatter that happened around the event, the content we created at the event,’” said John Geletka, founder and chief experience officer at Geletka+, an independent ad agency, when asked about the uptick in experiential marketing.

A presence in the real world is increasingly important, as in-person events increase and the moment will call for a more “balanced media mix,” Geletka said.

“I expect to see more experimental and experiential too along with some of the more balance and beefing up as part of the mix,” he added.

However, it hasn’t been an easy sell to C-suite executives who rely on performance metrics to prove success. Brand marketers’ jobs have become a matter of managing C-suite expectations, applying rigor to measurement that points to business growth as opposed to vanity metrics.

“We have to manage expectations on the fact that brand activities are not going to drive immediate impact to the bottom line. It takes time,” Volk said. “If we can prove that over and over at more events, at larger scale, people start to understand that performance marketing isn’t going to build a brand, especially at post the scale-at-all-costs fervor.”

This year, Parachute Home plans to also fold media channels like podcast advertising, streaming television and brand partnerships into its media mix alongside out-of-home advertising by way of in-store window displays, signage and the like. All in an effort to strike a balance between performance and brand marketing.

“I do think that there’s always going to be a place for that. We always need that demand capture, conversion-based marketing as a DTC brand,” Volk said.

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