TIME, LOVE and D2C in the Pandemic

Martin Brierley
Creative Partner

How FMCG brands need to move faster and get closer to their customers


Time is a complex matter. According to physicist Carlo Rovelli, time is an illusion: our naive perception of its flow doesn’t correspond to physical reality. He’d even have it that Albert Einstein’s elasticated space-time is just a simplification. 

More importantly, and less theoretically, time is right now very much on our minds; the time left for the lockdown, the time to get a vaccine, that strange feeling that time is moving very fast or very slow as we struggle with endlessly being locked in. 

Customers have rapidly changed their behaviours and so must FMCG brands - Covid has created an elasticated hyper space where time has magically contracted for brands competing with agile and innovative disruptive start-ups, and in which customer expectations are that much higher. FMCG brands particularly need to square up to the fact that they now need to be “fast moving”,  or their products no longer will be. The need for rapidly changed processes and the adoption of new business models is mission critical as the threat from ever nimble disruptors becomes keener.

So, (as the song goes) what’s love got to do with it? Well love too is on all our minds as we anticipate being able to hug long missed loved ones with the lockdown being eased. It is Spring after all!  It’s also something that should be on the minds of those charged with bringing brands closer to their consumers as they transform their businesses with rapid to market, more digitally savvy Direct to Consumer offerings.  
According to the American anthropologist Helen Fisher the obsessive attachment we experience in love is as if “someone is camping out in your head”.

And that is exactly what clever use of digital can bring to brands. After all, as a brand manager wouldn’t you like for your brand to be “camped out” in the mind of your customers - for them to love your brand.



How to understand what's on their mind and learn from their behaviours? The answer right now has to be the combination of a fast to market, intelligent digital offering, and data understanding. But to get to know your customers you need to own the data. The limited data to be retrieved from your Amazon sales makes first party data accrued from your own offering all the more valuable.

But how to get there and to get there fast? The clearest and best strategy must be to answer your customers problems. Jean-Philippe Nier at Kraft Heinz has shared advice based on the success of his successful fast to market D2C initiative “Heinz to Home”

….don't overthink it. Just do it, and in an agile way. Do it with speed, try to solve the consumer problem, and I think that's what happened here. We were solving a consumer problem and that is why we had really good success.

Jean-Philippe Nier. Kraft Heinz


But for many established brands with existing legacy tech architectures or with less agile processes it can be hard to compete with the speed of new to market disruptors. Equally having an entrepreneurial mindset and adopting an all important test and learn approach which might be at odds with rest of the business is going to reap rewards. Danson Huang, Head of Royal Canin (a division of Mars Inc.) D2C China, has expressed clear views on the best strategy.

Keeping the D2C business internally separate beyond the established business structure is critical for success, especially during the initial stages of D2C growth




Getting to “camp in your customer’s head” is about understanding them, and that’s also about understanding that it’s not simply about transaction. As D2C evolves the experiences that sit alongside, augment and bring added value to your customers will help brands grow stronger, longer relationships. Figuring out what your customers want and how they experience the value that you bring across all touch points is massively important. Taking a look at actions, motivations, questions and barriers will enable understanding of how you can bring more value to your customer offering. 

For example at Candyspace we’ve been working with Mars Petcare to build out an AI driven mobile app to facilitate monitoring health for dog owners. The app gives real ongoing value to “pet parents” and in exchange behavioural learnings of significant importance to the brand driving real long term value. 

As Gordon Cameron, Global Design & Innovation Leader at Mars Petcare points out:

Our customers now live in a world where they blur the lines between brands and services, and products and goods. And what they're looking for is total support and total service solutions, not compartmentalised into individual, little categories.

So right now is the time is right to make the most of the opportunities for establishing a “business within a business”, D2C offering, which can seriously help you to understand and answer your customers’ needs. That way your brand will be “camping out in their head” and you will be driving solutions to meet your business demands. You will have found the Sweetspot.