Advertising Strategies and Lessons


DTC Vitamins Surge In Popularity After Deploying Digital Advertising

January 18, 2021 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_344066963 Closeup of a young man getting his daily vitamins from a pill box at home

As the year slips along, the “new year, new you” goals often shift and change, but one simple habit that many consumers may embrace for the long haul is a daily probiotic or vitamin. Health and wellness trends, products and services have been growing in popularity for people all over the world in recent years, and particularly in 2020 when everyone’s well-being was top of mind. According to IBISWorld, “The market size, measured by revenue, of the online vitamin and supplement sales industry is $20.7 billion in 2021.” Direct-to-consumer (DTC) products, typically sold across social media or via subscription, are often a go-to for consumers focusing on their overall wellness. And, now more than ever, DTC vitamins are gaining in popularity, especially with the rise of ecommerce and turn-key ordering options. Seed, Care/of and Ritual have all deployed effective digital advertising tactics to grow their brands and their revenues. 

The Science Behind Seed Probiotics Helps Drive Instagram Engagement And Affiliate Marketing Sales

Anyone that regularly follows health and wellness influencers knows that gut health is always a hot topic. From cleanses to juices, a healthy gut is essential. Probiotics, a supplement that contains a variety of microorganisms that aid with digestion and intestinal health, are often included on the gut health checklist. Seed, a company that manufactures and sells a proprietary probiotic, has relied heavily on Instagram to promote their unique product in a way that is true to their science-first brand culture. In 2019, Seed launched Seed University, which is a “course specifically for influencers who work with Seed as brand affiliates,” according to reporter Kristin Toussaint for Fast Company. Adding, “Before an influencer can work with Seed, they have to take the 59-minute course and pass an exam, and also use the hashtag ‘#accountable’ to show that they prioritize science and transparency.” 

The science behind Seed is significant. The website looks like the inside of a scientist’s brain, and the brand’s social media campaigns lean heavily on the science of Seed’s specially formulated supplement. Seed is determined not to be another brand selling shadowy products on the internet, so by putting the science of the product front and center across their social media advertising and in their affiliate training, Seed is able to connect with consumers who also want transparency and honesty from the brands they use. “In terms of probiotics, companies were not taking an ecosystem-wide look, understanding that everything is connected,” said Seed co-founder Ara Katz. The brand’s approach is effective, netting 400% customer growth since June 2019.

Care/of DTC Vitamin Brand Reaches Consumers With Personalized Strategies

“The products that we have in our lives should look nice. They should talk to us, they should be a reflection of who we are,” said Craig Elbert, the CEO and co-founder of DTC vitamin brand Care/of. Adding, “It's really important to have an authentic voice, versus just a walled-off, cold, distant tone, which I think is historically [what supplement brands have had].” To that end, Care/of, which offers a range of products, including vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics and powders, begins by offering curious shoppers a quiz that matches them with the right vitamins and supplements for their needs. The quiz takes about five minutes, and, in addition to offering personalized service for consumers who may be unsure what they need, offers a wealth of first-party data for Care/of, including email, location and age. This data allows the brand to optimize their engagement with more effective targeting and the personalization that is a part of their brand ethos. This past September, German pharmaceutical company Bayer took a 70% stake in Care/of, valuing the startup at $225 million. 

DTC Vitamin Brand Ritual Offers Customized Subscriptions 

Shutterstock_1104762299 Young pregnant woman taking capsule

Ritual was started by Katerina Schneider in 2016, when the Ritual founder and CEO was pregnant and purging her house of “products with ingredients [she] couldn't get behind.” When she realized the prenatal vitamins she was taking were on the list of things to discard, she took a leap and started Ritual. Originally just for women, the vitamin brand offered a 30-day subscription for $30 for the multivitamin which is chock full of science-backed goodness and also very cool looking. The aesthetic appeal of Ritual made it popular with influencers and fashion-types across social media, where Ritual has a robust following. In those early days, Schneider said, “We're focused on building a cult-like following. And with the subscription model, we can put cute calendars and stickers into the boxes, which allows us to get people to remember to take their vitamins — it's really important, and that hasn't been done before.”

The plan worked. Five years later, Ritual is going strong and has introduced vitamins for men and children, plus a wider array of options for women. According to Schneider “59% of [Ritual] customers never regularly had a vitamin habit before Ritual.” By tapping into a subscription model right away, Ritual was able to get consumers to form a habit and keep coming back. “The subscription is designed to more seamlessly build that habit, and I think to reflect that, this product is meant to be taken every day over a long period of time,” said Ritual COO Liz Reifsnyder. Additionally, an article about vitamin subscriptions from PYMNTS, notes “To further encourage that continuous relationship [between consumers and Ritual], there are many supports in place — from technical integrations with wearables like the Apple Watch to simple moves like making sure the vitamins actually taste good and are pleasant to take.” The modern world of vitamins is more than a pill — it’s a lifestyle. 

Capitalizing on the health-and-wellness, lifestyle-focused mindset that has gained in popularity over the last few years, DTC vitamin brands are flourishing. By leaning into digital advertising strategies, including social media campaigns, personalization and subscriptions, DTC vitamin brands are able to take advantage of the growth of ecommerce and mobile shopping to build brand equity, engage consumers and scale their customer bases.

“We expect to see supplements to still gain traction just because overall I think more people are taking an inside-out approach to wellness. They are seeing wellness as a reflection of overall health, and are wanting to get to root issues and tackling them with supplements,” said Kenya Watson, intelligence analyst at CB Insights.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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