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Op-Ed | Will the Digitally Native Brand Building Playbook Produce Results?

NEW YORK, United States — For decades, the playbook for building consumer goods brands has only evolved incrementally.

Then the internet happened, fundamentally reshaping the brand-building playbook with an emphasis on e-commerce, digital marketing and abundant capital. Today, there are more brands vying for the attention and dollars of shoppers than ever before.

But will any digitally native brands out scale and outlast the 20th century heritage brands that came before them? This is the most pressing question for fashion's digital-native gold rush, which has led investors to pump over $1 billion dollars into up-and-coming brands across the consumer ecosystem.

To answer it, one has to evaluate both brand cohorts against a number of vectors: their funding, retail growth, sales milestones, profitability and financial troubles. This is exactly what we did.

We selected 13 brands and split them up into three groups: Digitally Native Phase One Brands, which started between 2008 and 2012 and include Bonobos, The Honest Company, Happy Socks, Nasty Gal and Warby Parker; Digitally Native Phase Two Brands, which started after 2012 and include Allbirds, Away and Casper; and Heritage Brands, which were founded in the 20th century and include Comme des Garçons, Nike, Patagonia, Ralph Lauren and Victoria's Secret. Successful brands, no matter what era they come from, are able to raise capital, expand their sales channels, reach profitability and hit big sales milestones in a methodical and sustainable manner. What follows is a look into the dissonance between the dreams and realities of the digital-native boom — and whether building a lasting brand today is easier or harder than it used to be.

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