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Half of U.S. Consumers Now Buying Disruptor Brands, New IAB Study Shows

DTC Shoppers Are Markedly Younger, Have Higher Household Incomes & Are ‘Consumed by Self-Expression,’ Digital Marketing Trade Organization Finds

ANAHEIM, CA (July 12, 2019) – Today, IAB, the national trade association for the digital media and marketing industries, released “Disrupting Brand Preference,” a study that shows that disruptor brand shoppers comprise 48 percent of all U.S consumers. They are younger than incumbent brand-only shoppers, with 84 percent under 54 years old, and are likelier to have a household income of more than $75,000. In addition, direct-to-consumer (DTC) buyers use their favorite brands as vehicles for self-promotion, with twice as many compared to incumbent brand-only shoppers saying that they choose brands to express “who I am.”

One in every three DTC brand shoppers are part of a new audience group identified by the study called “Super Influencers.” These “Super Influencers” deliberately take time and effort to re-post and/or create brand-centric content to increase their own influence. The research makes clear that they are not sharing this content randomly. They are strategic and driven.

Other key takeaways from the study include:

  • DTC buyers find brand value in their ability to contribute ideas and feedback to brands and gain heightened visibility through their sizable communities
  • The “Facebook family” remains #1 for sharing brand attitudes—particularly by older, incumbent brand-only shoppers
  • Disruptor brands build consumer loyalty—as well as lifetime value (LTV)—through cross-channel interaction
  • Search, shopping, and social media sites are each nearly equal to traditional TV for brand discovery
  • Influencers are the “advertising” of the modern consumer economy, and wield their greatest power during initial purchase consideration and further down the purchase funnel
  • Disruptor consumers expect 24/7 omnichannel access

“Unlike many traditional brands, direct brands and those disrupting the disruptors, have embraced consumers and built community. Today’s consumer expects access and input into the companies they support,” said Randall Rothenberg, CEO, IAB. “This deeper relationship not only shows up in loyalty, but actually perpetuates two-way value for both consumer and brand—in the creation of self-as-a brand and building brand awareness through influence.”

“There is a tendency to think that the online social activities of younger consumers are incidental—frivolous. But they are not,” said Sue Hogan, Senior Vice President, Research and Measurement, IAB. “The differences between disruptor brand consumers and incumbent-only shoppers are stark. For disruptor brand consumers, social behaviors are calculated and deliberate, feeding their need for self-expression.”

“Disrupting Brand Preference” is sponsored by Google, PebblePost, and Spotify. The study is being released as part of IAB Brand Storytellers @ VidCon, the trade organization’s first-ever programming track at the conference. To review the complete findings, please go to

To produce this report, IAB partnered with Cassandra and conducted 20-minute online survey among a nationally represented sample of 3,000+ consumers, fielded in May 2019. Disruptor brand consumers are differentiated from incumbent brand-only shoppers by stating that disruptor brands are predominantly sold online, marketed directly to consumers and provided a list of 32 examples across three categories. Incumbent brands were identified as “traditional” brands predominantly sold in retail stores, and we provided a list of brands across four categories. Incumbent brand-only consumers answered that they have not purchased any of the direct brands listed, or brands sold predominantly online like those examples, in the past.

About IAB
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. IAB is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the trade association advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.

IAB Media Contact
Laura Goldberg
[email protected]