Is dbrand d-most de-brand brand?

A lesson in Gen-Z brand building

Dentsu Webchutney
7 min readDec 26, 2019


by Arihant Chaturvedi

‘Yes, you f***. We remember.’ This is how dbrand recently signed off on a response to a comment on their Instagram that had falsely called them out for a faulty product of theirs that never launched.

If this was any other company trying to do that, people would be losing their minds but because dbrand acts like an edgy teen then people praise them for it?
How does that make sense?
— u/EthanBezz, r/dbrand (Yeah, they have an official Reddit.)

We are all used to seeing brands be the ‘loyal servant’ of their customers. On a brand social media page, if you were to put up a comment calling them out for something they got wrong, you are either met with total radio silence or you are met with the usual, ‘We regret the inconvenience caused to you. Please check your DMs.’

So, how did dbrand, a brand that at the end of the day sells skins and cases for your phones think that it would be a good idea to shut their audience down with such communications online? One would imagine that if a brand was going to be so outright rude to their customers, then there would not be too many people interested. Well, you are wrong. I mean, if there is no interest in it then neither you nor I would be spending time on this article right now. They have a whopping 1.3 million followers on Twitter with a pretty big follower-base on Instagram and YouTube too.

They own their skin. (geddit?)

This is a brand that takes itself very literally. They do what they say, and they do it fearlessly. Full of crass humor and a lot of snark, there is no holding this brand back. In a world where intolerance has become a way of life, where people are waiting to lose their sh*t, dbrand has managed to thrive. How did they do that? That is where their brilliant marketing strategy kicks in. They position themselves as a premium brand. ‘It’s not a product. It’s a culture’, their tagline reads. With this brand, when you buy their product, you also buy into their culture. If you are a brand, this is exactly what your goal should be. Sell your brand culture and not just your product. Quite a branding lesson that is, coming from a brand that makes phone skins.

Lingering on their marketing strategy a little more, we now know that they have created a culture of a toxic, edgy robot overlord around their brand. But how did they rack up the 1.3 million followers on Twitter without stirring up a controversy? Targeted promotion to reach exactly the people they want to talk to is what has helped them. They don’t spend a lot on traditional forms of advertising. They know who they want their audience and customers to be and they know exactly where to find them.

They look at tech savvy people who have a sound understanding of how internet culture, meme culture and edgy humor works. To reach them and talk to them, dbrand are on Instagram, Twitter (the two usual platforms), YouTube, Reddit and Discord. How many brands have you seen having an official Reddit and Discord account? To market to these people, dbrand look at YouTube as their main avenue and tech YouTubers with an understanding of the internet and a substantial amount of following are their go to. Having sponsored videos for channels like MKBHD, JerryRigEverything, Unbox Therapy and SuperSaf TV, dbrand are often known to go overboard with their promotions. The video below should serve as a good explanation of what going overboard at dbrand means.

If social media was not good enough for them, they carry this personality of theirs forward to their direct marketing too. Electronic mailers are stated as one of the most redundant and boring aspects of marketing and you will see dbrand leaving no stone unturned here as well. This only goes on to further strengthen how they own who they are end-to-end.

dbrand has a very interesting way of treating their employees. They are all addressed as ‘robots’ and each robot has its number. These robots make your phone wraps, run their social accounts and even pack your products which often come with some pretty surprising additions.

Clearly, these bots never miss a chance to roast the living crap out of their customers. They have a section on their website that allows for you to add any ‘special instructions’ you want to your order. The robots oblige and do as asked (not really). What tops all of this is that the people ordering for the products and adding these special instructions, absolutely love the roasts that these bots dish out at them. It almost feels like dbrand are running their own r/roastme thread.

What impressed me the most about dbrand was how they have not only changed the way they address their employees as ‘robots’ but have fully adopted the ideology of being a robot. That would explain the way they talk. They see themselves as beings that are much more intelligent than us puny humans and have taken an approach through their communications that always looks down on us and ridicules us. This is the last thing someone would expect from a brand that is from Canada.

In a world where there are a million traditional brands doing advertising the traditional way, dbrand have managed to apply a really crazy and refreshing twist to it. This is refreshing even to a person who has followed brands like Wendy’s, Burger King and Netflix online. These are brands that adopt a similar style of communication but while these brands are pretty much dependent on a meme trend to come and carry their content forward, here dbrand is busy being the meme.

This almost feels like an exercise in brand building for the future. We are a generation of people who are over-informed. We have had a lot of exposure to the internet and we can tell when someone is trying to bulls**t their way into fitting in with everyone. We call them out on it too.

Brands and memes put together form a very slippery slope. People on the internet don’t care about whether a brand has a take on a meme trend. Are memes inculcated in your culture? Do you understand memes as well as your audience does? This question forms a part of a very integral discussion around brand culture. It is not just about getting memes but about understanding your audience wholly and talking to them in a relatable manner, making you a part of your audience and not part of a bandwagon. What dbrand has done has helped them create a whole community of followers by just being a brutally honest version of themselves. What they have done is a lesson in how you can be the most unconventional brand and still make yourself seen as relevant.

Every time I think of dbrand, I think that if a mobile skin brand can pull off such an elaborate branding exercise, then sky is the limit, right? What if a similar approach was to be applied to an Indian brand? Right now, we see the likes of Swiggy, Netflix, Durex and Zomato are a few brands we see engaging with their audiences online in a non-traditional manner, using internet trends and memes to start conversations. While this is something that has become common to brand social media globally, no Indian brand seems to have gone that extra step and tried to use anti-advertising as a means of advertising.

An example of how brand social media in India (and to an extent, globally too) usually works can be seen with this very recent trend. TheFakeAdCo recently released a doodle about the harmful effects of tobacco outlining how the only way to talk to today’s millennials is through the one way they understand it best. Social media terminologies. The post went viral in a few hours and other brands were quick to follow suite.

If you are a brand manager reading this piece and thinking to yourself, ‘let’s do something like dbrand for our Twitter today’ then I have just one little piece of advice for you. Talk about stuff that is relevant to your brand and talk in a way that resonates with the people that you have identified to be your audience. Don’t meme just to fit in. Meme because you are a memelord.