DTC Shoe Brands Diagnostic: Part 1 Facebook ads analysis

From recycled and vegan to water-proof and carbon neutral, the DTC shoe category has a LOT of unique selling propositions. 

While there are dozens of DTC shoe brands, we picked just three to focus on: Atoms, Cariuma, and Vessi.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll dissect different strategic elements of each brand including: 

  • Facebook ads
  • Email strategy   
  • Website analysis 
  • Google strategy 

Today, we’re focusing on Facebook ads with the help of the Pilothouse Facebook media team

Let’s Jump/Run In: 

👟 Atoms - Launched in 2018, the Brooklyn-based brand creates simple and comfortable shoes with one style for $129. Unlike 99% of shoe brands, Atoms offers quarter sizes.  

We’re big believers in testing lots of FB ads. Currently, Atoms has over 300 different ads running. 😱

Video/Still Image: 

Right off the bat, we noticed numerous ads are in video format, but with no video content. Instead, it’s a still image with text.  

“There’s a good chance they’re retargeting people who watch a certain percentage of the video. Or it might just be for the click-throughs.” 

Atoms has reviews from Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and Esquire, which could be used on a rotating banner in the bottom right-hand corner. The combination of still images and motion is killer. 

A second option is replacing the PR reviews with customer reviews. Any brand can try this! 


Framed Ad: 

Framed ads have been one of the Pilothouse team’s favorites formats over the last six months. 

“It’s super effective because it allows you to pack a lot more content into one image.” Notice how small the text is. It’s an intentional move as users are naturally drawn to try and read it. 

Similar to other ads, this is in video format but with a still image. Add a motion element to complete this ad.                                                


In the first ad, you’ve got an on-brand and highly stylized review from “Alex S.” 

The second ad is a screenshot from Twitter. While it’s technically not “on-brand,” it’s much more believable than the first review.  

“It’s built-in credibility and social proof. You’ve got a picture, face, date, and quote. No one is going to doubt that testimonial.”  

Try both styles for your own brand!  



This well-formatted ad makes users eager to swipe right. 

Atoms utilizes multiple reviews from well-known publications while testing various headlines on each slide. Further, the formatting of the ad makes users want to swipe all the way through. 

We’d suggest adding a discount code on the final slide as a reward to those who swiped. 😎💰

For brands with multiple SKUs or colors, carousels are one of the most useful ad formats. 

This is Atom's only carousel. We’d suggest testing a few more. 

Fighting Sticker Shock: 

With a price tag of $129, potential customers may experience sticker shock. 

This ad acknowledges those feelings while providing multiple reasons why it’s worth the price. A genius combination. 

Further, Atoms introduces a level of exclusivity. Not everyone can afford them and that’s a good thing. People want what they can’t have.                                 

👟 Vessi - Launched in 2018, the Vancouver-based brand creates waterproof sneakers made for any type of environment. The company has three shoes ranging from $135–155. 

Light Pink Ads: 

The brand sports light pink across numerous ads which is a little confusing since their main colors are teal, white, and grey. 

We always revert to data, so if these ads are crushing, keep’em going, but for long-term brand recognition it could have negative effects.


Focusing on USPs: 

Vessi’s main USP (unique selling proposition) is waterproof shoes. If you’re scrolling on Facebook the ad on the left catches your attention and communicates this much faster than the ad on the right. 

While the wavy lines are supposed to demonstrate water, it’s difficult to communicate – especially with someone who’s never heard of the brand. 

We’d suggest Vessi continues testing literal approaches like the ad on the left. 



Framed Ad: 

Similar to the Atoms ad we mentioned earlier, you can pack a ton of content into a small amount of space with this format.  

Vessi took it a step further and added motion – nice play.

Our only dig is the pink background. The white font makes it challenging to read their USPs.                                                             



UGC Ads: 

Testing UGC should be a top priority for any brand, but especially Vessi. 

Some people might not believe the shoes are 100% water-proof and will need social proof to push them over the edge. 

Vessi only has two UGC ads, but this one is killer. 

A woman pretends like her dog is peeing on her shoes, but it’s not a big deal because Vessi shoes can handle any liquid. 

It’s funny, features a dog, and reinforces the brand’s main USP. 

Notice the headline “Your Dog Will Thank You.” A well put-together ad from start to finish. 👊

Test more UGC, Vessi!



We’re big fans of the five star emojis, but the reviews don’t match the tone of the creative. 

The image is clearly from a photoshoot, which is great but there’s no authenticity to it. No one believes that the people in this image wrote those reviews. 

Try switching the creative with a piece of UGC to better align and add a human element to the brand.  


Final Thoughts: When running Facebook ads, your copy should target users at different stages of the funnel. 

The Pilothouse team notes “Vessi has a lot of top-of-funnel copy so we’re curious what they’re doing for retargeting. You should have specific copy for top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel ads.” 

We’d suggest testing TOF and MOF retargeting copy throughout. 

👟 Cariuma - Pronounced “Cari-Uma,” the Brazilian-based company launched in 2018 creates sustainable and stylish shoes. 

The brand has numerous types of shoes ranging from $89–120. Sustainability is a big USP and the brand's flagship green color theme helps drive this proposition in a bold way. 

Shop Now CTA: 

Every ad features a “Shop Now” CTA. This communicates two things: 

  1. They’re willing to pay more for traffic since “Shop Now” is a higher-intent CTA. 
  2. They’re only interested in qualified traffic. “Shop Now” will likely disqualify those who aren’t ready to shop. 

Our team recommends testing a lower intent CTA like “Learn More” for those who are interested, but not ready to shop.

Installment Plans: 

While Atoms set a tone of exclusivity, Cariuma makes an effort to include everyone by featuring Afterpay, an installment plan program. 

If your brand offers Afterpay or a similar service, test it in FB ads. 


Brand Recognition: 

While Cariuma has been around for 3.5 years, most people still don’t recognize the brand. “Unless you're Nike, it doesn’t make sense to lead with the name.” 

The information hierarchy should begin with USPs such as “Lighter Than Air” or “Eco-Conscious Comfort,” then featuring “Cariuma” at the bottom. 

New brands should rely on USPs rather than name recognition since it’s usually extremely low. 


Targeted Ads: 

Micro-targeting specific audiences such as “Morning Brew Readers” is a fantastic idea. 

For targeted ads, it’s important to go beyond the copy and add a logo or recognizable mark. 

Adding the Morning Brew logo will increase the chances of engagement and recognition. 



Final Thoughts: Cariuma has super clean ads, but there’s no sign of faces or UGC anywhere. It’s a huge miss and something we highly recommend adding to any brand's Facebook ads. 

“We’d like to see these brands test pricing in TOF copy. Test how ads perform when you show the price upfront and then back it up with USP’s” 

If someone clicks on the ad, you know they’re interested in potentially purchasing. It’s a great way of attracting more qualified clicks PLUS it determines which of your audience has serious purchase intent. 

That’s all the Facebook analysis. Our next review will cover each brand's email strategy! 

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