Needed Again? The Ad Campaign That Saved New York

It’s midsummer, yet we are at a moment in time when tourism and travel ad campaigns are practically at a standstill, due to COVID-19 and our economic shutdown. Here in New York, the lights of Broadway will be out for not just the rest of summer, but the entire year (subscription required). Who knows if New Year 2021 will bring the bright lights back – and if so, the audiences, with billions in the balance.

The city also was recently met with the passing of Milton Glaser, the founder and publisher of New York magazine, and the graphics genius behind the now-ubiquitous “I❤NY” graphic.

A wise soul never bets against New York.

Another advertising genius, Mary Wells Lawrence — the first woman to found, own, and manage a major advertising agency (Wells Rich Greene, in 1966) – was honored last week with a Cannes Lions “Lion of St. Mark” for lifetime achievement. Her agency – with Glaser’s design – literally took a “deteriorating” New York and launched a Broadway-focused campaign that began the city’s (and state’s) path toward the world giant of tourism that it is today.

Here are some samples of work from this campaign in the early 1980s – note the direct-response call to action. Also of note, Glaser developed the graphics pro bono, and the jingle also was donated by composer Steve Karmen.

A Campaign That Sparked Imagination, Captured a Moment, and Practically Created a Category

New York will need nothing short of another seminal ad campaign – or campaign extension — to revise its fortunes once again.

This work was indeed seminal. Until that time (campaign launch, 1976-77), there were few state-funded tourism campaigns that captured America’s imagination as much as “I❤NY” – only “Virginia is for Lovers” (1969) comes to mind. “I❤NYmay not have invented the category, but it took travel and tourism marketing to new heights in public consciousness.

Famously left for bankruptcy by President Gerald Ford, New York City’s perceived state in the mid-1970s was nothing short of disastrous. Depopulation, crime (Son of Sam), blackouts (and looting), decrepit public transit… one might argue the city barely functioned, if at all.

But New York always fights back. The truth is the city never lost its global mantle atop finance, fashion, night life, the arts, and retail, among other sectors. Broadway is uniquely New York and – other than London’s West End – there was no greater concentration of live theater in all its forms than the Big Apple, so of course Broadway was going to be the initial focus of an ad campaign, which happened to open the door to New York’s comeback.

And oh, did it work, perhaps far beyond tourism and economic revival. It created an energy and mystique for the city that touched a chord with many – not just to visit New York, but to come to the city and live, take a chance, and forge our path in the pursuit of happiness. (When our pop heroes of the time – Blondie, the Rolling Stones, Kiss (Ace Frehley), Michael Jackson – are singing in and about you, adding a dose of parody, it’s also hard not to notice.) What followed in New York City is truly remarkable – a booming economy that even periodic stock market corrections and September 11 could not dislodge. These latter events, merely interruptions.

That is, until now.

A New Marketing Challenge – Who Wants to Step Up?

Even prior to COVID-19, New York has had new images and realities to contend with: a population that peaked in 2016, even amid a wildly successful tech and biomedical boom; Gen Z and Millennials with vitality and genius who can’t afford the price of entry – or, worse, feel it’s not worth it; strangulation by repugnant and short-sighted immigration curtailment and visa restrictions that serve to fail the American Dream. And now, it was the epicenter of a pandemic, which has brought into question the safety of dense population centers everywhere.

So how will NYC & Company, the State of New York Division of Tourism, and Empire State Development perhaps unite to revive New York’s fortunes this go-around?

It’s time for a Next Generation to dream big, strategize, and present the next seminal campaign (extension) that will “save” New York. I ask, who’s going to do it? Where are the next Mary Wells Lawrence and Milton Glaser?

How about you? If you and your agency are creating successful work right now, you can prove it: The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has now issued its 2021 International ECHO Awards call for entries. What makes the ANA ECHOs so unique is that each campaign is judged by peers based on data-informed strategy, creativity, and results in business outcomes that any c-suite would love. “Brilliant results. Executed brilliantly.”

Like the State and City of New York, thousands of brands right now need agency and marketing leadership that inspire, motivate, and move business and the economy. In both consumer and business markets, domestic and global, earning an ECHO shows data prowess in real campaigns that make a difference on the bottom line – attributes and outcomes that are in high demand. Take your best work from 2020 and enter, and I’m proud to say, I’ll have the opportunity to help judge that work this fall.

I’m eager to see the best. New York’s image curators ought to be watching as well.

Optichannel Marketing Campaigns Get an Additional Boost With Direct Mail

Not every brand has a big brand’s marketing resources. Here’s are two case studies in how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Not too long ago, we looked at how some of the biggest companies in the world — including Disney and Neiman Marcus — use optichannel customer experience strategies to deliver great marketing ROI. Even among big brands, though, the customer experience magic of Disney may be out of reach. So let’s take a look at how optichannel marketing is being used at a more reasonable level of investment by real, medium-sized businesses to significantly increase campaign effectiveness and bottom-line results.

Response-Lift Modeling Finds New Campers and New Revenue for Summer Learning Initiative

The hard part of operating any business focused on school-age children is the built-in rate of attrition. Students grow up, graduate, and otherwise age out of your programs every year. It’s likely that at least 25% of your customers won’t be back the following year due to matriculation alone.

To refill those seats without breaking the bank, these institutions must focus marketing on lead generation and new customer acquisition — two of the most expensive goals in marketing. It’s challenging to do that and still find a way to market profitably.

One such program is Galileo Learning, which operates 75 children’s summer camps across parts of California and Chicago, Ill. Age limits on the program mean that large portions of the customer base graduate out every year.

Finding a way to replace those students quickly becomes prohibitive. Summer Erickson, head of marketing for Galileo Learning, saw that many direct mail strategies were becoming too expensive for the ROI. The answer she found was to combine a very effective mail piece with tight customer models built on the data of current customers.

“The customer modeling tool was a game-changer for us,” says Erickson. By using response-lift modeling to identify prospects on external lists who were highly likely to respond, Galileo was able to market much more efficiently. They used the savings to create better mail pieces that would also drive better-than-normal response, and the mailers were localized to each of their nine markets where Galileo operated camps.

The results, Erickson says, surpassed her most optimistic expectations. The campaign brought in 155 new campers and $66,000 in new revenue. And she expects even better success from a wider program launched later in the year.

Holiday Direct Mail Adds Optichannel Targeting, Gets 6X More Impressions, $200k-Plus in Donations

Sometimes you need to break out beyond a single channel to get the best results. Meals on Wheels (MOW) in the Diablo Region of California spurred $230,000 in new donations by doing exactly that with its holiday donor appeal campaign.

The campaign broke with MOW’s traditional strategy in two main ways:

  • They built three audience segments defined by demographics and customer look-a-like modeling.
  • MOW added targeted digital advertising to amplify its direct mail, which made sure the target audience saw 6X more campaign impressions that they would have in a mail-only strategy.

First, much like Galileo, MOW and its agency starting working from the donor database, using existing data from real donors to identify three list segments who would be most responsive to this campaign: current donors, lapsed donors and prospective donors. Although the names sound straightforward, the segments were developed by examining the demographic and engagement data of known donors across dozens of factors.

Each person on the list received a personalized donor appeal letter with infographics highlighting the benefits of donating to MOW and a coupon CTA to make a donation.

Overall, the campaign blanketed the audience with 75,000 pieces of direct mail alone. But that was just the beginning of the campaign.

In addition to those 75,000 mailpieces, MOW built email, social media, and online display advertising to amplify the direct mail message. Together, this added 467,542 additional marketing impressions for the campaign — more than a 600% increase in overall brand exposure, compared to a mail-only control group.

The results were impressive for MOW, even for a holiday appeal: $230,000 in donations, 43% new donors, and donors from the optichannel campaign averaged 169% more than donors in the control group who only received direct mail.

Great Customer Experience Starts With Your Marketing

How your brand engages prospects sets the tone for the entire customer relationship. Here are three things your marketing must do to show prospects that you understand how to treat them as customers.

How your brand engages prospects sets the tone for the entire customer relationship. In fact, the customer experience — especially before purchase — is influenced more by when, where, and how you talk to them than by your website’s or app’s UX polish (although, bad UX can certainly still ruin the experience).

Here are three things every brand must get right to lay the foundation for a great customer experience.

1. Customers Must Be Interested in What You’re Saying

How often do you see marketing that you’re just not interested in? Is that a good experience for you as a customer? Do you think it’s a good experience when your brand’s marketing has the same impact on its potential customers?

The ability to control where and to whom your message appears is the core of successful omnichannel marketing, but brands get it wrong all the time.

It starts with knowing your current customers. Knowing what your audience wants to see in your marketing is a function of how well you understand the data around your current customers and how you apply those insights to prospects. For example, building look-a-like models based on your current customers allows you to target demographic and behavioral features in prospect audiences that make them likely to be interested in your messaging.

Once you understand the data points that will allow you to target prospects, your marketing must be able to put those insights into action. That’s where your omnichannel marketing strategy comes into play. Each channel has its own, unique ways to target audiences, and you need to be able to use those channels to deliver your messages to just the people who want to see them.

On social media, for example, you can target people by interests, likes, and follows that match what you know current customers are interested in. Online display advertising can target website visitors based on browsing profiles. Search ads target based on the search terms you buy.

There are a thousand ways to get there, but targeting your omnichannel messages is essential. Once you see engagement and know that marketing is on-target, then you can expand the customer experience strategy to reach new target audiences based on broader profiles.

By talking to prospects about things you know they’re interested in, you’re showing them that you understand what they need and you’re not going to waste their time.

2. Customers Must Be Open to Engaging on That Platform

Many brands put their marketing in front of people wherever they can and whenever they can, and the result is a generation of people who tune out marketing as little more than background noise.

It’s this simple: If your ad annoys people, it’s not a good customer experience.

The secret to providing consumers a good marketing experience is to be there when it’s helpful and not be there when it’s annoying. If your marketing is annoying, prospects will just tune it out — but they won’t forget that you annoyed them.

Many TV and online ads fall into this trap, but there are times and places for good marketing to create positive brand experiences. Direct mail is one channel that customers interact with on their own terms. Direct mail marketing is there when customers want it, not when they don’t. Even online marketing, despite the annoying nature of so many digital ads, can create a great customer experience if you put the ads in the right places at the right time.

Paid search, again, is a good example of advertising that works hand-in-hand with its platform to provide a positive experience. There’s no better time to promote your solution than when someone is actively asking the question.

Good omnichannel marketing doesn’t just focus on where leads may be found, it focuses on where leads have been found and where they engage and convert with the kind of marketing you’re doing. By positioning your marketing in the channels where your prospects want to engage with that kind of content, you start a customer journey that can make customers fall in love with your business.

3. The Time Must Be Right to Have a Customer Experience

Timing is everything. All the demographic and interest-based targeting in the world won’t turn bad timing into a good customer experience.

The timing of your marketing is affected by several cycles, some of which are universal, like seasonality, while others are unique to each customer or to your brand. Great omnichannel brands identify these cycles and use them to deliver great experiences.

There are important points in individual customer lifecycles, such as identifying when a known prospect will be ready to buy or an existing customer will be ready to repurchase. When a brand recognizes those moments and acknowledges them with a positive message, that creates a good customer experience. These milestones matter to your customers, and so do birthdays and other important dates in their individual years.

This is where customer journey maps can come in handy. By sketching out the entire customer journey from initial consideration through repurchase and (hopefully) product evangelism, you better understand what customers are doing at each step of the way. This helps you identify which messages are needed at milestone points in the lifecycle as well as the kind of experiences that will help nudge people from being just customers to true brand evangelists.

In the end, all of this work isn’t just about making marketing that converts more, it’s about creating marketing that connects with your target audience on a personal level. If you get these three things right before the purchase, you lay the foundation for a great customer experience throughout the post-purchase journey.

8 Direct Mail Enhancements, Other Than Paper, Finishing, Coating

Enhancing your direct mail through paper, finishing, and coatings are great, but there is one more category to discuss. And Part 4 in this series is about “other” direct mail enhancements.

Enhancing your direct mail through paper, finishing, and coatings are great, but there is one more category to discuss. And Part 4 in this series is about “other” direct mail enhancements.

So why use these things in your direct mail? The special effects of enhancements change the appearance, dimensions, and texture of your mail piece. They are beautiful and eye-catching, so that they draw attention to your message and increase your response rates.

So what are some options to consider in beyond paper, finishing, and coatings?

Other Types of Direct Mail Enhancements

  • Die Cuts: There are many options for die cutting, based on your design and desired effect. Make sure to consult with your mail service provider on postal regulations if you are sending a self-mailer. Create something really fun.
  • Maps: If you are trying to drive traffic to a store location or event, use personalized maps to show your prospects and customers how to get there. The easier you make it, the more likely they are to attend.
  • Informed Delivery: The post office has this program that sends emails to people who sign up every day with images of the mail pieces that they will get that day. You can include a web link with the image of your mail piece so that people can start shopping right away.
  • Personalization: Personalization of offers is an easy way to enhance the effectiveness of your mail pieces. When you send someone a special offer tailored to them, you drive response.
  • Augmented Reality: This is a really powerful and engaging enhancement for direct mail. You can make your mail pieces come to life when your prospects or customers scan the piece with their smartphone. This is only limited by your creativity and your budget. Imagine what experience you could create.
  • Video: You can include a video screen on your mail pieces to provide an enhanced way to share your message and create a little fun. Keep them no longer than 3 minutes and make sure they are not just informative but also entertaining.
  • Social Media: When you run social media ads for your mail list on Facebook or Instagram in conjunction with your mail pieces, you increase your response rates. Of course, they need to have the same offer and general design to be recognized as part of the same campaign.
  • Google Ads: Just like with social media ads, Google ads help increase response rates. You target only the people on your mail list by appending IP address information to it.

These are just some of the things you can do with your direct mail to enhance your ROI. When adding these enhancements, you increase the value of your mail piece and make a better impression. What we touch shapes what we feel, so how are you making your prospects and customers feel? Use enhancements to create a better experience.

One thing to keep in mind as you add enhancements, you increase the production time of your pieces. So make sure to add extra time into your schedule. Make the best impression with your next direct mail campaign and see your ROI increase. Are you ready to get started?

Marketers Know Time Is Money, So Why Do They Care About the Other 271 Things?

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers and a tireless worker, is credited with the expression “Time is Money.” And we all know how true that is. Especially when we are wasting it reading 271 things we didn’t really need to know.

Readers will no doubt share my sense of deja vu at the overuse of numbers to catch our attention — 5 Essential Steps: 16 Mandatory Rules; 4 Impossible Challenges; Etc. signposting articles, inviting our interest so we’ll read on. It’s not all that surprising that the reason we find these so engaging is that most of us are conditioned to God’s 10 Commandments. You can’t get a better reference than that and the copywriter who penned them must be a paradise celebrity.

In and around our industry, there are lots more than 271 things you don’t need to know at all.

If you have Denny Hatch’s “Ultimate 85-Point Marketeers Checklist” on your desk, you hardly need any more commandments. And if you do, you can just Google your query and you’ll have the answer in seconds. What’s surprising is how many of these “musts” appear over and over in our daily feast of business media coverage. How many times do we ask ourselves: Haven’t I heard that a million times before, and does that stuff really matter, anyway? Keeping our attention on what does matter is important.

Last week, writing here, Bob Bly gave us a numbered list, “Why the 10 Principles of the Direct Response Mindset Still Matter” and made the important point that the primary objective of direct marketing “is not to enhance image, build a brand, increase awareness, or entertain. It is to get more inquiries, leads, orders, and sales.”  But what struck me as most important was his reference to a “Direct Response Mindset.” If you have that mindset hard-wired, you don’t have to worry about all those other 270 mandates. If it is not about inquiries, leads, orders, and sales, it’s not about direct and data-driven marketing.  If I had a numbered list, mine would incorporate getting sales at less cost than the amount you could afford, getting them below the allowable cost per order (ACPO) into No. 1.

The fact is that what really matters cannot usually be framed in a numbered sequence, but needs more open space to articulate and define ideas. (Although, the 10 Commandments is a great exception.)

Ask yourself this question: Which came first? Twitter or the fact that today’s C-level executives (sadly, including our president) seem to be too busy or too lacking in concentrated brain power to read anything longer than a tweet?

Perhaps that’s why one of the world’s largest and most successful corporations has done away with fancy PowerPoint presentations and requires the convener of a meeting to prepare a written (no illustrations) meeting brief covering the intent and objective of the meeting and providing the necessary business and financial background and action desired. At the start of each meeting, the participants are handed a printout and given the necessary quiet time for them to read the brief. What a great way to get everyone aligned to the issues and at the same starting point. Any company that would follow this procedure would be sure to make meetings much more productive and get over the fact that more often than not, executives have not read the carefully prepared presentations or memoranda distributed electronically.

Having had a lot of interactions with consultants who were tasked with and compensated for reducing costs in client companies, one thing I have never found them focusing on was wasted time, like knowing all 271 things that fill space and waste time. If, especially in service companies, compensation and related benefits are one of the largest expense categories, the productive use of the time of the staff must be one of the most fertile areas for savings. Because it’s hard to measure and, therefore, outside the remuneration parameters of most cost-cutting consultancies, the value of time doesn’t make the cut for priority issues to be addressed.

It is difficult to forget that at an Executive Committee meeting at a Brazilian company, while waiting for the CEO to turn up, the executives gossiped about football (a Brazilian religion), sex (another Brazilian religion), and other topics. A back-of-the-envelope calculation of the cost of the wasted half hour until the CEO apologetically appeared came to something in the region of $15,000. When subsequently informed of this calculation, the CEO shamefully agreed that it was outrageous that he should have been so late. “But” he said shyly on reflection, “It’s my $15,000.” One can only imagine how many other meetings have similar unproductive costs.

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers and a tireless worker, is credited with the expression “Time is Money.” And we all know how true that is. Especially when we are wasting it reading 271 things we didn’t really need to know. Franklin certainly would have endorsed “the importance of substituting zero-sum mindsets (fasting, complaining, and suffering) with additive-sum ones (plentiful-gratitude)”

That’s why he was a big fan of Thanksgiving, something for which we can all give thanks.

May you have a hearty one.

Have We Ruined 1:1 Marketing? How the Corner Grocer Became a Creepy Intruder

When Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote “The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time” in 1993, the Internet was a mere twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. But direct marketers felt excited about 1:1 marketing, and even vindicated.

When Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote “The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time” in 1993, the Internet was a mere twinkle in Al Gore’s eye. But direct marketers felt excited, and even vindicated, about the promise of a future where data-driven personalization would deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.

But now that it’s here, are consumers happy with it?

Recently, I had the students in my direct marketing course at Rutgers School of Business read the introduction to “The Complete Database Marketer” by Arthur Hughes, which was published in 1996 when only 22% of people in the U.S. had Internet access. In the intro entitled “The Corner Grocer,” Hughes explains how database marketing can connect marketers with their customers with the same personal touch that the corner grocer had by knowing all of his customers’ names, family members, and usual purchases.

The students then had to compare the 1996 version of database marketing, as described by Hughes, with the current state of online direct/database marketing, where data collection has been enabled by e-commerce, social media, and search engine marketing.

  • What marketing innovations has technology enabled that didn’t exist before?
  • How has online marketing enhanced the concept of database marketing?
  • How have new marketing techniques and technologies changed consumer behavior?
  • How has social media affected direct/data-driven marketing for the marketer and the consumer?
  • What are some of the fundamental differences between the challenges and opportunities that today’s online marketers face vs. those that the 1996 database marketer faced?

Most of these digital natives were born after Hughes’s book was published. The students experience digital marketing every day, and they’ve seen it evolve over their lifetimes. While they concede that the targeted ads they experience are usually relevant, several of them noted that they don’t feel they have been marketed to as individuals; but rather, as a member of a group that was assigned to receive a specific digital advertisement by an algorithm. They felt that the idealized world of database marketing that Hughes described in 1996 was actually more personal than the advanced algorithmic targeting that delivers ads to their social media feeds. Hughes told the tale of Sally Warner and her relationship with the St. Paul’s Luggage Company that started with returning a warranty card and progressed with a series of direct mail and telemarketing. For example, knowing that Sally Warner had a college-bound son, St. Paul’s sent a letter suggesting luggage as a graduation gift. Hughes describes the concept of database marketing:

“Every contact with the customer will be an opportunity to collect more data about the customer. This data will be used to build knowledge about the customer. The knowledge will be used to drive strategy leading to practical, directly personal, long-term relationships, which produce sales. The sales, in turn, will yield more data which will start the process all over again.”

But Arthur couldn’t foresee the data collection capabilities of Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon. Instead of the friendly corner grocer, database marketers have become a creepy intruder. How else could an ad for a product my wife had searched for at Amazon on her laptop generate an ad for the same product in my Instagram feed? (Alright, I will concede that we use the same Amazon Prime membership, but really?) We don’t have a smart speaker in the house, and I dread to think about how much creepier it could become if we did.

Recently, while visiting someone who has a Google Home assistant, I asked about the level of spying they experienced in exchange for the convenience of having voice-activated control over their household lights and appliances. They responded by asking, “Google, are you spying on us?”

The smart speaker replied, “I don’t know how to answer that question.”

Have we ruined 1:1 marketing?

Do you know how to answer that question? Tell me.

Were Publishers the First DTC Brands? How 2 Areas of Marketing Align

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model. As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands.

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model.

As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals — a mainstay of the direct marketing discipline for decades — have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands. In reverse, too — publishers are enriching their content offerings for their customers in service to them, acting as DTC brands, themselves.

That was a main thrust at a recent joint meeting of the Direct Marketing Club of New York and The Media and Content Marketing Association. The joint meeting, titled “What DTC Brands and Publishers Can Learn from Each Other in Today’s Subscription Economy,” allowed publishers to exchange ideas with DTC brand reps and others.

DTC brands meeting
Source: DMCNY, Twitter @dmcny | Direct-to-Consumer Brands, Publishers and their Admirers exchange perspectives around customer value and experiences.

“Magazines are the original DTC,” said Mike Schanbacher, director of growth marketing at Quip, a subscription business for toothbrushes and dental care,. He noted that traditional circulation metrics, such as lifetime value and churn rates, very much factor in the business and marketing plans of a subscription commerce company.

Alec Casey, CMO of Trusted Media Brands Inc. (TMBI, which manages 13 brands, among them Reader’s Digest), described how his business continually explores expansion of product and content — to books, book series, music and video — and potentially podcasts and subscriber boxes.

“We are always DTC,” he said, meaning that customers’ interests drive every brand extension in the company.

Data can reveal interesting patterns, he noted. Visitors to Family Handyman digital content is 50% men, 50% women, for example, while print content is dominated by men.

DTC Is High-Speed

One hallmark of the newest DTC brands is velocity.

“When bananas and avocados are sitting in the warehouse beneath you, there’s urgency,” said Tammy Barentson, CMO of Fresh Direct, who previously had had a lengthy career in publishing with Time, Meredith, Hearst, and Conde Nast. Innovations are sought for and tested constantly … and rapidly: “There’s a mindset here … ‘That bombed. What did we learn?’’ ” she said, which is a marked change from her previous publishing posts, where testing was more considered.

Barentson also noted that the Fresh Direct executive team meets every morning to listen in collectively on each department’s dashboard of metrics — and that can inspire action.

“There’s a lot I can learn from operations and customer service data,” she said. “For example, how many deliveries are made per hour might tell me geographies where I might focus more customer acquisition.” Her own team pores through subscription data — who orders groceries one, two or three times a week, or just for special events — “how do we bring them up the food chain?” she quipped.

One of the first publishers to capitalize on digital was Forbes and Forbes.com, said Nina LaFrance, who is Forbes’ lead for consumer marketing and business development. Today, the corporation’s digital sites generate 80 million unique visits per month — but it’s the drill-down on the data that is perhaps the most exciting, enabling Forbes to help advertisers connect with customers across print, digital, programmatic display, brand voice, social channels, live events, apps, webinars, and more. Forbes has its own in-house studio to help brands develop content for marketing across the portfolio.

“We adapt and embrace,” LaFrance said, responding to the all the challenges and opportunities presented to publishers and DTC brands alike — issues, such as coping with “walled gardens,” tech giants, privacy laws, data restrictions and regulations, and the Cookie Apocalypse.

Communities Are Sticky

A common theme expressed by the panel was the desire to create a sense of “membership” and “community” — going beyond the transaction to create “stickiness.” That’s where content development matters. “

At Quib, we try and give a membership feel,” Schanbacher said. “Data is the goal,” noting the better consumer understanding and insights that come from content engagement, data collection, and analysis.

However, not every piece of content translates equally to profit, LaFrance reports.

“Visitors to our home page, or who respond to direct mail, may be more profitable to us than those who link to an article from a social post,” she says — and the ability to measure that customer value across channels is a success, in its own right.

Which is probably the most valuable insight of all. These professionals — DTC brands and publishers — revere how data serves, bolsters, and builds the customer relationship, and they have all pursued a shared culture for measurement, insight, and application to build the brands, build the business, and connect to consumer experience. As subscription commerce grows — it has doubled in the past five years — we know how invaluable such data reverence can be.

The Challenge of a (Really) Short-Form Direct Response Ad

It’s challenging for direct response marketers to fit all of the key elements of a good direct response ad into the space of a Facebook ad, Instagram ad, or Twitter post.

It’s challenging for direct response marketers to fit all of the key elements of a good direct response ad into the space of a Facebook ad, Instagram ad, or Twitter post.

Students in my direct marketing class at Rutgers were tasked with finding direct response advertisements in different media and detailing what made the ads direct — as opposed to general awareness advertising. Things like targeting, personalization, call-to-action, specific offer, etc.

Because their media consumption is almost exclusively online — social media, SMS, YouTube, and sometimes email, it’s not surprising that their examples showed the limitations of the media they consume.

The unlimited palette of the traditional direct mail kit, where repetition could be used to hammer home benefits and stimulate response, is all but extinct for this target audience. Even the traditional short-form, 120-second commercial has given way to shorter YouTube pre-roll ads that can be skipped after 5 seconds. (Make sure you get your main benefit and CTA out quickly.)

The examples students provided came mostly from their Instagram or email accounts, and many were limited to a simple illustration of the product, a brief description, and a “Shop Now” button. Although one student did provide a link to a classic DR spot for Flex Seal that made me laugh out loud (that’s long-form for lol). Over the course of two

direct response ad example
Credit: Chuck McLeester

minutes, Flex Seal was described as liquid rubber in a can, handyman in a can, and last but not least, the Hoover Dam in a can. There were several demonstrations, including one where the bottom of a small boat was replaced with a screen door coated with Flex Seal — no leaks, at all. This tried-and-true formula for DRTV sales doesn’t work in 280 characters; although, the ability to embed video into a tweet can overcome that limitation. The content of this short-form broadcast ad might make an interesting series of Instagram ads, but it would take four to five different episodes to include all of the content and demonstrations.

Reaching a young audience with direct response advertising is challenging, but not impossible. The best example of incorporating all of the essential elements of good direct response was provided by a female student from her Instagram feed. All of the elements are there: targeting, benefits, offer, and call-to-action — Girls Night. Delivered.

Shout out to Amazon Prime.

Why You Are Missing Out Without Conversion Tracking

Which digital marketing channels are driving the most leads and sales for your business? Are any channels just wasting your budget? Without properly set up conversion tracking, there’s no way to answer those two critical questions.

How can you tell if your new Google Ads campaign is improving your conversion rate? What percentage of visitors coming to your landing pages are there because of your Facebook Ads? You can’t get an accurate assessment of the ROI generated by your advertising efforts without implementing mechanisms to track visitor responses.

What Is Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking involves placing a piece of code on your website to track visitors and their actions. The data helps you understand their responses to various techniques used in your ad campaigns and different webpage designs. You can use conversion tracking for testing of keywords, redesigned landing pages, and new ad text.

Items You Should Be Tracking

  • Forms on your website (ex. quote requests, scheduled appointments, demo requests)
  • E-commerce sales
  • Coupon codes you give out as a way of encouraging people to visit physical locations
  • Phone calls

Here is what you gain by effectively tracking your digital marketing efforts.

1. Better ROI Tracking

You can add tracking codes to “Thank You” pages to monitor completed transactions by visitors and origination channels. That can tell you how many of those conversions came from visitors who clicked on specific advertisements. You can include tracking of signups, lead generation, or other items relevant to improving ROI.

2. Insights Into Campaign Successes

Some ads will perform better than others. Conversion tracking tells you how well specific keywords perform in attracting your target audience. You can also learn which ad campaigns to eliminate if they tend to draw visitors who quickly move away from your landing pages. Use information gained from your split testing efforts to tweak your keyword lists, ad copy, and landing pages for better performance.

3. Figuring Out What Content to Reuse

You want to stick with what works. Conversion tracking lets you know which content on your website attracted the most interest, or which campaigns helped drive higher-quality visitors. You want content that keeps visitors on your site who will eventually convert into a lead or sale.

4. Improved Audience Categorization

Segmenting audiences allows you to provide relevant content to those who visit your site or sign up to receive your email communications. Conversion tracking helps you figure out whether you have your contacts properly sorted for the type of information they receive.

Better categorization means your audiences aren’t sending your emails directly to the trash bin, or worse, clicking the “report spam” and/or “Unsubscribe” link. You also increase your chances of attracting the type of attention that leads to more conversions and better ROI.

5. Knowledge of Where to Direct Marketing Budget

Marketers running campaigns on a limited budget must maximize each dollar spent, while being cost-efficient. That allows you to create more effective campaigns that get the most for your money. You avoid dumping money into failing ad strategies and can direct those funds to higher-performing efforts.

Why Conversion Tracking?

Conversion tracking allows you to track and improve the ROI of your digital marketing campaigns by helping you identify your best-performing campaigns and eliminate those not delivering the desired conversion rates. It also helps you understand where you should be directing your budget across all the various marketing channels so you maximize every dollar invested.

Want more help tracking your marketing campaigns?  Click here to grab a copy of our “Ultimate Google Analytics Checklist.”

A 4-year-old Girl Shows the Power of a Strong Brand

Recently, I was reminded about the power of a strong brand by my 4-year-old granddaughter who told me, “You know how I can tell when there’s a McDonald’s close by? There’s a sign with yellow M on a red background. That means there’s a McDonald’s near here.”

Recently, I was reminded about the power of a strong brand by my 4-year-old granddaughter who told me, “You know how I can tell when there’s a McDonald’s close by? There’s a sign with yellow M on a red background. That means there’s a McDonald’s near here.”

McDonald’s has certainly built the golden arches “M” brand over the course of many years; my earliest remembrance is from the early 1960s. But the fact that a 4-year-old girl learned the symbolism in a much shorter timeframe illustrates how powerful great branding can be.

When I recently Googled “direct marketing and branding,” I was surprised to see that there are a lot of search results positioning the two as separate marketing strategies. I thought that debate was put to rest years ago — you need both.

The Internet has turned everyone into a direct marketer, and those who have built strong brands are the big winners — think Amazon, 1-800-Flowers, Omaha Steaks, Zappos, etc. When I was with Roska Direct, our results showed over and again that when we did direct response marketing using the umbrella of a strong brand, we achieved better response and conversion rates than when we downplayed the brand in an attempt to juice response.

According to Statista, Google enjoyed a 90%-plus share of searches from 2010 through 2013, before it dipped into the high 80s, sneaking over 90 only in October of 2016 and 2018. So what’s Google doing about it? Running a national brand campaign on television, Here to Help, using The Beatles 1965 hit, “Help.”

Interestingly, if you try to find those branding ads by Googling “Google ad campaign,” you won’t. What you’ll find is Google in direct response mode, helping you construct your own online advertising campaign through Google.

Like I said, you need both.