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Super Bowl Wins

February 4th, 2010
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Super Bowl XLIV is just around the corner, and one marketing team is hoping to repeat last year’s game day win.

Denny’s is inviting America to visit its restaurants on Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a free Original Grand Slam Breakfast. The team will announce the offer with a funny television commercial during the Super Bowl’s third quarter. Check out this teaser commercial.

The team ran a similar effort last year, using a Super Bowl ad to help pull in more than 2 million hungry customers for free Grand Slams during the single-day event.

We reported their strategy after the results were in. Denny’s realized a 39% net brand improvement score, the third highest of all of Super Bowl XLIII’s advertisers, according to a comScore post-Super-Bowl survey. They also captured more than 50,000 website hits, and a ton of free press.

“We hit a chord with people and resonated with people on a sort of warmth and kindness perspective. We had literally thousands of emails and phone calls from consumers, even some that didn’t go to the event, thanking Denny’s for giving a free breakfast,” said Mark Chmiel, EVP, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer, Denny’s, when we spoke with him last year.

Minor problems are inevitable when 2 million people show up for a free meal. Here are two snags the team hit last year and how they handled them:

1. Cold feet

At the last minute, one franchisee started charging customers $1.99 for a Grand Slam. The team sent people to the store to prevent customer backlash and bad PR. They stood at the door and handed out coupons for free Grand Slams, redeemable at any Denny’s. They also mentioned that the franchisee was violating an agreement.

2. Long lines

“We did have a free coupon in case some people felt the lines were too long or that they had to get to work…They could come back within the next two weeks to have a free Grand Slam,” Chmiel said.

As you can see, Denny’s effort is focused on building brand affinity. They do not want anyone turned away and disappointed. Last year, they leveraged their good will to capture a massive amount of free press–and you can expect the same this year. This will not be the last time you hear about Denny’s feeding America.

Integrate SMS and Social Marketing

January 13th, 2010
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Two of the latest marketing trends–social networking and SMS messaging–are becoming routine for some marketers, and their roles are becoming more clearly defined.

Chad Hallert, Director, Ecommerce, Eldorado Hotel Casino, and his team have experimented with building and promoting to a list of SMS subscribers since early 2009. In some ways, the team uses SMS similarly to how they use Facebook and Twitter. However, they’ve found SMS messages attract more immediate attention to promotions.

The team’s tried sending channel-specific promotions to SMS subscribers and social followers, but without fantastic results, Hallert says.

“We tried stand alone offers with mobile, social and email…when you break them up to pieces, nothing really competes with email, and the other two don’t look as valuable as they are.”

Instead, the real value of SMS and social are their ability to improve the results of an integrated campaign, Hallert says. He’s seen results improved by 5% to 8% by adding an SMS alert and Facebook updates to campaigns that already included website, paid search and email promotion.

This is due in part, Hallert says, to customers subscribing to more than one promotional outlet. A person who receives a text message and email about an offer is more likely to convert than a person who receives only one of the two.

The marketing power of the team’s SMS subscribers and social followers is likely to improve as the lists grow in size in relation to the team’s email subscribers. Currently, their SMS list is about 10% of their email list in size, Hallert says.

For now, the team is seeing social and mobile marketing add more value to integrated campaigns than the channels could generate by themselves. Watch our consumer marketing newsletter for a case study describing how Hallert’s team leveraged the immediacy of SMS to take advantage of the weather’s impact on hotel bookings.

Social Media Success Means Learning to Let Go

January 7th, 2010
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For this week’s EmailSherpa case study, I had a long conversation with Eric Erwin, EVP Marketing & Product Development, Wilton and Tim Bay, Founding Partner, Shay Digital about the ways email and social media marketing can work together.

I compiled five of their best strategies in the article, available here, but there was another big point that I think is important to remember.

Social media isn’t entirely unknown territory for email marketers. After all, they’re the experts at growing an audience, creating relevant content, experimenting with message timing and frequency, and adjusting tactics based on response rates.

But there is one big adjustment that email marketers might have to make when launching a social media strategy: You have to be comfortable with the idea that you’re no longer in control of the conversation.

“The hardest thing for marketers is to turn over the brand experience to the community and let them define it,” says Erwin.

When creating a Facebook fan page or managing a Twitter feed, you have to avoid making yourself the center of the conversation. Instead, Erwin’s team has found success by listening more than talking, and inserting themselves into discussions when appropriate.

Watching customers discuss how they use Wilton products on Facebook gives his team new ideas for future marketing campaigns. If they see a particular question or challenge continually bubbling up from the community, that becomes fodder for a how-to blog post, or even ideas for a new product.

When they do start a conversation, they make sure to take a step back and let the community dictate where it goes. Yes, there can be some criticism of the brand, but Erwin says that criticism helps them improve the customer experience.

So while it’s a big step to take, it’s one that marketers must accept for a successful push into social media. As Tim Bay of Shay Digital says:

“We recognize that there is a leap of faith, but you can reduce the distance of that leap by doing your homework and then just diving in. If things don’t go well at first, you can adjust.”

Sometimes that leap of faith is so daunting that marketers just can’t bring themselves to make it – and they’re missing an opportunity. That’s why we’re dedicating the second day of our upcoming Email Summit to the convergence of email and social media.

We’ve filled that day with new research presentations, panel discussions and case studies that show how marketers are making email and social media powerful allies. You can check out the agenda here.

If I don’t see you there, feel free to share your own advice on navigating the waters of email and social media in the comments section.

Share Your Quote for Sherpa’s Wisdom Report

December 18th, 2009
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The year is almost over, which means it’s time for us to compile our annual Marketing Wisdom report.

So before you enjoy some time off for the holidays, please take a minute to share a story about a great test result, campaign lesson or other insight you gained during 2009. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2009.

Here’s the form where you can share your contribution:
http://sherpa.wisdomreport.sgizmo.com

In January, we’ll release our 2010 Wisdom Report at no cost to readers. It’s like a crowd-sourced marketing guidebook, compiling the best campaign lessons, test ideas, inspirational stories and creative solutions to common problems — all based on the experiences of the Sherpa reader community.

Here’s how it works. Your quote — a short story told in your own words — must be based on a real-life experience.

A few suggestions for your entry:
– How you coped with the recession and limited resources to execute your 2009 marketing strategy
– A test campaign that worked better (or worse) than anticipated
– Lessons learned about specific tactics, such as social media marketing, lead scoring, email autoresponders, etc.
– Career stories — everything from hiring to budgeting to dealing with office politics

So think back on your challenges and achievements of the past year. We’re sure you’ve got a great story to tell that will help make us all better marketers in 2010.

Here’s the entry form link again:
http://sherpa.wisdomreport.sgizmo.com

Thanks!

Sharable Holiday Wish Lists

November 12th, 2009
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Marketers at multichannel music equipment retailer Guitar Center this week launched customizable wish lists to help customers steer friends and family toward their desired holiday gifts.

The lists are designed by professional concert poster artists to resemble posters from different musical genres, says Scott Archambault, Director, Customer Acquisition, Guitar Center.

Guitar Center Wish Lists

Shoppers can browse, click to add products, and launch a browser-based Flash app to choose a design. Dragging-and-dropping automatically blends products with a design, and shoppers can add a title and an image to certain lists.

Shoppers can click to share lists on several social networks including Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

The posters won’t appeal to everyone, and shoppers have the option to create and share a more traditional list, Archambault says.

Why offer sharable lists? Archambault says that gift shopping for musicians can be difficult due to the range of product choices and each player’s preferences.

“It’s not enough to just buy a guitar off the shelf,” he says.

The team created the effort with Organic of San Francisco and expects it to extend into next year. They later intend to drive custom marketing efforts based on the products customers select.

“If you have a lot of guitar instruments or something that maps toward an instrument preference, the emails that you get and the reminders that you get will speak to those very specifically.”

Homepage Overlay Boosts Subs

October 19th, 2009
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The folks at PETCO  tested an email registration overlay ad that helped lift subscriptions more than 400%.

Carol Ott, Director, Finance Reporting and Web Analytics, PETCO, and the team used Amadesa’s Customer Experience Suite to A/B test the ad (and other offers) on the homepage since June.

As you can see in the image below (click for a larger one), the overlay offers visitors two rewards for submitting email addresses:
1. Chance to win a $500 gift card
2. A free shipping offer

PETCO Email Registration Overlay

“We were impressed with the results. We were testing offers that we thought would drop our average order value and were pleasantly surprised when it did not have any effect,” Ott says.

Campaign Measurability and Creativity

September 17th, 2009
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Marketing has undoubtedly benefited from the control and measurability of online channels. Teams can use search ads, email and websites to test and tweak their way to astounding returns on investment. But has this come at a cost in creative license?

Marketing requires creativity. All those commercials, direct mail pieces, and landing pages have to be written and designed. However, tests often dictate their ultimate layouts and content. Is this trend brining us toward formulaic, uncreative marketing?

These questions arose during a recent conversation I had with Brian Maynard, Director, Brand Marketing, Jenn-Air & KitchenAid. They were an aside to a conversation we were having on a KitchenAid promotion strategy (full article coming soon).

“As we get better at measuring marketing,” Maynard says, “I fear a bit that in the future, unless you show a positive ROI on every single tiny effort, that you won’t be bold. You won’t step out and do something that’s exciting and innovative because you cannot prove that it works.”

Maynard also noted that he worries that marketing could become like factory work, where switches are thrown and 3,000 more units are sold. That kind of environment would not be conducive to risk taking and creative thought.

“The best marketing ideas have come from people who take a chance,” he says.

Where do you stand? Have you lost some creative license since the Internet’s arrival? Or does measurement simply guide your decisions, rather than make them for you? Let us know in the comments…

How to Be Cool

August 12th, 2009
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Referrals from friends are a strong influence on how teens and tweens learn about “new brands and cool new stuff,” according to survey results released last week by Pangea Media.

Pangea is an entertainment an online advertising company that operates a network of quiz-related websites. The survey received 2,396 responses, and allowed for multiple selections when asking “How do you find out about new brands and cool new stuff?” The results:

o 76.4 % friends
o 75.5% stores
o 56.8% television commercials
o 52.6% magazine ads
o 39.8% online ads
o 35.0% Web/search engines
o 27.7% television shows

The results from asking how they “learn about new stuff” online (only one answer could be given):

o 27% ads in search engines
o 24% social networking sites
o 21% when friends email or IM
o 15% pop-up ads
o 13% trusted website

The results underscore that one of the best ways to earn your brand the elusive “cool factor” among consumers age 10 to 19 is have your brand referred to them by a friend. Stores are another powerful place to reach this demographic, even more so than any type of advertising queried, according to the survey.

38% Decline in Direct Mail Predicted

July 14th, 2009
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I recently had a conversation with Gordon Borrell, CEO, Borrell Associates, Inc., in which he made some startling predictions for the future of several advertising markets. Borrell’s team specializes in tracking local advertising and reporting how much advertisers are spending in a channel by region.

The most surprising prediction Borrell shared is that spending on direct mail will decline 38% over the next five years. Marketers spent about $48 billion on direct mail last year, Borrell says. While that size might suggest stability, Borrell says that it is actually an indication that the platform is in line for a mighty fall.

“When something grows really fast and gets up to a high level, and there’s a disrupter in the market place, some other technology that provides pretty much the same level of service but in a more efficient way, then you can expect there to be a roller coaster decline.”

That disruptor is Internet marketing in general, and email marketing in particular, Borrell says. Email is an affordable way to send personalized and targeted messages, and the technology continues to improve.

Also, recent reports that the United States Postal Service is considering eliminating Saturday service is contributing to his team’s prediction, Borrell says.

“If the day they cut is Saturday, then that really hurts direct mail. Marketers love to get pieces into homes on Friday and Saturday, because that’s when the buying is done in households.”

Borrell and his team base their predictions, in part, on a disruption model. They analyze what happened to markets of the past when disrupted by a new technology, and apply those lessons to current events.

Has your team cut direct mail this year? Or do you plan to in the next five years? Let us know in the comments…

More Efficient Marketing

June 15th, 2009
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“In a bad economy, the last thing you want to cut back on is marketing,” says Jeremy Farber, President and Founder, PC Recycler.

Farber’s team added between 20% and 30% to its marketing budget over the last year to avoid losing ground, and in hopes of gaining market share, he says. That created several new processes and a lot more work for the electronic waste management service’s marketing team.

Last fall, after the budget increase, the marketing team was distressed. It could not keep up with looming deadlines unless cuts were made or an additional person hired. Being based in the metro Washington D.C. area, Farber did not want to hire another marketing manager.

“A white collar job around here is expensive.”

Instead, the team tested using Lyris HQ, a search, email and analytics software package. The tool combined several of the team’s separate processes into one platform — saving a ton of time, Farber says.

“We’re getting more work done now with the same budget and the same people, which obviously is translating into better ROI.”

Farber estimates that using the tool is about 60% to 70% less than the cost of hiring another person. On top of that, the tool proved more effective than some of the separate systems that the team previously used. For example, the insights gleaned from Lyris’ Web analytics revealed ways to boost conversion rates from paid search marketing — the team’s number one lead generator.

So even though the Chinese word for crisis is not exactly “danger” and “opportunity,” a down economy is still not a good time to cut a marketing budget. Instead, it’s a time to look for greater efficiencies.