Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, September 24, 2012

Volvo and Pinterest: Re-branding Through Customer-Driven Social Media

The Challenge: As we mentioned earlier this year, Pinterest has been captivating online users with its emphasis on engagement, content, and personalization. Now Volvo is taking to the Pinterest boards with a consumer-driven campaign designed to re-establish the company’s image. But can their campaign succeed in an unproven community-based social medium like Pinterest?

A study conducted with Pinterest users earlier this year provided several insights into user habits: Volvo on Pinterest

•     Over Over 20% of users purchase items they "pin" on their boards.
•     Purchasers visit Pinterest 2.7 times more often and pin 3.1 times as many items as non-purchasers.
•     The 3 most popular words purchasers use to describe Pinterest are "friendly," "community," and "genuine."

The statistics demonstrate that not only does Pinterest usage drive sales, but that those sales are achieved almost entirely through user interaction. RJ Metrics correlated this by showing over 80% of images “pinned” on Pinterest bulletin boards are re-pinned from other users.

Can companies penetrate such a tight-knit buying community without appearing intrusive?

Teresa Caro of iMediaConnection.com maintains that they can, if they create “a balance between...genuine brand story and…content that inspires and compels action.”

One example of this formula in action is Volvo’s new Pinterest campaign. Joe Barbagallo, their Social Media Manager, says the company is “rebranding [them]selves...through design. Pinterest being focused around photos and being driven by consumers is really what attracted us to establish a presence [there] .”

Volvo is basing the direction of the campaign on past social media successes such as their “You Inside” Facebook campaign, which allows customers to create and relate their own experiences.

Volvo re-uses this formula on Pinterest, inviting users to describe their ideal “joyride” by pinning images of the new Volvo S60 T5 and discussing their perfect road trip stories. And their commitment to customer interaction is getting them results.


1. Understand the nature of Pinterest before marketing.

As an inherently visual social medium, it requires a means to generate strong visuals, as well as time to create relationships and generate strong customer engagement.

2. Give customers the ability to share their experiences the way they want to, not the way you want them to.

As Mr. Barbagallo says, “we want these people to experience the product on their own terms and speak about it as naturally and organically as they can.” Customers respond best when they’re allowed to give feedback their way.

3. Let your customers feel relevant.
Engaging customers, sharing your story with them, and inviting them to do the same lets them know that they are important to you. And that lays the foundation for all good customer relationships.

Monday, September 17, 2012

USPS: New Service May Not Be Beneficial to Marketers or Consumers

The Challenge: The United States Post Office has introduced a new direct mail service for businesses. But the program could prove to be more detrimental than beneficial.

Every Door Direct Mail

Earlier this year, the USPS unveiled a new service for direct mailers known as EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail). In an era of declining mail volume, the service was intended to increase use of direct mail. Up to 5000 mail pieces can be distributed to any mail route in America for as low as $ .14 per piece.

How Will This Impact Consumers?

As we reported earlier this year, direct mail is an essential element of any effective multichannel marketing mix. And any service that streamlines the process of creating and distributing mail should theoretically be a good thing. The key word here is “theoretically”.

However, it appears that EDDM is a “Spray and Pray” mailing process that saturates entire mailing routes without any targeting and without allowing consumers the chance to opt-in. In addition to this, all EDDM mail is emblazoned with the generic title “Postal Customer” in lieu of actual recipient names.

With so many recent developments in preference-driven marketing, this type of generic mass mailing appears contrary to today’s consumer demands. As we’ve written previously, marketers know that relevance means sending the right message to the right person at the right time. And, today’s empowered consumers want messages delivered per their individual media preferences.

Response, revenue, and customer retention don’t exist in a vacuum. They're created by enriching customer experiences across the media mix. That will not be achieved by bombarding customers and prospects with junk mail.


1. Keep long-term objectives in mind.

As tempting as cheap mailings might be, "spray and pray" blasts are a turn-off to consumers. Long-term customer relationships are built through targeted, personalized, and relevant communications. This applies to new customer acquisition and retention.

2. Consider the impact of EDDM on your customer base.

Customer loyalty needs to be nurtured over time. EDDM may “simplify your mailing process”, but only per the same convoluted logic that eliminating call centers “helps automate customer service”.

3. Don’t associate your brand with junk mail.
You work hard to develop your brand equity. Your brand should be used with communications of value. Targeted, personalized, direct mail will enhance your brand. Junk mail will hurt it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Google Remarketing: Combine the Reach of Display with the Precision of Search

The Challenge: Display advertising has significant limitations when it comes to high impact branding. However, it’s worth evaluating Google's innovative "Remarketing" Campaigns which can achieve double-digit click-through and conversion rates, if used carefully.
Many marketers feel that display ads are the "brand awareness black hole" of online marketing. They have extremely low click-through and conversion rates, and their effectiveness as a brand awareness tool is questionable. Google Remarketing is different.
Remarketing allows you to track what visitors view on your site, and display ads to them accordingly. Rather than seeing generic banners about your product, visitors will see ads based on the specific pages they were viewing. This results in more relevant ads for users, and greater revenue for advertisers.
Important caution: what some will regard as highly relevant ads, others will see as invasions of their privacy. Therefore, it is crucial to be proactive about explaining how people can opt-out of Google Remarketing Ads. (Unfortunately, Google has not gone so far as to make remarketing opt-in.) Customers can disable ad targeting in their settings, and Google “removes all of your historical ad targeting information if you opt-out and then opt-in again.”

» Abandoned Shopping Carts
Many customers abandon the conversion process without making a purchase. With remarketing, you can target these customers directly and encourage them to come back and complete the conversion process. The results are dramatic: "On average, 8% of customers return to a site to buy if the company does no remarketing. With a remarketing program in place, however, that average jumps to 26%."
» Repeat Customers
Repeat customers already know the value of your offer, and they’ve converted in the past. If you run a home goods site, for instance, you may expect customers to make purchases on a monthly basis. With remarketing, you can place ads across the display network reminding your loyal customers to come back.
» Saving Impressions
Some business are not looking for repeat customers: once somebody has subscribed to a magazine, for instance, there may not be another offer to make. In that case, advertisers can reduce their costs by not showing ads to these customers. Save your impressions for people who haven't yet converted.
» Unattributed Benefits
Not every benefit of remarketing campaigns can be directly attributed. In some cases, customers who don’t click on your ads might still search for your offer, or interact with your business in some other way. This is much more similar to traditional “branding” campaigns on display networks, and should be tracked and attributed similarly.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Priceline: Propel "Massive" Growth with Paid Search

The Challenge: As we reported last week, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an extremely effective way to create customer intent. To generate customer demand online, a particularly effective tool is Search Engine Marketing, or SEM.
SEM captures the moment when customers are directly communicating their intent. Of course, when a customer searches for "wireless speakers” on Google or Bing, they may simply want a picture of one, or information about their history. But, there is a very good chance that they are looking to buy one at that moment. The same applies to nearly every kind of product or service, including ones that are very costly and require more involved levels of information. In those cases, SEM can help drive sales leads rather than direct purchases.
Among the most prominent brands when it comes to paid search are travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, and TripAdviser.
Priceline in particular, has made huge investments in SEM, investing nearly $1 billion in paid search in 2011. The result was 2x growth over the same period the year prior. At the time, HotelMarketing.com reported, “Now that the dust has settled, it's clear the spectacular growth of Priceline ... was propelled by a massive boost in online marketing.”
Not all marketers can make 10-figure investments in SEM, but Priceline’s results clearly demonstrate SEM’s continuing growth potential.
4 Best Practices for Effective Search Marketing
» Implement Conversion Tracking
You cannot improve your search marketing campaigns if you don't know exactly how they're performing. To track performance, you need to implement conversion tracking, which tracks everything from impressions to clicks to conversions. For the best results, implement a tool like Google Analytics that allows you to track conversions across all major search networks.
» Optimize for Revenue, Not Position or Clicks
The goal of a search marketing campaign is not to generate clicks or to appear highest in the paid search results. The goal of SEM is to generate conversions. To do so, pause or reduce bids on low-performing keywords, rewrite ads that don't drive high-quality traffic, and adjust landing pages to make converting as simple as possible.
» Don't Over-Rely on "Broad" Terms
The simplest way to select keywords is to choose a handful of "Broad" match terms. By selecting "book" as a "Broad Match" term, for instance, you'd effectively be adding "books," "travel books," "deals on books," "books by Stephen King" – and hundreds of other phrases – to your campaign. To home in on a specific audience, use narrower "Phrase" or "Exact" keywords. For more details on keyword match types, check out this extensive tutorial from Search Engine Land.
» Use Location Targeting to Drive Local Sales
Local businesses cannot succeed with search marketing unless they implement location, or "geo" targeting. By default, search ads appear country or world-wide (depending on the network you're advertising on). If you're offer isn't available nationwide, limit the reach of your ads to specific cities, states, or metropolitan regions. Priceline has done this very effectively: rather than simply displaying “Priceline” ads to the entire world, they target specific regional brands they own – like Agoda – to specified markets. This commitment to regional targeting is a key differentiator: “Priceline global brands such as Agoda and Booking.com are eclipsing their rivals from the Expedia and Orbitz camps around the world when it comes to a presence in paid-search.”