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Direct Response Marketing

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1 Jul, 2013 By: Nicole Urso Reed Response

How direct response advertisers are measuring the success of social marketing.

The “early days” of social media experimentation, which date back no more than a decade since Facebook publicly launched in 2005 (and Twitter in 2006), rapidly evolved into actionable data that not only drives business decisions in the staunch data-driven world of direct response — it creates new measurements of success.

If social media still seems like the impenetrable black box of potentially useful, not-yet-quantified data, then it may be time to recalibrate its purpose and establish specific marketing goals.

“Social media and digital marketing overall are probably two of the biggest topics that most chief marketing officers are uncomfortable with because they don’t understand it to the level that they would understand new product positioning, or branding or other kinds of marketing functions,” says Vince Ferraro, a social media expert who served as vice president of global marketing at Hewlett-Packard and vice president of global corporate and consumer marketing at Kodak, overseeing all divisions of E-commerce.

Since social media is relatively new territory for seasoned marketing professionals, Ferraro recommends that CMOs and other heads of marketing take the time to fully integrate it with their existing marketing strategies by making decisions and executing on resource investments (How much time and budget can you invest?), implementation strategies (Where are your customers? What is the best way to engage with them?), impact on business (Is your objective to drive more impressions? More press and public relations?), and ultimately, results and return on investment (How can you connect social media to revenue, new customers or brand preference?).

“One of the things that I’ve told my team is that you need to put 80 percent of the effort into 20 percent of the social media metrics that are going to make the most sense,” says Ferraro. “Nobody can do it all. Nobody can have completely open resources and do 100 percent of the measurements and metrics, so I would say that a company has to choose wisely based on their business results.”

Conversation Starters

In the weeks leading up to Father’s Day, Oral-B launched a social media campaign called “Power of Dad,” featuring a YouTube-hosted video montage of great dads in heartwarming moments with their kids — from bedtime stories to wedding day. And at the end it reads simply: “Every step of the way, Dad’s had a smile for you. Give him the power to keep it that way. [Oral-B logo] Power. Share your favorite dad moments at #powerofdad. [Facebook and Twitter links].”

The campaign subtly recommends that you also purchase dad an Oral-B power toothbrush. The video caption on Facebook links to a “Power of Dad” landing page on, which includes a $7 discount on the power toothbrush and a link to purchase the product directly through Amazon or other online retailers.

Another viral video that got everyone talking in May, was the online-only marketing campaign for Dove called “Real Beauty Sketches,” in which a forensic sketch artist draws blind portraits of women based on their self-descriptions and then another portrait based on descriptions from someone who the women just met. In each pair of sketches, the descriptions provided by strangers render a more attractive and seemingly happier person. At the end of the video, the tagline reads, “You are more beautiful than you think.”

Dove’s main three-minute video has been viewed more than 54.6 million times and sparked #WeAreBeautiful conversations on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, not to mention other media outlets (such as this one right now) discussing its impact.

When Capital One sponsored the NCAA Final Four, it ran a social campaign that generated tens of millions of brand impressions.

“We ran a campaign called #RallyCry that amplified the passionate conversation around the teams in the tournament and culminated in a really active final four weekend for us,” says Patrick McLean, vice president of digital brand strategy at Capital One (Response, April 2012). “We were engaging fans in real time about their teams, the game and any other related topic. We had a live leader board that tracked the teams ranking in social media conversation level throughout the tournament.”

They also worked with YouTube to create 16 custom videos by popular YouTube personalities that were viewed more than 5 million times. In each of these social media campaigns, branding took center stage.

“There are a variety of metrics we track,” says McLean, “Of course, the basics on fans, followers, etc., but that is less important to us than how engaged people are with our content, how effectively we are resolving any service and support issues and — most importantly for me — how effectively we are using social to differentiate our brand. With all of our campaigns, we drive to a brand impact agenda and measure how customers feel about our brand as a result of interacting with us in social channels. We want to be a brand known for digital, and social is a key way to affect that.”

When it comes to social media, however, there are a variety of metrics to determine how these types of campaigns impact the business.

“You can measure engagement by the increase in community membership — so if you have online groups, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, etc.; increase in content views and downloads; you can look at the percentage of change in purchases or subscriptions; you can look at the ratio of posts to comments and those kinds of things. That’s one way to measure the business impact,” says Ferraro. “Another one could be customer satisfaction. You can look at things like percentage change in customer retention, percentage change in customer satisfaction scores, percentage change in customer loyalty, a change in positive sentiment versus negative sentiment.”

Speaking Direct

For TELEBrands, one of the largest and most successful direct response marketing companies, social media is a vital part of every product launch — but unlike the aforementioned examples, each campaign is entirely focused on a specific product.

“Each one of our products has a really integrated marketing strategy, and social is a large part of that,” says Shail Prasad, vice president of marketing at TELEBrands. “So we’re fully engaged in most of the popular, larger social platforms out there, and when we deploy a new product, we have a full array of social programs that we’re involved with, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, blogs, StumbleUpon and a few others. It’s a cohesive marketing strategy when we launch a product to make sure we’re fully present in all the social spheres.”

All TELEBrands products, from Rabbit TV and the Flip Jack Pan to Who Knew Books and the Olde Brooklyn Lantern, have dedicated websites and blogs, as well as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages — all with product-specific colors, logo, branding, and baked-in tracking links. “The strategy is very deliberate,” says Prasad, “but it does make it more challenging because it is a brand new launch.”

With each campaign, the company looks at the fundamental social metrics, including Facebook likes, page subscribers and content views. Each property has its own marketing goals and unique tracking, often a combination of built-in analytics native to each social platform, as well Google analytics and custom events to record their unique metrics. QR codes are used on product packaging to help identify links between social media and retail purchases.

“We’re looking for ROI that’s immediately viewable, directing back to our site, as well as looking at all of the standard metrics — obviously, likes, subscribers and views are important to getting the measure of that, as well,” says Prasad.

Since DRTV is all about demonstration, and video content is created with each TV commercial, YouTube is a powerful platform. In addition to unique tracking codes that show how many online customers come from YouTube, marketers can also adjust the videos with unique toll-free numbers to determine which callers came from YouTube.

Prasad says that blogging is one of the most important social marketing strategies for TELEBrands products. “WordPress is right up there in the top three for us,” he explains. “It gets really good traction in search and that helps us in other ways.”

McLean also notes the benefits of Google+ to help boost search results, and Capital One recently announced a partnership with Tumblr’s new advertising beta program. In May, Yahoo! agreed to purchase blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion.

Social Mix

Once the marketing goals and performance indicators are defined, then it’s time to get back to what social media is all about — making connections and having fun. As any social marketing manager will attest, there is an art to building audience, and although there are trends and best practices, each brand and every product is different.

“They all need to work in harmony,” says McLean. “You can’t really have an effective lead-gen focus in social media without having a strong brand presence. People want to engage with you in social media in an authentic way and going right to a lead-gen conversation is not an appropriate first topic. At Capital One, we are using the brand capabilities along with compelling and relevant content on the social platforms to effectively build an audience and engage with people. This sets the stage for lead gen, but it is not the primary conversation.”

In 2012, Kodak generated awareness for its new “My Kodak Moments” Facebook application, the new Facebook Connect feature at Kodak Picture Kiosks, and a coupon. It launched a Clio award-winning social marketing campaign called “Kodak Frees Your Facebook Photos” that motivated Facebook users to print 1 million Facebook photos in order to free comedian Mark Malkoff from a Plexiglas box that he was “trapped in” with all of his photos. The box was built onto a flatbed truck that traveled around New York City. In only three days, the humorous campaign spiked app downloads by 76 percent, generated almost 367 million media impressions, almost 66,000 new Facebook likes (a 24-percent increase), 2.4 million Twitter impressions, and increased national Kodak kiosk traffic by 27 percent.

It was the “Rosetta stone,” as Ferraro says, the sweet spot between social marketing and retail where you see the direct impact.

Another example of social media tied to retail success is As Seen On TV hit product Pillow Pets. The company launched in 2003, right before social media came to fruition.

“We wanted our social presence to be fun, colorful and visual, just like our brand is,” says Caleb Barber, marketing coordinator for Pillow Pets. “We started off primarily on Facebook, which is where we still see the majority of our fan engagement today. Social media in general has really impacted our brand positively by giving us a platform to communicate directly with our fans.”

Pillow Pets evolved from a few plush animals into multiple product lines of characters, from Disney to NFL, MLB, military and NCAA teams. They’re available online and at major retailers including Toys “R” Us, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Wal-Mart. There are jumbo Pillow Pets, light-up ones for bedtime, and apparel including hats, hoodies, pajamas and blankets. Kids can also play games and see their Pillow Pets come to life at

“Consistent posting and creative content keep our fans engaged,” says Barber. “Our fans love to see pictures of different Pillow Pets doing quirky things around the office. Sometimes we will link posts between our social channels to be consistent on all platforms, and to show all of our fans that they can find us in more than one place in the social scene.”

Pillow Pets has almost 47,000 likes on Facebook, and its offline marketing efforts tie into social outreach as well. The company sponsored a NASCAR racing car in May and posted a time-lapse video of the Pillow Pets paint job in progress. Barber says that they have plans to sponsor another car, and this time fans will have a say in designing their car’s paint scheme.

With a strong retail presence already achieved, Pillow Pets uses social media to create brand awareness and to keep fans engaged.

As Ferraro explains, each example of successful social marketing is a little different, and metrics for success depend on the bigger marketing picture.

“You don’t have to be fancy or sophisticated to get a lot of value from social media,” says Ferraro. “You just need to be strategic about where you want to invest, where your customers are, and what kind of conversations they want to have.” ■

About the Author: Nicole Urso Reed

Nicole Urso Reed

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