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Consumer Electronics

Making a Connection With DR

1 Dec, 2010 By: Jackie Jones Response

Consumer electronics is poised for a comeback this holiday season, and direct response marketing could take that success to whole new levels, industry insiders say.

Despite a rough few years in consumer electronics, marketers in the space are expecting nothing but cheer this holiday season, with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicting a 17-year high in electronics spending. Shoppers continue to allocate more money to high-tech devices, with 73 percent reporting they plan to purchase electronics as gifts in 2010, up from 67 percent last year.

Direct response marketing has always been compatible with consumer electronics, but agency veterans say more companies could see sales skyrocket if they continue to hone in on DR — most notably the strengths it offers marketers when communicating with consumers.

“For success in consumer electronics’ innovation, marketers will need to drive the sale with DR,” says Doug Garnett, founder and CEO of Atomic Direct and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board. “Most of these consumer electronics products, when sitting on a shelf, just look like a box like anything else. No matter what new service it provides, fundamentally it’s a box. The trick in the high-tech world then becomes getting people to understand what makes this box different from that one.”

And this is where direct response should become every consumer electronics marketer’s saving grace. Advertisers need that extra time afforded by direct response — specifically DRTV — to communicate with consumers in this space especially, according to Garnett.

“Tech sells boxes, and the things those boxes do are very difficult to explain or put in context with traditional advertising,” he says. “What long-form could do for the high-tech world is take those innovations and put them in context for people and their lives.”

Garnett cites companies like Bose, DirecTV and Dish Network as marketers who do a good job of understanding how their technology affects people’s lives and then taking the time to deliver that message to consumers through DR platforms.

“The core problem in tech marketing is that far too many people don’t take the time to understand human beings and what makes people purchase what they do, what drives their interests and what makes their lives better,” Garnett says. “With DRTV, you can develop a clear sense of how people benefit from a product. Everyone talks about features and benefits but it goes beyond that because you want to show that the product has a specific set of features and how it applies to consumers’ lives.”

A Voice for Value

Comwave, a phone service and voice over IP (VoIP) provider, is one such marketer breaking into the DR space with its latest campaign developed by Northern Lights Direct. Comwave’s campaign features a search engine marketing (SEM) program and 30- and 60-second DRTV commercials, according to Ian French, president of Northern Lights.

“This campaign absolutely wouldn’t work without DR,” says French of the DR agency with offices in Chicago and Toronto. “This is about customer acquisition. In this type of competitive landscape, going out there with just a branded message with no direct response elements is pointless.”

Culturally, people don’t change home phone lines that often, according to French, so utilizing DR tools to effectively send a message to potential customers was extremely important to the campaign’s success.

“Our approach is extremely direct response based,” French says. “It’s all about the value of the offer, stating the benefits, explaining what’s in it for the consumer and repeating key selling points. In this market, it’s important that the message is very clear, and that all the components of the campaign — from the commercial to the media buying to the search campaign to the microsite — are seamlessly lined up.”

Northern Lights focused on repositioning Comwave’s offer for the DRTV spot to drive volume to the company’s internal call center — a strength of the company, according to French — and leveraging the company’s most appealing and value-based offer.

“We emphasized Comwave’s value proposition and wrote the script so that the value progressively increases as you watch the spot, and we used comparisons to existing prices in the market,” says French, who adds his agency made sure to focus on stylistic elements of the TV spot to capture viewers and communicate the Comwave brand.

“There is a good use of graphics and musical compositions in these spots,” he says. “Branding is important in this space particularly, where you’re dealing with competitors that have been established in the marketplace for a very long time and consumer loyalty goes back years.”

The campaign debuted across Canada in November to positive feedback, and Northern Lights may roll out a different version in the U.S. if Comwave continues to see success, according to French. Comwave, a ROI-driven company, will air the ad as long as it performs well.

Northern Lights made sure to place a significant amount of attention on the microsite, as well. “We worked with Comwave to make sure the microsite was creatively analogous to what was going on in the commercial,” French says. “We made sure to have the same use of language, and we repositioned some aspects to make it as efficient as possible.”

DR was the best way to demonstrate for consumers the superior value Comwave has, while also taking the time to explain to viewers that they can keep their existing phone number and get the same or better quality of service with this product, French says.

“This is the type of product that people don’t buy — they get sold,” he says. “If you’re not aggressively doing everything from a DR point of view, it’s not going to work.”

Humanizing Technology

New York-based Fujifilm North America Corp. is another consumer electronics company that recently returned to television in its marketing efforts, pairing up with New Jersey-based agency cinquino+co. to launch a TV spot for a series of optical long-zoom cameras.

The “Zoom Your World” campaign showcases the company’s FinePix HS10 and S-Series digital cameras and airs through the end of December on national and cable television. In addition to the TV spots, the campaign includes digital billboard placement, a new Hispanic advertisement, online advertising and print elements.

Using direct response to connect with consumers has given Fujifilm a distinct advantage, according to John V. Cinquino, president and chief strategy officer of the brand communications agency.

“While it was important to communicate basic facts, such as the HS10’s 30x long-zoom, it was emotion that was critically important in creating a bond with Fujifilm’s target consumer that would transcend from being a mindful attribute to a heartfelt necessity,” Cinquino says.

Whereas the TV spot is big on emotion — featuring a family snapping photos in a flower field — the campaign then directs consumers to a microsite,, where online shoppers can research what’s new in digital camera technology and why they should shop Fujifilm. The balance between providing relevant information and appealing to customers’ emotions helped created a powerful connection between the Fujifilm brand and consumer, Cinquino says.

“Our basic objective was to help Fujifilm own the long-zoom feature among the minds and hearts of Fujifilm’s target audience. We used minimal words and went big on emotion to help the audience feel that the Fujifilm digital cameras featuring long-zoom were able to positively impact their lives,” he says.

The campaign has succeeded in showcasing popular digital camera features in a way consumers can understand and relate to, according to Ron Gazzola, vice president of marketing and operations of Fujifilm’s electronic imaging division.

“Our goal in creating this campaign was to raise Fujifilm brand awareness to drive sales and service to our retail partners in a way that would appeal to a wide audience of consumers,” Gazzola says.

What Fujifilm has done tremendously well, according to Cinquino, is understand their audience and segments better than other marketers — something the mutually communicative strategies of DR have played a key role in.

“The more you know your consumer and the more insight you have about your target audience, the better the strategy and creative,” Cinquino says. “Without this knowledge and insight, creative would only be a best-guess, mediocre approach with hopes of it resonating with consumers. However, powered with insights drawn on research, it enabled cinquino+co. and Fujifilm to know their target audience like no other, and these insights became the platform from which the strategy and creative becomes relevant to the audience.”

Mobile for all Markets

The consumer electronics product to keep eye on in the future continues to be the smartphone, a sentiment of many in the industry that goes back more than a year ago (Response, December 2009). Due to the increasingly on-the-go lifestyle of many consumers, the use of smartphones continues to overflow into advertising efforts of other vertical markets as well.

For Nokia, smartphones and DR are a match made in marketing heaven as the company’s vision of the mobile industry “is increasingly being defined by socially connected, location-based devices and experiences,” says Russell Anderson, senior manager of marketing at Nokia.

The mobile company recently released its latest smartphone, the Nokia N8, and has used television, social media, online and word-of-mouth advertising elements to market the new device.

“In recent years, word-of-mouth and social media areas have clearly increased in importance. We are active with both global and local Facebook pages and Twitter info,” Anderson says. “Apart from wishing to keep a daily dialogue with our consumers, we looked to apply a much more ‘Web-centric’ approach to our current Nokia campaign.”

Nokia’s N8 TV commercial has been viewed by more than 4 million consumers on YouTube and is one of the marketer’s most-watched films, Anderson says.

“It has created a lot of discussion, something we wanted as we looked to engage with our consumers to get across our point-of-view. We hope such strategies mean people meet the Nokia brand in the right places and enjoy them in the right way they expect,” he says. “We don’t wish to broadcast but engage with people in our marketing.”

Mobile and the continued developments in the consumer electronics space are excellent tools for direct response marketing, according to David Apple, chief marketing officer of Augme Technologies, a New York-based provider of end-to-end mobile marketing platforms.

“If you’re thinking about consumer behavior, we expect the content to be custom to us, and we want it when we want it. We don’t want to search for anything, we want all products to be relevant and easily accessible,” Apple says. “Mobile and direct response is a huge part of that.”

Television All the Talk

With the bevy of marketing platforms available to advertisers, many agency experts agree DRTV is where consumer electronics could benefit the most. David Savage, executive vice president of R2C Group and Cmedia and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board, cites the success of products featured on QVC or the Home Shopping Network as one example, and points out that infomercials and short-form can be a better way to educate the general public on technology when compared to general advertising.

“The direct response base has always been friendly to consumer electronics, and I hope that more consumer electronics marketers look at the benefits of DR in the future,” Savage says. “With DR, marketers can take that extra time to educate consumers about the unique selling points of a product, and that can really help consumer electronics.”

Despite the increasing buzz of social media, Garnett advises consumer electronics marketers in particular to avoid putting too much faith in networking sites alone. Marketers in the tech industry need room to adequately communicate with consumers, and the 140-character limits of Twitter or sporadic status updates of Facebook might not do the trick.

“Some social media interaction may be meaningful, and some may not mean a thing. Some advertisers are focusing too much on Facebook or social media hits when those hits may not mean anything at all,” Garnett says. “DR people know this instinctively because we’ve spent years figuring out whether different response types are significant.”

Those watching the consumer electronics space should be on the lookout for advancements in the Internet-TV connection, Garnett says. “What’s going on with that and how is that going to work are important questions. That’s the big topic and the great thing would be to get that on TV,” he adds.

Whatever the means, most industry insiders and marketers agree: The high-tech aspect of consumer electronics highlights the need for DR in a space ripe for continued growth.

“Know your consumer better than you know anything else,” Cinquino says, “and then put those consumer insights to use by crafting a thoughtful strategy and great creative that will connect the brand emotionally with consumers.” ■

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