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Direct Response Marketing

A 'Social' Butterfly

1 Jun, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response

Susan McKenna's career evolution, from brand to direct response, has made her a leader in the E-commerce world. As that evolution continues, she believes social media might really be the next big thing.


Joining the Borba Team


Carrying that new outlook on Internet marketing, McKenna joined Borba in February 2007. "Borba needed to build its E-commerce division," she says. "The company had already been distributing on QVC very successfully and had success in the retail division. Now it was looking at direct, and it wanted to use the Internet as the first channel for direct."

However, unlike a number of competitors in their space — McKenna mentions Murad and Dr. Brandt, among others — Borba had positioned itself as a luxury brand. "Direct response or online continuity campaigns are contrary to a brand marketing strategy focused on luxury," she contends. "So it always was a balancing act, for me as a direct marketer and for Jennifer Norman, the vice president of sales and marketing, who runs Borba's brand marketing, to kind of meet in the middle."

McKenna calls that balancing act "the biggest challenge I faced at Borba." She adds, "Discounts, online coupons — you can't use those tactics with a luxury brand because it really diminishes the value of the brand. Instead, we used concepts like 'gift with purchase' or free shipping."

She says the brand's positioning also makes continuity marketing and affiliate marketing a tougher task. "To run an affiliate program for a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) campaign, I have to really pitch the affiliate networks because they want a certain amount of money per acquisition," McKenna says. "After you roll in all the costs with Borba's products, it's not very profitable at all. If you're lucky, you break even for a cycle and then you rely entirely on continuity. It's a tough business. I opted not to do an online continuity program for Borba. If Borba does it, it'll be in conjunction with its DRTV campaign."

The company is working on a DRTV campaign outside of its presence on QVC, but that won't debut until later this year. However, McKenna says that the company's Web site does benefit from a "halo effect" from all of its other channels, including QVC, retail, direct mail and others. She also says the recent addition of the site has helped. "When I first started out, we were only at, and only recently acquired In the past, people would go to Google and type in, and they'd find an astronomy site. Once that domain was acquired, it was really critical for gaining more organic customers through search. Borba also uses its pay-per-click (PPC) channels and paid advertising on the search engines to drive people to the site. Consumers also see Borba in the stores — in Saks Fifth Avenue, in Gelsons, in Henri Bendel's, in Ulta — and they seek the brand out online."

Borba worked closely with online DR agency Livemercial and Web design company Nfusion on the site and its sales capabilities. "We worked with Livemercial on our microsite for our DRTV campaign," she says. "They were been a great partner to work with. Nfusion, based in Austin, Texas, designed Borba's main Web site. It was a collaborative project between myself, my team and their agency. Originally, they designed and built the site, which is a Flash-based branding site, with no commerce application. We took that design, with their permission, and leveraged it for an E-commerce site."

McKenna says that powering up the company's Web capabilities was a "really clear" decision. "Skincare and cosmetics are items people require on an ongoing basis," she says. "Anything that has some necessity around continuity is a product that you can market through direct response online. Obviously, the margins will be better when selling direct to consumers. From a business standpoint, it just makes sense."

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