Branders.com Goes Offline to Reach Incentive Industry

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Branders.com, a new site for purchasing custom promotional items, is launching a $10 million-plus marketing campaign next week to reach buyers within the incentive industry.


The campaign will include direct marketing, print, e-mail and online buys.


"[Buying promotional items] is typically done offline," said David Sipes, vice president of marketing at Branders.com, San Mateo, CA. "We want to get them off the phone and let them know there's a different way to do this."


Buyers in the incentive industry spend $23 billion on travel and merchandise annually, according to the Incentive Federation, an organization that educates companies about the use of incentives.


"Many companies that use incentives - like the insurance, food and the auto aftermarket industries - have tremendous promotional budgets," said Howard Henry, executive director of the Incentive Federation, Westfield, NJ.


This is why an influx of new players, including Starbelly.com and 360Merch.com, have entered the business-to-business premium market of late, joining established sites such as


Promomart.com.


To introduce buyers to Branders.com, which launched Jan. 24, the site will unleash an extensive direct marketing effort. Sipes plans to send out 10 million pieces throughout the year with the first drop of 1 million pieces going out next week. The primary source for the site's lists were trade-publication subscription lists. Branders.com is also running ads in a number of trade publications.


The DM pieces will include two offers. One allows users who register to earn a free CD valued up to $15 at CDNow. The other allows them to enter a sweepstakes for an ergonomic chair.


Online, the site has banner agreements with some of the portal sites such as Yahoo, Excite and AltaVista. It will launch an e-mail marketing program and offer a weekly sweepstakes on its home page. It will also launch a viral marketing program later in the first quarter.


Online marketing efforts, however, may not be very effective, as many of the premium buyers are used to traditional marketing efforts.


"You have to work through trade show contacts and trade magazines - that's what [buyers] are accustomed to," said Henry, whose organization just launched the IncentiveCentral.org educational site. "We're running into this problem ourselves. We're attending trade shows, doing print advertising in the trades and some online marketing."
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