Cooking.com Stirs Up Marketing Push

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Cooking.com is blending a mix of direct marketing, online newsletters and an agreement with a prominent chef for an upcoming holiday push.


The site, which sells cookware, cutlery and small appliances, has more than 6,600 products available. Its recipes and cooking tips have also helped it draw more than 1 million unique monthly visitors.


The site has relied heavily on its fledgling catalog business to draw its target demographic of women age 25 to 55 with a household income of more than $75,000. Earlier this month it mailed out a 24-page catalog, twice the size of its inaugural catalog one year ago, to 1.4 million people nationwide. The list was derived from users who had registered and purchased from the site as well as names rented from a number of sources.


The response to this prospect vehicle has been very strong, according to Donna Chatia, vice president of marketing at Cooking.com, Santa Monica, CA. "As we looked for ways to prospect less expensively, the catalog seemed to be more efficient in terms of conversion rates and average order than online banners and the other types of online marketing, excluding our e-mail newsletters."


At the end of next month, the company will move forward with its catalog distribution by releasing a 52-page, holiday-themed catalog. It will offer various Christmas gifts, including baskets and exclusive merchandise, and will reach 3 million households. The company acquired its lists from its suppliers and advertisers, such as Martha Stewart, Lands' End and Eddie Bauer.


Continuing with its direct marketing theme, the site drops 6 million free-standing inserts twice a month in national Sunday papers.


Next month, Cooking.com plans to announce a partnership it has struck with cooking personality Burt Wolf, author of "The Cook's Catalog." The site will have exclusive rights to Wolf's latest book, which critiques cooking tools. Additionally it will receive mentions in the book as well as on the air during Wolf's PBS show.


The site also announced last month that it has struck a strategic partnership with Cooking Light magazine. In addition to advertising within its pages, Cooking.com will have a presence at its Cookinglight.com Web site. If an online article mentions ice cream, for example, there will be links to Cooking.com where the consumer can purchase ice cream makers and other related items. The site also advertises in other targeted publications, including Gourmet, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine.


Online, the site plans to leverage its e-mail newsletter, which has 600,000 addresses. Within this weekly correspondence, Cooking.com presents consumers with special offers, new product introductions and seasonal products. It also has 19,000 affiliates who disseminate information about specials, promotions and new product information. "We plan to ramp up those vehicles for the holiday season," said Chatia.


Cooking.com also has a presence on major portals and shopping sites such as Microsoft Network, America Online and MarthaStewart.com. It regularly runs banners on shopping sites, however, it has found "mass market banner campaigns to be inefficient," said Chatia.


Sweepstakes also play a valuable role for the site. Each month visitors are encouraged to enter to win a themed prize. For the month of October, they can attempt winning a $10,000 kitchen makeover. The goal of these efforts is largely to acquire e-mail addresses. "The primary goal is to build our database," said Chatia.


The company expects a great deal from its multichannel marketing efforts as it has doubled its warehouse space in anticipation of the holiday season.
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