FirstSTREET Finds Boomers, Seniors on Blogs

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Smart marketers see opportunities where others don't, such as advertising on blogs to reach baby boomers and seniors. Until electronic gadgets and lifestyle DMer firstSTREET proved it could be done, few would have thought this a sound strategy since blogs are considered to be of and for more youthful consumers.

FirstSTREET parent company Technobrands Inc., Colonial Heights, VA, ran its first test last fall on a few gadget blogs after manager of Internet marketing Daniel Yonts joined the company. Mr. Yonts had experience with blogs and looked into their traffic patterns and demographics. When he found that the company's target audience was active in blogging, an ad campaign seemed an obvious step, especially once cost was factored in.

"The cost per click and cost per impression [of blog ads] are phenomenal compared to other venues," Mr. Yonts said. Moreover, blogs let advertisers "have a much more robust message to potential customers [compared with other types of Internet ads]," including a large image, up to 250 characters and a headline.

That first effort drew an ad-to-sales ratio of 10 percent, which means for every $1 firstSTREET spent in advertising, it got $10 back in sales. The conversion rate was about 1 percent.

"We do have higher converting channels, but the cost is higher," Mr. Yonts said.

FirstSTREET markets vision, hearing and home entertainment products to baby boomers and seniors through 200,000 catalogs per month, space ads in Parade and USA Today and via http://www.firststreet.com/. The firm originally was more of a general-market high-tech gadgets cataloger. But as its catalog buyers aged, the company's most successful products also skewed older, and it evolved into the model it has today, Mr. Yonts said.

Advertising on blogs brings benefits beyond the sales rewards, he said. For example, many journalists read blogs, and so firstSTREET products have been showcased on numerous news outlets since the ad campaign began. FirstSTREET also found that its blog ads attracted a different kind of customer.

"These are much more active and passionate consumers," Mr. Yonts said.

If they like something, they are quick to tell other people, giving firstSTREET numerous referrals and mentions on various blogs, he said. The company also hears about it when the blogging community dislikes something, which acts as an early warning system for items that might not be successful, as firstSTREET will get these complaints before it might start receiving returns.

Based on the company's success on the gadgets blogs, firstSTREET expanded the ad campaign this year.

The data indicated that many in firstSTREET's target audience are active on political blogs. However, the powers that be in the company initially were reluctant to go this route because they didn't want to appear to sponsor one particular viewpoint over another, Mr. Yonts said. But eventually the company took the plunge.

"There are a lot of baby boomers who are highly engaged in political thought," he said. "We thought we could engage ourselves in such a way that we weren't necessarily advocating a point of view but advocating engaging customers that have a point of view."

In other words, ads were written to express the idea that firstSTREET customers are thinking, intelligent people.

A few consumers complained, Mr. Yonts said, but once he explained what the company was doing, they usually got on board.

The results were better than for the company's ads on gadget-related blogs. Though the conversion rate was about the same, firstSTREET might get 12 million impressions a month from an ad on a political blog compared with 2 million on a gadget blog.

And talk about passionate customers. Many political blog readers who contact firstSTREET are interested in engaging the company in an intellectual dialogue rather than from a consumer perspective, Mr. Yonts said.

"We might have someone contact me and say that we shouldn't be positioning a product in a certain way and he knows why because he's had such-and-such experience," he said.

FirstSTREET allocates about 10 percent of its ad budget to blog sites. In August, it began testing ads on a few celebrity-type blogs. It is also advertising on some medical-related blogs, military blogs that attract retired personnel and blogs dedicated to baby boomers.

"There are starting to be more and more blogs dedicated to baby boomers," Mr. Yonts said. "They are increasing fairly rapidly."

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