Bringing online and offline worlds together

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“The Bags Fly Free” campaign invited consumers to share online what airline charges they expected ne
“The Bags Fly Free” campaign invited consumers to share online what airline charges they expected ne
Like Kraft, Southwest Airlines finds that a crosschannel approach to marketing is the best way to speak to customers no matter where they are. The airline uses e-mail, mobile, social media, TV, airport signage, offline events, loyalty programs and print to reach its passengers.

“Our target market, which is 25 to 54, is using all these different channels, and we want to make sure that they're getting our messaging no matter where they are,” says Dana Williams, director of marketing and communications at Southwest Airlines. “We want to make sure we are communicating across channels.”

In April, the airline ran a campaign to promote its new destination, Panama City, FL.

The “Win the ultimate city Panama City beach vacation” campaign included social media, e-mail marketing, radio, TV, a tweetup in Panama City, as well as airport signage and special T-shirts donned by Southwest employees.

While Southwest finds offline marketing tactics, such as out-of-home and events marketing, remain core to its integrated marketing mix, the brand has been doing less print and direct mail in recent years.

“We do out-of-home but we don't do as much print anymore, because it is not as effective as it once was,” says Williams.

The emerging mobile channel, though, plays an important role in Southwest's integrated digital strategy. Earlier this year, the airline launched an iPhone app and began providing mobile flight alerts. It promotes the mobile flight alerts with airport signage and on flights. In addition, users are encouraged to opt-in to receive e-mail alerts through this signage.

Case study: A visual brand promise

When your product is more complicated than cream cheese, part of your brand challenge is teaching potential customers how the item functions before they tune out.

That was the case for Wacom, a Japanese manufacturer of digital pens and tablets. Although the company is more than two decades old, it found it needed to raise additional brand awareness among the design community and then to teach people how to use the technology.

The result was a cross-channel approach that it called “Power of the Pens.” Wacom worked with digital agency to create an online community where designers could see artist profiles to learn tips on how to use the Wacom tools. Twelve participating artists with different specialties documented their creative process and then showed their final work in Wacom's “Artist showcase.” Wacom sent e-mails to its list of 200,000, ran banner ads and used social media to promote the effort.

“Our goal was to get people back to the site where they could learn how to use the products,” says Dylan T. Boyd, VP Sales & Strategy at (Wacom representatives were not immediately available for comment.)

The campaign ran for 14 days. It saw more than 61,000 visitors from across the globe; 2,000 users uploaded photos to share; and Wacom added more than 2,000 new subscribers to its e-mail list.

“We are in such an interesting time right now in the way that we are consuming our media and this can help improve the customer experience while traveling,” says Williams. “Most likely when you are traveling you have your smartphone with you and can use it to keep up on flight information.”

Another Southwest campaign called “Bags Fly Free” ran during March Madness. The campaign included social media, TV and an interactive banner ad. The banner ad that ran across the Web asked consumers to share what they thought airlines would charge for next. Consumers could write their response directly into the banner ad and once approved it would show up in a scrolling feed. The online component tied into an ongoing marketing platform for the airline.

“Our brand positioning is about giving our customers a great experience,” says Williams. “So why would we charge for bags like other airlines?” Southwest works with a variety of agencies to take this cross-channel approach, including its agency of record, Austin-based GSD&M; Wunderman, which handles its Rapid Rewards loyalty program; VML, which does digital advertising for the airline; and Responsys for e-mail marketing.

Traditional direct marketer 1-800-Flowers champions an integrated approach and says it is constantly testing to tweak its approach to marketing. The brand uses a combination of direct mail, catalogs, e-mail, search, display, social media and mobile.

Experian's Cheetahmail handles its e-mail, while Digby handles mobile responsibilities and Nitro does digital.

“We are constantly testing these channels, and we try to be as nimble as possible,” says Kevin Ranford, director of web marketing at

In its recent Mother's Day campaign, the company used the tagline “Spot a Mom” across channels which included social media, display, e-mail, mobile and TV. The campaign, designed by Nitro, encouraged consumers to find the moms in their lives, be it their own mothers, friends or family members that are moms, and treat them to a special Mother's Day gift.

“You've got offline, traditional online, and new and emerging channels rallying around this central holiday theme,” adds Ranford. “We like to engage with our shoppers in an interesting way to celebrate the holiday and having a brand theme rather than a discount message helps us to rally an emotional connection.”

Despite using a number of channels, the company says it remains mindful of sending too many messages, too frequently. The brand watches for un-subscribes and opt-outs in e-mail and mobile, as well as de-“likes” on Facebook. Ranford says that the brand changes messaging and frequency to address this issue.

Like many other brands, the flower retailer uses different channels to inform the others. For example, if a search term is very popular and doing well, the brand will use this term in an e-mail subject line or if a mobile message has success, it will likely makes its way into social media. Finding a way to capture and then merge the lessons from all of these channels is what makes for a great Internet marketing — and an overall marketing — strategy, say experts.

“If there are consistent learnings in two or three channels, then we'll push that messaging across the other channels,” says Ranford. “That is the great thing about digital. You can learn in real time and strategize across channels.”

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