DM News Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: Viral Effort Yields Fine Kettle of Chips

A strategic plan should be used to back all e-mails created for an online marketing campaign and sent to a list of prospects or customers. The plan for potato chip maker Kettle Foods Inc., Salem, OR, was in the form of a project brief written by Maxwell PR, Kettle’s public relations agency. It included a creative online customer interaction piece to be developed by online marketing firm eROI.

Step 1: Strategic Planning. This case study outlines the business and marketing strategies for the online marketing campaign as well as the intended creative approach. The project briefs included a scope of work and resources required, plus timeline and budget.

Kettle’s objective in its campaign, which ran Jan. 11-March 31, was simple: Develop a new potato chip flavor to add to its 20-flavor offering. The flavor needed to be as unique as Kettle itself.

Step 2: Driving Momentum and List Management. Kettle seeded its opt-in list by setting up booths in trade shows in Washington and Oregon. Kettle asked attendees of all ages to suggest a new flavor they wanted to see as the next one.

This information was passed to Maxwell PR and uploaded to Kettle’s account with eROI. The online marketing campaign aimed to learn as much as possible about the customer or prospect. The focus was to foster the emotional connection with the Kettle brand in a way that customers were co-creating and owning a part of the company by naming a chip flavor.

Kettle accomplished this and expanded its potential consumer base and built brand awareness. Important metrics were the Kettle Crave site’s send-to-a-friend function and the Web signup form. The campaign’s viral nature drove customers to Kettle’s site and encouraged them to subscribe to its e-mail list.

Additionally, Kettle set two more measurable goals of a 25 percent read rate and a 5 percent click-through rate on its online newsletter to launch the campaign. Both were obtainable given the list quality, PR and creative involved with this campaign.

To engage and retain the customer’s attention, Kettle and Maxwell PR collaborated with eROI to create the Crave-O-Meter. This was the most engaging element of the campaign, letting customers be part of the Kettle brand and generating opt-ins for further contact and brand awareness.

As online chip voters moused over the Crave-O-Meter, they were greeted with “I’ll try anything once, except this” to the middle-of-the-road “I’m on the fence” to the ecstatic “This sounds delicious! I could eat an entire bag.”

A main purpose of this campaign, like most efforts, was to boost list size and quality. The secondary purpose was to expand brand awareness over a larger demographic, extending from the Northwest to the rest of the country.

Kettle’s call to action resonated throughout the campaign. All actions tied back to the Crave-O-Meter, which was the driving force for customer communication. The goal was to drive the customer from the e-mail back to Kettle’s Web site. It is passed on to others easily, making e-mail growth quite efficient.

The campaign scored with its list management and list growth capabilities. Imagine the ability to expand your list from 5,000 e-mail addresses to 15,000 quality names in less than 10 weeks. Every person voted on each of the five flavors for a cumulative 50,000 votes.

The original list was generated by direct contact with consumers and potential consumers. Growth of the list happened organically and took off virally through word of mouth and word of mouse. This type of marketing has yielded excellent results. The Crave-O-Meter was the key viral component by driving users to the Web site and then having them add themselves to the e-mail list. Here were the results:

· 4,000 votes in the first week.

· Spicy Thai and Cheddar Beer were voted the two top flavors.

· Taste test on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

· Interest by the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

· Spicy Thai found its way into Time Inc.’s Real Simple magazine.

· About 2 million media impressions accumulated overall.

· Retailers such as Safeway, Albertson’s, Whole Foods and Wild Oats immediately picked up the two new flavors.

Media outlet measurement was focused and driven to the Kettle Foods landing page. This was charted by a 24 percent rise in newsletter signups, an increase of 1,000 new names a month.

Step 3: E-Mail Creative and Production. To create an e-mail that generates a response, we must analyze its elements, the most important of which include:

· From. This is the sender’s name and e-mail – in this case, “Kettle Foods” and “[email protected]” By using this address and the online newsletter name “The Dirt,” Kettle created a brand within a brand. In effect, the company created a “trusted sender.” Now the recipient has a better chance of recognizing the sender and responding to a more engaging e-mail.

· Subject. The subject line is critical in any campaign. Kettle invited potential consumers to be part of the Kettle family. The company maintained a concise, relevant subject line, “The Dirt – January 2005.” It is descriptive, memorable and true to the Kettle brand.

· Personalization. Kettle highlighted personal names of its customers who submitted the five initial flavors to be voted on. A personalized greeting can be an important element in an e-mail, though Kettle did not use a salutation in its launch of “The Dirt.”

· Body copy. Kettle chose a format that stretches across its brand. Kettle spent time and space to highlight not only its chips, but also its brand. The company is creating more awareness as the consumer transfers from the e-mail to Kettle’s landing page.

· Graphical elements – HTML only. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Kettle wanted to convey the correct 1,000 words. It chose graphical elements that focus on its grassroots brand and who it is as a company.

· Offer.Things must be placed in a logical order. Having the e-mail lead off with a value proposition or “grabber” is a great way to start. Consider this: You are helping decide the flavor of the next chip Kettle introduces to the world. How many people can say they helped choose

a product for a major corporation? This

leads us into our call

to action.

· Call to action – hyperlinks, buttons. What do you want your customer to do? Here, the call to action was to visit and vote online for the five potential chip flavors: Chai, Strawberry Cream, Moroccan Curry, Cheddar Beer and Spicy Thai.

At a larger level, the implied call to action was to be part of the next big thing. Lastly, once you’ve gone through this authentic, unique and fun online experience, you can tell friends about how you just voted for “Cheddar Beer” as the next flavor of chips from Kettle and they should, too.

Step 4: Campaign Management. This covers many factors, such as the day to send your message, the time the e-mail goes out, how to test multiple messages and designs and the platform to send your e-mails. In e-mail, you have only moments to react, and when you send a campaign erroneously, you can’t stop it or take it back. If you are sure everything is in the right place and all the pieces fit, send a test first.

Step 5: Distribution and Tracking. The e-mail statistics within eROI’s emailROI platform show a 30 percent read rate and a 5.4 percent click-through rate on the first campaign.

Not only could Kettle push personalized data to a Web site from the platform, but Kettle also could pull it from through a lead capture form and back into the e-mail tracking platform. This brings us full circle. The campaign leveraged a strong brand and garnered solid, trackable results.

Tracking individual customer behavior through the entire site was a much-needed aspect of the campaign. Kettle learned more about the customer’s perceptions and behavior and how those reflected on its brand. Kettle learned what products worked and which were missing.

Step 6: Reporting and Analysis. The reporting was why Kettle embarked on this strange trip to begin with. We did all this work, now show us the money, and that is what Kettle got:

· List growth to 1,000 new names a week.

· Brand awareness: 50,000 votes, and the campaign got national media attention in the form of TV, newspapers (Portland Business Journal) and radio (OPB).

· Useful consumer data obtained:

individual customer/prospect behavior tracked from e-mail and throughout the entire microsite.

Kettle’s next step is to move to the analysis phase to create its next campaign. The company will look at what worked, what people want and what will drive new customers to its site. Take a look at the current campaign (, which continues to evolve and foster creativity with its customer base.

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