Q&A: Michael Kildale, VP of integrated marketing, FreshDirect

Michael Kildale is an unabashed practitioner of direct response. He cut his teeth at Doubleday Direct, moved on to 1-800-Flowers.com, where he became versed in e-commerce and ran its interactive marketing group for five years, before returning to bookselling with Barnes & Noble. FreshDirect is his first foray into food.

Q. Is direct mail unappreciated?

A: I think it’s becoming a forgotten expertise. [Marketers] struggle with its lack of agility. A change of strategy with direct mail takes a few months, but that’s the trade-off of being more targeted. It provides you the ability to get inside somebody’s house with something tangible [that] they can hold and read. It feels more one-to-one to them. The cost scares [marketers] off, too.

Q. Is it more bothersome and costly to get the demographics right with direct mail?

A: I think what you send them has to be more aligned to their education levels. There are  a lot of brands that mail across the spectrum with the same piece.

Q. What’s the biggest mistake marketers make in testing?

A: They forget step two. They’ll do the test and say, “This looks like it’s going to succeed,” and they’ll go ahead and put it in market without determining what the cost will be to proceed. It’s a big misstep.

Q. What’s your take on data analytics?

A: It’s not about having all the data in your hands, it’s about knowing why you need it and how you’re going to use it. I’ve got to know what the perceived problems are. I never remember having been short on data, but I have been short of time to look through it all. You have to be very focused on what you’re looking for.

Q. FreshDirect has never ventured out of New York before. Was moving into Philadelphia like starting up a new company?

A: It’s been a lot of fun. We had to go in and innovate, something the company hasn’t done in a long time. In preparation, we used a lot of our own data of customers from New York who had moved to Philly, then we did third-party research to learn about media habits and what [customers] had to spend.

Q. Did you need to adjust your targets of potential customers for Philadelphia?

A: We were confident in our model and found that Philly had a lot of high-value targets like New York. They are very much the same in that you know who they are and what they’re interested in. So you use what you know works and you go from there. The hard part comes not in developing the plan, but in reacting if it doesn’t go perfectly. Everything you know about marketing comes into play. We tested and learned. Did a slight localization to the website. Ran a grand opening sale. You optimize as you go.

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