Stoking the Fire of Marketing Innovation

Savvy marketers are using data and technology to ignite the flames of innovation and raise the bar for the industry and their competitors. Direct Marketing News is recognizing those leaders with its inaugural Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards.

The awards honor the outstanding use of technology and data to devise innovative marketing strategies in seven categories: content marketing, cross-channel integration, digital-print, email marketing, marketing automation, mobile, and social. But the awards program isn’t just about the tools marketers use to innovate. Data scientists and marketing technologists are indispensable drivers of ensuring that technology is an asset, not just a tool. The Stars of MarTech categories honor those experts.

Finalists stood out for their strategy, innovative approach, and results. Read on to meet the winners of the 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards, learn their success secrets, and get inspired to turn up the heat in your marketing organization. –Ginger Conlon

Content Marketing, Cross-Channel Integration,
Digital-Print Innovation Three-peat Winner:
Klick Health

Shrewd marketers know that in an overcrowded digital marketing landscape, print can be a persuasive standout. That’s why digital agency Klick Health decided to fuse the efficiency of digital marketing and the authenticity of print communication to create a powerful campaign targeting healthcare professionals. The campaign, entitled Katalyst, is the 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Awards winner of three categories: Content Marketing Innovation, Cross-Channel Campaign Integration, and Digital-Print Innovation.

“The message of this campaign was that we think deeply about strategy and…about how to help our clients achieve significant impact through their digital activities,” says Peter Flaschner, SVP of client experience at Klick Health. “The target [audience] was marketers in the healthcare space.” Klick compiled an extensive list of direct mail targets that primarily consisted of marketers for pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

The strategy to reach that audience was ingenious, and somewhat counterintuitive.

Rather than tell potential clients about the agency’s digital marketing services, marketers at Klick Health decided to show them. The team created a glossy, 193-page hardcover book that took readers on the journey of a fictitious client, Rellyant. The manuscript displayed several tools and strategies for a marketing campaign—elements that real-world clients might want to use. It gave readers a sense of what digital marketers at Klick could do for them.

The book, however, was far from ordinary.

It included one unique element: an embedded seven-inch LCD monitor inside the cover. That touchscreen featured videos, such as a welcome message from Klick’s CEO, and infused a digital element into an otherwise traditional book. The agency sent copies to more than 2,200 marketers who requested it.

A surprising twist

Why include print when today’s marketing landscape is dominated by digital?

“At a digital agency print is unexpected. So, that makes it a little bit more noteworthy. Naturally, people will ask, ‘Why are they doing that?’” Flaschner explains. “That’s one reason for the print-digital combination. We don’t suggest that print is going away or that digital is better than print. We believe that each has a specific purpose.”

Indeed, after prospects received the digital manuscript, Klick followed up with a series of personalized emails and phone calls. Flaschner says that by merging digital and print—essentially, creating a cross-channel campaign—marketers at Klick were able to create the biggest impact on potential customers. He stresses that digital drives specific action from readers, and print helps tell long-form stories and encourages browsing.

“Through this campaign, we were trying to show that digital and print are merging and that leadership in print could come from digital thinking,” Flaschner says. “You can, in fact, combine moving images and sound with something as traditional as print.”

He says the combination solved the challenge of holding prospects’ attention. “We’re strong believers in the use of digital in marketing. But in the case of trying to make a complex argument, we felt that sending someone a 25-pound book was going to make our point strongly.” 

New approach, new business

The strategy worked. Over the course of the 10-month campaign Klick received hundreds of calls, had dozens of meetings, and earned four new clients, which resulted in about $20 million of new business and more than a 330% return on investment. The digital-print campaign, Flaschner asserts, created new experiences for potential customers and is a remarkable way to connect.

“This was really a break-out branding piece for us,” he says. As a Toronto-based agency, marketers wanted to let potential clients in the United States know what Klick could do for them. He says that his team wanted to be innovative, which Flaschner defines as doing something that’s “not been done” and that gets results above and beyond previous campaigns.

“The combination of print and digital was innovative, for sure. A great big book from a digital company is actually pretty forward-thinking,” he says. “And the results from the new relationships that were started [from this campaign] were certainly innovative. We drove a lot of new business.”

To create the most innovative and integrated campaigns, Flaschner says that marketers should always be willing to step outside their comfort zone—even if it means doing something counterintuitive. “We’re always trying to create more of an impact,” he says. “And to be honest, I’m always a little bit nervous every time we try something that’s new. It’s always a bit scary, but exhilarating.” –Natasha D. Smith

Email Marketing Innovation: Citi

Email marketing may be mature, but that doesn’t make it lackluster—just look at Citi’s campaign for its Citi Simplicity Card. The company’s U.S. credit card division leveraged semantic algorithms and natural language processing to generate emails that resonated with existing customers on an emotional level and led them to open new credit card accounts. And although this was a novel approach for Citi, the financial services company was willing to test and learn to generate results.

Calculating the value of emotion

Citi wanted to use email to encourage existing customers to open a new Citi Simplicity Card account. But marketers at the financial services organization knew that credit cards weren’t exactly an enticing topic. So, for its new Citi Simplicity Card campaign, the team sought to turn dry subject lines and copy into engaging messages that would resonate with customers emotionally and, ultimately, get them to review the emailed credit card offer and click through to an application.

Investing in technology

To achieve its objectives, Citi began using Persado’s Persuasion Automation platform. The technology quantifies language and emotions by combing through a proprietary database of scored and tagged language components and then exploring different combinations through semantic algorithms and natural language processing. This enables the platform to mathematically derive relevant messages that drive actions.

“We wanted to take a non-traditional approach to [determine] how do we optimize our email?” Geoffrey Sanders, SVP of digital marketing for Citi’s U.S. credit cards division, said at the Direct Marketing News 2015 Marketing&Tech Innovation Summit in New York, emphasizing that Citi has a “very rigorous” test-and-learn culture.

In the initial exploration phase, Persado’s platform explored more than one million message variants before determining the top 16 through further analysis. Although the variants all contained the same offer, the messages varied in terms of calls-to-action, product features, and positioning. Using Citi’s CRM system, the companies then ran the Persado-generated messages against a sample audience to measure which messages generated the most engagement. After verifying which messages recipients engaged with the most, the companies ran a validation phase, in which they sent messages containing the most engaging elements to the remainder of Citi’s target audience.

Proving that risk-taking pays off

The campaign ran from April 16 to May 30, 2014. The results generated during that time frame are, according to Sanders, “staggering.” During the validation phase the Persado-generated subject lines produced a 65% lift in open rates compared to the control subject lines. What’s more, the Persado-generated email bodies experienced a 118% increase in click-through rates compared to the control messages. According to Citi, this lift directly correlated to a “significant increase” in card approvals.

“We learned that it was much more effective to have an emotional hook,” Sanders said. For instance, instead of filling its subject lines with financial jargon, Citi includes phrases that evoked a sense of urgency, such as “Don’t miss out,” or created feelings of appreciation, such as “Thanks for being a customer, here’s a reward,” Sanders said.

Part of Citi’s success can be attributed to its willingness to experiment and learn from the things they assumed might not work. As Sanders put it, “The results speak for themselves.” –Elyse Dupré

Marketing Automation Innovation: Lenovo

High-tech company Lenovo sought a soft touch to captivate its B2C site visitors. The challenge: Because the personal technology company didn’t require people to sign in to, the majority of its visitors were anonymous—making it difficult to tailor its website experience.

“If we know a little bit more about [visitors] than their site behavior, we might be able to serve up more relevant or more compelling content that talks to that specific demographic,” says Siping Roussin, senior manager of optimization and personalization for Lenovo. “That was our hypothesis going into it.”

The solution: Marketing automation. Using Neustar and Adobe Target, Lenovo took what were anonymous site visitors and married their behavioral information with demographic data to segment them. The company then served those segments relevant content on its site to rouse engagement and spur conversion. Along the way Lenovo marketers convinced skeptical senior executives with traditional, offline mind-sets that targeting consumers online would produce profitable results.

Identifying the unidentifiable

Using Neustar’s ElementOne Analytics Platform, Lenovo was able to ping Neustar every time someone visited the site. Neustar would then try to match that visitor’s cookie with an Element ID code, which was determined by aligning the cookie with attributes inside its database. If Neustar was able to make a match, it would send the code back to Lenovo. Lenovo would then input all of the attributes that aligned with this cookie—such as age and household makeup—into its own analytics platform, record it, and link it to that visitor’s behavior. Through Adobe Target and Neustar’s PageAdvisor solution, Lenovo would then segment its visitors and deliver customized content in its banner ads and on its site—all within a matter of milliseconds.

During the pilot program Lenovo aligned its segmented site visitors with different product profiles, and then served images that linked them. For instance, if Lenovo learned that a site visitor came from a household with children, it would show that visitor an image of a family gathered around one of its multimode devices.

“Previously, we would have [shown] just a product shot,” Roussin says. “Now, we’re actually incorporating a little bit more of the lifestyle into it.”

Putting marketing automation to the test

Happy with its progress, but not satisfied with resting on initial success, Lenovo’s marketers began testing. One was to determine whether the online users Neustar was able to match had a propensity to be more tech savvy than the site visitors Neustar couldn’t match. To avoid any biases, Lenovo had a control group of anonymous site visitors that Neustar couldn’t match, a hold-out group within the population of site visitors Neustar could match that were shown generic experiences, and site visitors Neustar could match that were shown targeted experiences, Roussin explains.

Through additional testing and segmentation, Lenovo’s marketers also identified which groups didn’t fit the product profiles they initially predicted as matches. For example, the marketers originally thought that Lenovo’s multimode products—like the ThinkPad Yoga, which can serve as a laptop and tablet—would resonate with millennials. But after reviewing the data, the organization’s marketers determined that young families were the ones who were most interested in those products, Roussin says.

Producing results that resonate

Lenovo’s segmentation and testing paid off. The company primarily considered onsite “stickiness” (i.e., engagement), conversion, and revenue per visitor as success measures. Lenovo’s personalized banners experienced a 30% increase in click-through rates compared to its generic ads. What’s more, by creating a more relevant experience for its site visitors, Lenovo was able to increase its order conversion rate by 40% and its revenue per visitor by 25%. When annualized, the company experienced a 28% increase in order conversions and revenue per visitor.

As for future improvements, Roussin says that Lenovo is looking to further refine its segments and see if it can tie in data from its contact centers. She adds that the company is also aiming to work with its retail team to drive visitors to specific stores based on their geographic data.

But Roussin knows that technology isn’t the only asset that will help Lenovo achieve its goals; it also takes support within the organization to just get started.

“Every single technology—you can get it to work,” she says. “What it comes down to is execution: getting people on board…[and] figuring out roles and responsibilities…. Don’t overthink it. Get things launched so you can actually see the results and tweak it if needed.” –Elyse Dupré 

Mobile Marketing Innovation: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals  

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is known for many things, but none more so than its history as a magnet for highly engaged advocates. Those fans have become increasingly mobile, so PETA’s marketers knew that it had to adapt to retain that magnetism.

“It used to be that people would just open an email and click a link to take action. When we saw that our supporters were going mobile, we figured we’d expand our reach to where they were,” says Lori Painter, director of marketing and engagement at PETA. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to take action for animals, no matter where they are.”

PETA isn’t alone in its desire for mobile engagement; many businesses have prioritized the channel. But PETA’s approach to mobile is unique—and simple. PETA found that its supporters actually prefer SMS for some communications. “We sent out this text message using [mobile marketing company] Waterfall’s technology, and saw really great participation rates. Higher than we ever saw through email,” Painter says. “After that we started doing more tests. The mobile thing was very new to us then so we went slowly. We didn’t want to piss people off by sending them too many text messages.”

Activism made simple

PETA has been honing its mobile skills using simplistic messaging, which proved key in connecting with its adult audience. Initial testing led to PETA’s Reply Y campaign: PETA sends periodic texts about a new issue; if recipients want to take action on that issue they Reply Y and PETA will automatically take a cited action (e.g., send an email, sign a petition) for them. 

“We got on a regular schedule of doing it and found that people really love it,” Painter continues. “If we missed a week for whatever reason, people would ask.”

As the Reply Y campaign grew and became more successful, PETA began work on its image-oriented Instant Advocacy campaign to engage adult advocates, as well as its PETA 2 audience (its youth branch).

“[Instant Advocacy] is our newer program, and that focuses on using mobile and social media,” Painter says. “Adults and teens are always on Facebook, Instagram, and the like, so we felt [Instant Advocacy] would make sense for both audiences.” The Instant Advocacy program uses compelling visuals to engage PETA supporters, while maintaining integration across social platforms by tying specific codes to the images and requesting action.

Eventually, PETA began incorporating elements of Instant Advocacy into its Reply Y campaign, as well. “Reply Y used to just be a text message where we try to educate people in 160 characters, and we got pretty good at it. Now, what we could do in a text we can now do with an image,” Painter explains. “Participation rates are even higher [with MMS] than what we were seeing with traditional Reply Y messages.”

Social isn’t the only channel integrated with mobile. PETA uses Waterfall to deliver targeted follow-up emails after sending its personalized mobile messages; PETA’s marketers then track the ways receipients take action to understand the interplay between the channels.

Picture perfect

Simplicity works. Campaign performance has surpassed PETA’s expectations. Its SMS campaigns average more than a 20% conversion rate; 50% of those respondents take action within two minutes of receving a text. Reply Y respondents took more than 100,000 actions in Q3 2014. MMS campaign response is even higher. “We’re now seeing 35% participation rates in MMS,” Painter notes. “People love it.”

Additionally, PETA’s mobile advocacy campaigns have prompted month-over-month growth to its mobile subscriber database; its overall mobile subscriber base grew by 16% in 2014. –Perry Simpson

Social Marketing Innovation: Translation/State Farm

More so than many other industries, price drives much of the conversation about insurance. State Farm wanted to change the discussion. So, it approached ad agency Translation to help leverage its NBA sponsorship to do just that.

“[We] were tasked with figuring out how to bring State Farm and basketball together. I was doing some social listening around how brands interact with basketball and found that everyone seemed to be talking about dunks,” says Russell Pinke, associate director of analytics at Translation. “We knew it would be difficult to get State Farm into a space with dunking; it just didn’t fit with the brand.”

So Pinke dug further. Using data from social media analytics company Crimson Hexagon, Pinke and his team found a dearth of conversation about the assist. “We felt the assist is such an important part of the game, but the only thing people talk about is dunks, so we started playing around with the idea of the assist,” he says.

Playing up assists served two distinct purposes: capitalizing on an underappreciated aspect of basketball while driving conversation about it, and, at the same time, emphasizing State Farm’s commitment to providing high-quality service—assisting, as it were.

“The original strategy for the campaign was all about Magic Johnson,” Pinke explains. “[Johnson] made the assist sexy. He was the first guy to do the no-look pass and the behind-the-back pass. We thought it would be cool to highlight this all-star assister. As we got further along it felt necessary to have someone who was really active in the current NBA. That’s where Chris Paul came in.”

Getting in the game

Instead of simply inserting the L.A. Clippers point guard into the campaign, Pinke’s team opted to create a doppelganger of Paul named Cliff Paul, a fictional twin who specializes in assists and functions as a brand metaphor for service.

State Farm introduced Cliff Paul in a commercial called “Born to Assist.” Following the success of that spot, State Farm and Translation launched a fully integrating social campaign dedicated to bringing Cliff Paul to life. It included an activation campaign during NBA All-Star Weekend that used green-screen technology to feature both Chris and Cliff Paul simultaneously engaging with fans. The campaign was designed to encourage social conversation. “We gained 7,000 Twitter followers the day [“Born to Assist”] aired, and by the time we pulled our [green-screen] stunt at All-Star Weekend we were trending,” Pinke says. Fans rallied behind the hashtag #IsCliffReal, and with them came a storm of user-generated content.

“People really latched on to the character, [so] we started to go crazy with it,” Pinke adds. His team began ideating an official sneaker for Cliff and even had him added to the roster on 2K Sports’ NBA 2K13 game, a feat largely made possible by the character’s fans. “We found that people were creating custom characters [in the game] that looked like Cliff, so we pushed to add him,” he says.

The assist is a slam dunk

The Cliff Paul campaign led to 500,000 YouTube views in its first week and 400 million Twitter impressions. It’s generated more than half a million organic social mentions, resulting in more than 1.2 billion social impressions, which includes 30,000 more Twitter followers and 80,000 more Instagram followers, all through organic social media. –Perry Simpson

Stars of MarTech

Data Scientist: Kevin Geraghty, SVP of Advanced Analytics and Decision Sciences, 360i
Marketing tech’s not rocket science, you say? Think again. You’ve heard of Kalman filtering, right? No? Well, Kalman filtering, otherwise known as linear quadratic estimation, relies on the measurement of “noise” or random variations occurring over time to estimate the future occurrence of as yet unknown variables to inform guidance systems for spacecraft or…to reverse-engineer the Google Quality Score.

That last achievement rests on the CV of this year’s Stars of MarTech: Data Scientist Award winner Kevin Geraghty. While rocket scientists use Kalman filtering to search for inhabitable planets, Geraghty uses rocket science to help clients of 360i fully inhabit search strategies. The Geraghty-led team of data scientists at the digital agency developed an API process to identify non-obvious online opportunities, as well as a bidding model for search auctions that predict the economic value of a keyword.

That latter invention was where Kalman came in. Because most keywords don’t generate enough data to make reliable calls on future performance, Geraghty’s team pioneered the use of natural language processing to base predictions on the linguistic similarity of different key words. They then tracked keyword performance for clients and updated search media bids accordingly.

In one case, Geraghty and his team journeyed into client CubeSmart’s internal revenue management process to keep the mini-storage firm’s compartments, and its coffers, full. Using 360i’s data integration capabilities, they homed in on marketing data for each of 520 properties by unit type. Geraghty led the development of a highly detailed advertising targeting strategy using revenue management (the same technique used to sell airline tickets for maximum prices based on cost and inventory) to take account of CubeSmart’s price position relative to the competition. When there were fluctuations in availability or competitive pricing, 360i automatically focused CubeSmart’s advertising to market select properties, units, and prices to consumers. When inventory was scarce, the algorithm automatically redirected customers to nearby properties with openings.  

In an initial test of the the CubeSmart program, reservations were down 20% in control properties, but they were up 190% in properties using the systems designed by Geraghty and Company. Now, that’s what you call rocket-boosting.

Marketing Technologist: Liz Pedro, Director of Customer Success Marketing, Mitel
Prestidigitation is a marvelous word. From the French, it literally means “ready-fingeredness” and is a term expressly reserved for magicians, not marketing technologists. A new word may be needed—perhaps “presticerviation,” or ready-brainedness—to describe the sleight of hand Liz Pedro performed on behalf of Mitel last year.

When Pedro joined the telecommunications solutions provider in November 2013, it didn’t have a customer reference program. It did almost immediately upon her arrival and, within months, had accumulated more than 400 references. She soon ramped up the customer outreach with Mitel Champions, an advocate marketing program with 1,600 brand fans. The magic happened when Pedro invited all employees of the company to become advocates. Soon, her advocacy program metamorphosed into a marketing platform that helped boost lead generation, social shares, and partner education.

As Mitel prepared for the launch of Phase 1 of its rebranding efforts last October, for example, Pedro’s team began feeding challenges for creative suggestions into the Mitel Champion site. The challenges were seeded to engage with Mitel employees and get them involved with the customer advocates. Before launch day, Mitel workers worldwide generated 350 ideas.

Entering challenges into Mitel Champions became standard operating procedure for strategy planning at the company. “We’re engaging with our advocates like never before. We interact with them on a daily basis,” Pedro said. “We took a product meant for customer advocacy and turned it into one of Mitel’s most valuable marketing tools.” –Al Urbanski

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