Live From DMA06: Integration of Brand and Direct Is Critical

(Direct) San Francisco–As marketers have an increased need to be accountable and make their advertising dollars go further, the brand/direct connection is becoming more important, said Karen Ebben, director of CRM modeling and program evaluation for General Motors, during a panel discussion here on Monday. “You don’t want to waste any kind of contact.”

“A few years ago, we wouldn’t have even been discussing brand,” said Marjorie Kalter, professor/graduate program director for New York University. Kalter moderated the session with Neil Feinstein, director of creative strategy for TrueNorth.

At Home Depot, the integration of brand and direct is critical, said Linda Spellman, director of multichannel business for the big-box retailer. With its print catalog, Home Depot was looking to “enhance, extend, and expand” its brand imprint, she said.

Not surprisingly, many of Home Depot’s retail customers are male. The catalog was a way to go after the desirable affluent female marketplace. The benefit of Home Depot’s strong retail brand identity is that people know they can go to the store or the Website for a $100 table saw. But what many people don’t realize is that they can also turn to the company to pick up a nice $1,300 sofa.

Home Depot’s first print catalog, in 2004, featured on its front cover an automated paint roller, a product people would typically associate with the store. Subsequent covers moved closer to the home furnishings niche the company wanted to occupy. The next cover,for instance, depicted a kitchen setting. The following year, the cover showed a family-oriented bathroom scene (complete with fuzzy bathmat and rubber ducky), and later in the year a fireplace setting was offered.

Gevalia used the same control for its direct mail for 11 years, said Leona Lindner, marketing director for the Kraft Foods’ coffee brand. The creative featured what Lindner jokingly called the “big honking premium,” a free coffee maker. But as the superpremium coffee market became more competitive, the company realized it needed to make the brand promise “more relevant to the consumer.”

The company knew that Gevalia’s attributes were its European heritage, smooth taste, and high quality, among other things. The control had to be tweaked to highlight that, said Lindner.

The new creative took a “Try it. Keep it” approach, with the former referring to the coffee and the latter to the coffee maker. Photos of cups of coffee were prominently added to the mailing pieces, to create an image of the end product that consumers would be getting. And a brown and gold color palette that seemed warm and rich was used in all advertising.

Brand integration is vital to GM, said Ebben. Annually about 17 million vehicles are sold in the United States, and only 1%-1.5% of adults are in the market for a new vehicle each year. On a good day, GM has 25% of that audience. Four used cars are sold for every new car.

Add to those numbers the fact that cars are expensive and generally not the kind of purchase a person has to make on a particular day, and you have a competitive market.

When it needed to create a buzz for the Pontiac Solstice and attract a younger, hipper audience for the new vehicle, GM decided to issue a limited edition of the first 1,000 vehicles off the assembly line.

The car was featured on “The Apprentice,” and a 30-second spot was aired right after the boardroom segment on April 14, 2005. At 2 p.m. the next day, people could go to their dealership to try and buy one of the limited editions.

A promotional Website was set up where people could get a unique ID number to register to try to get one of the vehicles; 41,000 people registered for the chance to place an order. Web traffic was up 255% over normal, and up 1,500% for a Saturday. The first 1,000 vehicles were sold in 41 minutes.

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