Is Your DTC Brand Recession-Ready?

April 10 2023

BY PETER SAYN-WITTGENSTEIN, PUBLISHED DECEMBER 20, 2022 ON TRANSFORM MAGAZINE

No one needs to be told today that consumer wallets are stressed. Inflation is running high, interest rates are rising, and a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics found that more than half of US economists believe that the US is headed into a recession in the next 12 months.

If you are a brand that primarily sells direct to consumer (DTC), this could put you on high alert. With a business model that relies heavily on customer acquisition and limited marketing channels, even a slight drop in consumer spending can pose a threat. Worse still, no one is exactly sure what a successful recession playbook looks like for DTC brands. The last major downturn happened in 2008/9, long before DTC-friendly platforms like Instagram went mainstream.

The market certainly reflects the uncertainty, with DTC stocks like Stitchfix, Blue Apron, and Warby Parker at historic lows. While each of these companies has its own unique issues, the rocky road that’s probably ahead isn’t doing them any favors.

Still, DTC brands shouldn’t hit the panic button just yet. In the first place, downturns typically don’t last long. According to Kiplinger, the average recession since World War II has only been 11.1 months long. Brands that manage to stay the course should view tough times as an opportunity to come out stronger than before.

In addition, they have plenty of ways to maximize their chances. If you’re looking to do more than survive the coming recession, here at some things to consider:

Stay the course on advertising. While it may seem counter intuitive to keep up your spending levels, it’s imperative for DTC brands to maintain visibility during a crisis. A recent article by Kantar lays out the case, showing that the average short-term sales lift from advertising is 4.5%, meaning that if you rely on two major campaigns a year, you’ll lose 9% of your revenue. A Metrilo study also found that DTC loyalty is only around 28% on average (vs. 50% for CPG brands, according to Kantar), making it imperative for them to stay visible and keep adding customers.

Fish in other ponds. Most DTC brands concentrate their ad spending in a few channels. As smaller players, they become adept and innovative advertisers on one of two platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok, and Amazon. As other brands drop their advertising, the cost of entry into new platforms will also likely fall. This gives you an opportunity to diversify your outreach to an entirely new customer set. A particularly promising idea is to go from a pure social media play to addressable TV, where you can connect with consumers in a more robust and intimate way.

Get creative with bundles. Dropping prices is never a smart strategy because it conditions customers to pay less for your products and services. But you can still lower the cost of entry for your brand, which is vital for attracting new customers with less spending power. Your nine-piece knife set can easily become three or four. You can bundle, cross-promote, and also repackage your products to meet consumers where their wallets are today.

Reward loyalty. Repeat customers are always the best customers, but just how valuable they are may surprise you. The same Metrilo study cited above found that loyal customers account for 60% of DTC sales on average. In some categories, like pet products and high-performance clothing, the rate is even higher. So, either develop or lean heavily on your loyalty program during the current climate. Communicate often, offer incentives and rewards more quickly, and be sure customers know where and how to purchase your products.

Perhaps we’ll get lucky, and the recession will fail to materialize (the most recent positive jobs report was encouraging). But whatever happens, DTC brands should enter this period with a laser focus on their present and future customers. The ones that plan for the recovery will do much better than those that prepare for disaster.

Walled Gardens Versus The Open Internet

April 10 2023
BY PETER SAYN-WITTGENSTEIN, PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 16, 2022 ON MEDIAPOST.COM

Being a technology marketer is more challenging than ever. By nature, the solutions and services you need to promote are complex. On top of that, you’re often dealing with multiple audience segments for the same product—each one having a different level of technical understanding.

That doesn’t add up to easy decision-making when it comes to deploying your digital marketing budget.

For most marketers, the default approach is to go with one of the 800-pound gorillas in the room like the Google Display Network, Meta Audience Network or Amazon Advertising. These walled gardens offer easy scale, but is their ‘take our word for it’ approach to data the right choice for your objectives? On the flip side, is the open internet (aka everyone else). Could your dollars be working harder for your brand outside the big three’s comforting walls?

Let’s take a closer look.

WALLED GARDENS

Walled gardens are closed ecosystems where one entity controls access to the audience, technology and ad inventory. Let’s take Facebook as an example. As a user, you log in, search, like, share, comment, then pop over to Instagram and go down a rabbit hole or two. That’s all juicy data that helps Mark Zuckerberg paint a reasonably detailed picture of who you are and what you like. Now multiply that by about three billion. The sum of all that data is the carrot that Facebook dangles in front of marketers—and they’re more than eager to pay for access. According to eMarketer, Meta, Google and Amazon are on track to gobble up 64% of the ~$200 billion spent on digital ads in the U.S. in 2022.

PROS

SCALE MADE EASY

With so much data at their disposal, walled gardens offer incredible targeting capabilities. Want to get your message to CTOs on the west coast who just started a new job, are interested in PaaS solutions, and like pickleball? Click, click, click. Done. The ability to easily leverage that type of precision at scale is incredibly enticing and can be monumentally powerful.

NO COOKIE, NO PROBLEM

Marketers have been mourning the death of third-party cookies for years. These little ID markers follow you around the internet from an originating site (or ad) and spit back your data, compiling a robust profile of who you are. Privacy advocates cheered when Apple and Mozilla (Firefox) blocked their use, and with Google Chrome phasing them out starting in 2024, it will truly be the end of an era. But let’s remember the key words: ‘third’ and ‘party.’ The beauty of walled gardens is that their world is built on logged-in users. That means their data profiles are based on Grade A, first-party audience tracking. And there’s no opting out of that.

CONSIDERATIONS

ME DATA ES SU DATA

The price of the convenience and scale you get with walled gardens is a lack of transparency. While the networks that run your ads, like Google and Facebook, get to see and keep all the granular data your campaign creates, marketers are only provided with vague success metrics (like impressions and clicks). It’s very much a black box. In fact, the data your ads generate are more likely to benefit your competitors who are after a similar audience as it will have helped the walled garden refine target behaviors. 

HAVE WE MET BEFORE?

It makes sense to build a marketing plan around your customer journey—especially in tech, where the awareness and consideration cycles tend to be longer. The challenge with walled gardens is that they, um, have walls. There is no easy way to apply the insights gleaned from one walled garden to another. That’s largely intentional. Facebook, Google and Amazon return very few insights that can be acted on or applied to other properties to help optimize your campaign. What you end up with are a series of silos that not only take more energy to manage and orchestrate, but the approach flies in the face of customer-centricity. This can result in situations where you end up using top-of-the-funnel creative on a prospect that is actually deep in the decision-making phase. A wasted opportunity that you’ll never know about.

THE OPEN INTERNET

Outside the gilded walls of Facebook, Google, Amazon and the like is the open internet. From a marketing perspective, its millions of digital properties are stitched together by dozens of AdTech companies that either help companies buy ad inventory (Demand Side Platforms) or help publishers sell it (Supply Side Platforms) through ad exchanges. Some of these companies, like The Trade Desk, are trying to consolidate the inherent power of the open internet by offering a connected marketing realm that gives brands a broad spectrum of inventory (from websites to streaming TV) and full data transparency.

PROS

DATA ALL DAY LONG

No black boxes here. AdTech firms use their own data and data marketplaces to help you create precise audience profiles and even extend upon them with lookalike modeling. Once your campaign is in the market, the data you get is objective, detailed and actionable. This means that if a user watches your brand video ad on Site A, you’ll know to move them down the funnel with a product ad on an industry website they’re likely to visit next. The power to control, sequence and optimize your message across a broader range of the customer journey is something that walled gardens simply can’t replicate.

SAFE ISN’T SOUND

It’s easy to tell your boss that you’re allocating the bulk of your budget to a name like Google or Facebook. They’re big, they’re trusted, and they deliver volume. But safe isn’t what sets brands apart. There is tremendous potential in running a smart, responsive campaign on less-tread-on (but more relevant) properties and mediums that the open internet can deliver.

CONSIDERATIONS

FRAGMENTED THOUGHTS

With walled gardens, you know who sets the rules. While Google’s process and data definitions differ from Facebook’s, there’s one source of truth when dealing with each of them. There’s a certain comfort in not having any options. With the open internet, on the other hand, there are loads of competitors, each with different perspectives on how they can benefit your brand—and how they’re better than the ad platform down the street. Option paralysis can set in, making it more tempting to default to the expected choice.

MEET THE NEW BOSS…

If third-party cookies are no more, then how will companies outside of walled gardens stay relevant by capturing data that enables targeting? By creating cookies that aren’t cookies, of course. The Trade Desk is leading the charge by proposing Unified ID 2.0. It’s a system that would give every user an open source, encrypted ID based on their email address. It sounds good in theory as it removes personally identifying information from the equation. However, for it to be effective, users will have to log in to every digital property that becomes part of the Unified universe. While they have some big names on board already (Buzzfeed, FuboTV, Foursquare), critics suggest that it would just create another walled garden, albeit a bigger, more inclusive one.

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

The battle between the walled titans and the open internet is just beginning. The nice part is that, as a tech marketer, you don’t have to choose sides. But you do have to look at all the options—and beyond cookie-cutter media plans. And when you find the right mix, hit it hard with creative that’s impossible to ignore. There’s no bigger shame than having a bold tactical plan that’s failed by work that doesn’t differentiate.

The Gig Economy – 5 Ways To Create A Deep Bench Of Freelance Talent

April 10 2023
HOW BRANDS AND AGENCIES CAN PRODUCE CONSISTENTLY GREAT WORK IN A FREELANCE WORLD.

BY KRISTIE BROWN, PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 21, 2022 ON ADAGE.COM

Agencies and brands realize that full-time employees, and especially the creative ones, probably aren’t working just for them. Whether it’s for friends, non-profits or even to build an independent business of their own, most people in the industry do side gigs.

Creative people need to express themselves in different media, build their skill sets outside their core capabilities, and earn a little extra cash too. It’s also no secret that many agencies use a rotating bench of freelancers. Even the largest never have all the people and capabilities they need in-house.

After years in which agencies favored open offices that meant to facilitate collaboration, the pandemic taught everyone that they could work just fine from home. That’s led plenty of creatives to ditch the employee model in favor of one where they get to set the rules.

This has been both a blessing and a curse—freelancers frequently have the experience a job needs while clients have the right to creative continuity. If they’ve hired an agency for its portfolio, they should not get whatever set of teams it can throw together at a given moment. They paid for a certain level of quality, and they should get it.

To make this happen, agencies and brands need to fix the freelance models of the past. They can no longer hire independent workers from temp agencies for specific roles and discard them when they are no longer needed. They need to realize that what a modern team looks like—a hybrid, dispersed group of talented individuals working together but often remotely. They need to build durable connections with talent both in and outside of their offices. Here’s how they can get it right:

HAVE A STRONG CORE

To ensure continuity, you still need full-time employees in key roles. This team does not have to be large, but it should contain the account leads who are going to interface with the brand daily, the key creative people who will be the ultimate overseers the project and a technology lead as well. Make this core team available to your clients; they should be the face of the effort.

WORK WITH THE SAME VENDORS

Limit the size of your freelance pool to the extent possible. Build reliable relationships with freelancers who have the skills and experience to support you in a broad range of activities. Not every agency, for example, has a great video capability. So, find a production team that is a good match for you and use them consistently.

THINK PERMALANCER, NOT FREELANCER

While freelancers don’t want full-time jobs, they appreciate consistent levels of work. It’s best to give them retainers for 10 hours a week or 30 hours a month, rather than hire them on a project basis. Buy their time, manage it correctly and use it efficiently. The more they know that they’re going to work with you, the more they’re likely to be around the next time you need them.

GIVE THEM CREDIT

Agencies have long obscured the role of freelancers in their work. This has always seemed to me a small-minded practice. When it comes to giving credit, even with awards, make sure that everyone who works on a project is equally recognized. This is basic fairness, but it also increases the loyalty of your temporary workforce.

RECOMMEND THEM

Agencies have also been reluctant to recommend their freelancers to others. The logic is that you can keep that talent to yourself (and maybe keep prices low). You’re not doing them or yourself any favors this way. Just like creatives in your own agency, freelancers benefit from a wide range of experiences and opportunities. The more they develop, the more valuable they will be to you.

While every agency relies on freelancers, they rarely put much thought or investment into them. But with so many great people opting to work in the gig economy, brands and agencies need to embrace this reality with forethought and strategy. Merely because someone is giving you 10% of their time doesn’t mean that you should treat them as 10% of an employee.

Instead, build close relationships with your talented freelancers, use them consistently and treat them fairly. It’s always much better to have a deep bench of available talent than a rotating cast of unfamiliar faces.

Maximizing Value Marketing In Unprecedented Economic Times

April 10 2023
BY AHAB NIMRY, PUBLISHED JANUARY 31, 2023 ON CLICKZ.COM

Apple’s advertising has taken an unusual turn. A recent video promoting iPhone 14, for example, starts with a darkened shot of a helicopter and helmeted workers frantically sprinting toward it. Called “The Rescue,” it touts the phone’s ability to text via satellite if you lose yourself in the wilderness far from a cell phone tower. Another recent video promotes the device’s car crash detection, while a similar Apple Watch spot touts its survivability in extreme circumstances. Why is it focusing on these value propositions?

https://youtu.be/4MZm-rhNd9U

THESE ARE DARK, IF NOT UNCERTAIN, TIMES

Well, Apple has always been particularly good at getting the Zeitgeist right. And it is certainly reflecting something in the air. War, unrest, and inflation have driven huge spikes in food and energy prices, and unnerved consumers around the world. That said, the latest data also shows that major economies may be avoiding the worst of their fears. Unemployment remains near historic lows, and the US GDP rose an unexpected 2.9% in Q3 2022. The most recent inflation numbers are looking up, and in spite of dire warnings from economists, Adobe Analytics reported record online Black Friday sales of more than $9.12 billion.

Countless publications consistently tout the economic climate we find ourselves in as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘uncertain.’ Inflation is straining wallets, but are things bad as they seem? How can brands build a little more certainty into their world? The answer may lie in a different aspect of the dark Apple ads: An urgent focus on value marketing and the critical utility they deliver. Here’s how to get it right.

HOW TO DRIVE VALUE MARKETING

VALUE MARKETING: GO BIGGER OR GO HOME

Chances are today, you’re facing a constrained marketing budget. Even though plenty of authorities, including The Harvard Business Review, consider this the wrong choice, it’s a fact of life for many marketers. If so, circumstances may tempt you to check your turn to less expensive advertising outlets, like social media. A better idea is to up the intensity of your ads. Take the risks you have always known you should. Make sure that whatever you create is so memorable that it makes up for the lack of volume. Apple is certainly taking risks by going dark and upping the intensity of its advertising. And you can do the same.

LEVEL UP YOUR PRODUCT INFORMATION

The best way to reassure cautious consumers is with valuable information. You should make sure that people can find everything they need to make an informed decision. This needs to be on every platform where they encounter your products. That includes third-party marketplaces. Of course, it’s a huge job to make sure every Amazon and Walmart product and search results page has all of the information it needs. If so, you may want to consider hiring an outside e-commerce agency or accelerator to ensure consistency across every available touchpoint. Also, remember that informative doesn’t have to mean boring. Cash App, for example, has used celebrities like Megan Thee StallionMax Verstappen, and Kendrick Lamar to bring to life dry concepts like spending plans, cryptocurrency, and the value of compound interest.

CHAMPION YOUR BRAND’S CATEGORY

In tough times, you may need not merely to convince customers why your product is the best. They may need to learn why they need such a product in the first place. That’s why it’s always important to tout the benefits of the entire category that contains your product or service. Health product and nutraceutical companies tend to be exceptionally good at this, often focusing on the overall value of a particular diet or supplement rather than why their version of it is best. In a totally different category, ARAG Legal has been using a series of blog posts and humorous ads that teach people and small businesses alike what legal insurance is and why they need it.

CONNECT TO HOLISTIC BENEFITS

A recent survey found that 70% of consumers define an excellent consumer experience as one that shows a strong relationship with the brand and evokes a feeling of “happiness.” As a result, it’s a good idea to ask yourself what your brand does to make its customers’ lives better. An energy drink might tout its ability to help scattered people concentrate. A sleep app may point to the overall health benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. But whatever you say, you should make sure it aligns strongly with your brand’s values and those of your customers.

POSITION THE BRAND AS A NECESSITY

With “The Rescue,” Apple has positioned its iPhone as not merely a luxury or convenience, but a life-and-death necessity. This was a major effort. To do so, it first innovated to add a satellite cell phone feature and then created an ad with high production values to make the case for it. Yes, not every brand will want to go this dark or has an opportunity to position itself as a lifesaver. But the more you prove the indispensability of your brand, the better.

WHY VALUE MARKETING CAN HELP BRANDS THRIVE IN 2023

The coming year will hopefully not bring as many unwelcome shocks as 2022 and some pleasant surprises. But consumers will remain wary. In such an environment, value marketing may be the best insurance policy brands can achieve. If people are tightening their belts, you need to make sure you’re giving them solid reasons to buy. Great marketing may gain you plenty of eyeballs. But unless you can make a practical case for your product after you grab their attention, it’s unlikely you’ll overcome their rational reluctance to spend their money.

2022 One Club Awards: A Big Night for Big Day!

November 18 2022

It’s not often you get the opportunity to shine brighter than blinking ice cubes, but that’s what happened to us at the 2022 San Diego One Awards. While the tiny blue squares lit up our cocktails like a warehouse rave, Big Day proceeded to have an even bigger night. We one-upped the blue cubes and grabbed everyone’s attention by winning 3 Gold trophies, 2 Silver trophies, 1 Bronze trophy and the crème de la crème, the Best in Show Award! (See the full list of our winning entries below.) 

Img
The blinking ice cubes doing their thing.

The last twenty months have been the greatest thrill ride of our lives. We’ve accomplished so much and we’re incredibly thankful for our amazing clients who’ve entrusted us with their brands. We never take it for granted and we wouldn’t be here without our bold and collaborative partners. The work that was recognized included a Casper TV commercial and social media execution, a giant out-of-home campaign for Guru, standout email marketing for the Royal Caribbean Group, and a short form video for HexClad featuring Gordon Ramsay. 

The fact that we even have these amazing opportunities makes the Big Day experience so special. We also couldn’t have done it without the dedication of our team and our production partners, in addition to the inspiration we receive from our San Diego ad community. All of the work awarded was stellar and it shows that the state of San Diego creative is strong. 

We’re constantly motivated by the people we work with, the relationships we’ve built, and the feelings we create through our work. They’ve got us to where we are and they’ll continue to drive us into a bright 2023. Get the blinking blue ice cubes ready.

BEST IN SHOW:
Casper – Dream Machine :30   |   Film/Moving Image: Television & VOD – Short form

GOLD:
Casper – Dream Machine :60   |   Film/Moving Image: Television & VOD – Long form
Casper – Goblin mode   |   Social Media: Social Post – Campaign
Guru – Brand Awareness Campaign   |   Marketing: Billboard & Transit

SILVER:
HexClad – Hybrid Revolution   |   Film/Moving Image: Television & VOD – Short form
Royal Caribbean Group   |   Marketing: Email & Newsletter

BRONZE:
Hexclad – Hexagon   |   Film/Moving Image: Television & VOD – Short form

Clutch Names Big Day the Agency as San Diego’s Finest Advertising Agency for 2022

July 11 2022

Having a unique perspective is key in the advertising and marketing world, especially in the ultra-competitive B2B space. And that’s where Big Day the Agency stands out. They’re a San Diego-based creative agency that’s all about defying ordinary to create powerful brands and unmistakable campaigns. Founded in 2020, they are a team that’s not shy to take on daunting challenges and deliver incredible results.

During the most recent Clutch Leaders Awards, Big Day the Agency was officially included in the 2022 list of the best-performing advertising agencies in San Diego, California. 

“Being recognized as one of Clutch’s top agencies is a real honor. Clutch evaluates firms based on real client reviews and the ability to deliver. And, for us, that’s what it’s all about.” — Peter Sayn-Wittgenstein, Co-Founder, Big Day the Agency

Clutch is a B2B review and rating website from Washington DC designed to help companies connect with trusted service providers. Each year, countless B2B companies are evaluated to see their thought leadership, industry expertise, and stellar customer service. According to Clutch’s latest research, Big Day the Agency is among the outstanding firms that made it on their esteemed Leaders Rankings for our industry.

Emerging Traveler Types Marketers Can’t Afford to Ignore

September 9 2021

Get to know the new normal’s new travel segments. These are crucial audiences to consider in your marketing plans because their influence on the travel ecosystem is already being felt—and will only continue to grow.

2021 Travel Mindset Survey: 5 Trends Travel Marketers Should Know

September 9 0021

The last year has been the most difficult in the modern travel age. But, as vaccinations take hold and restrictions ease, the prospect of a massive rebound in tourist activity is at the top of every travel marketer’s mind.

To get a sense for the psyche of the American traveler, Big Day conducted a survey to gauge their motivations, concerns and expectations—valuable information when planning and executing travel marketing campaigns.

1. REVENGE TRAVEL IS REAL

Americans are ready to make up for lost time with over 42% of respondents looking to take more trips in the next 12 months than they would in the same span pre-pandemic. Attitudes have shifted as well with over 40% of people saying they are more eager to travel now than they were before lockdown. Another 34% are just as eager as they were before—a great sign.  

Travel Marketer Takeaway: With more people more eager to take more trips, now is the time to get in front of your potential customers. Don’t wait for the recovery, create it by ensuring that your brand and marketing is as enticing as the destinations they’re promoting.

2. NEW OPPORTUNITIES AWAIT

Bubbles be damned. One might expect a flight to familiarity and comfort coming out of lockdown, but more than 45% of respondents told us that they are going to travel somewhere new for their next trip. 

Travel Marketer Takeaway: It could be that lockdown had them longing to check off some Bucket List destinations. It could also be as simple as a desire for a total change of scenery. Regardless, this gives you license to market yourself outside your comfort zone. Look at new geographies and segments. And if your core market is set then consider focusing on what’s new (remodels, upgrades, etc.) or different (packages, services, etc.) about your offering.

3. IT’S TIME TO REDEFINE THE FAMILY GETAWAY

It’s no surprise that the desire to see family and friends for the first time in potentially over a year topped the list of motivations for travel (40%). What’s interesting is that just around 30% of respondents were more motivated by the idea of experiencing new cultures or adventuring outside their comfort zone. 

Travel Marketer Takeaway: This is a a great time to position yourself as a destination for family or group get-togethers. Grandma’s house may no longer be the best spot, especially with health and safety guidelines still in effect. And to target those looking for culture and adventure, don’t be limited by your pre-Covid preconceptions. Look for ways to elevate the aspects in and around your destination that cater to those looking for something new and different.

4. THE BOOKING IS ONLY THE BEGINNING

It’s tempting to focus on selling the dream of travel, but Americans are telling us that they get just as much joy out of the details. Over 65% of respondents actually prefer the planning and researching phase of travel compared to the around 35% who more enjoy daydreaming about their getaway. 

Travel Marketer Takeaway: There is great potential in engaging your customers after they’ve made their booking. And the best way to do that is to provide value in the form of information and insights. So, look for ways to follow up with meaningful tips, advice and information that will aid in their own discovery process. Pre-trip email programs that act as a virtual concierge are fantastic. Also look to participate or be present in objective communication channels like review boards and chat forums.

5. GO BEYOND THE BASICS WITH HEALTH & SAFETY TRANSPARENCY

As you might expect, the top consideration for travelers is government-imposed regulations (53%). The next biggest factor is the vaccination rate of the destination population—over 45% of respondents say they will consider that information. That number came in ahead of travelers factoring in the capacity limits and open rates of restaurants and attractions (43%). Interestingly, over 23% of respondents want to know about the quality of healthcare services in and around the destination. That will be an interesting trend to track over time.   

Travel Marketer Takeaway: Reassurance needs to be a new focal point for travel marketers. And this means going beyond highlighting cleaning protocols. Travelers are expressing a desire to know about the entire health and safety ecosystem. So, look at your marketing channels and find ways to incorporate pertinent, timely information. Transparency and balance is key as the desire for healthcare information is likely to grow even after the pandemic.

WE’RE THE TRAVEL PARTNER’S PARTNER

Big Day is a full-service creative agency that works with some of the top brands and travel providers in the world, including Royal Caribbean Group (Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises). Our hybrid approach to marketing means we can efficiently do what it takes to move your needle with everything from digital and social to print and video.

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FREE 30-MINUTE INSIGHT SESSION

Don’t miss out on the great travel rebound. Our no-cost video session will take you through additional insights gained from the 2021 Big Day Travel Mindset Survey, and discuss the best ways to leverage them for your business.