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6 Companies With Awesome Direct Marketing Campaigns

Sunday, May 26, 2024

6 Companies With Awesome Direct Marketing Campaigns

Most small-business advertising and marketing stinks. I’ve said this before in the first edition of my book about direct marketing, back in 2006, before the recession, before the explosion of social media and the importance given it as a marketing media, before all sorts of new media demanding business owners’ attention – and I’ll keep saying it so long as it hasn’t yet been hammered into your skull.

Monstrous sums are wasted and numerous opportunities are lost every day because businesspeople are really, really, really confused and overwhelmed. Being told that they must do this, that, the other thing, more and more only to get the same results. Perhaps even less.

That’s why, today, I’m here to mute the noise. To give you clarity by showing you a list of companies that have taken direct marketing to an artform. Companies that use direct marketing and have evidently figured out the secret to not only grab their audience’s attention, but also make them excited, interested, and ready to take action.

In this blog, we're going to dive into some of the most awesome direct marketing campaigns out there. We’ll look at how these companies hit the bullseye with their strategies, what made their campaigns so memorable, and what we can learn from their success stories. So, buckle up and get ready to be inspired by some of the best in the business when it comes to direct marketing.

1. Amazon: The “Prime Day” Campaign

Amazon The Prime Day Campaign

Let’s chat about one of the biggest shopping extravaganzas of the year – Amazon’s Prime Day. It is essentially a giant online treasure hunt where consumers race against the clock to snag the best deals for homeware, fitness, beauty products, and whatever else. But what makes Prime Day truly remarkable isn’t just the discounts; it’s the genius direct marketing strategy behind it.

We can begin with the buzz. Amazon starts building anticipation weeks in advance. Prime Day is an exclusive event for Prime members, which immediately creates a sense of urgency and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). If you’re not a Prime member yet, Amazon makes sure you’re tempted to join just for this event, because Amazon knows you. They know what you’ve bought, what you’ve browsed, and what you’ve left sitting in your cart.

They use this data to come for your throat when it comes to personalized marketing messages. In the lead-up to Prime Day, Amazon bombards you with emails that seem as if they’re seeing the conversation already happening in your mind. These messages are filled with deals on products that you’ve shown interest in before or are similar to your past purchases.

They also use push notifications to keep you in the loop. Imagine this: you’re going about your day when your phone buzzes with a notification from Amazon reminding you that Prime Day is happening. You check it out and see a deal on that gadget you’ve been eyeing for months. The immediacy and convenience of push notifications are perfect for creating those “I need to act now” moments, most especially when it comes to limited deals.

And then, on Prime Day itself, Amazon transforms its website into a colorful wonderland of flashing deals that change by the hour. It’s designed to keep you coming back to check for new discounts, to get you engaged with your wallet out in the open. This continuous engagement is another brilliant aspect of their direct marketing strategy – they get you to visit the site not just once, twice, nor even three times. They strive to keep you there, exploring and purchasing until the day flies by.

2. IKEA: The “Bookbook” Campaign

IKEA The Bookbook Campaign

Picture this: It’s 2015, and IKEA decides to launch their new catalog. Instead of just calling it a catalog, they cleverly rebrand it as the “Book” Book. Now, if you’re thinking this sounds like something Apple would do, you’re spot on. The whole campaign was a playful nod to Apple’s sleek and high-tech product launches. To add to the bit, IKEA even released a cheeky video mimicking Apple’s style, complete with dramatic close-ups and a tech-savvy narrative, highlighting the features of this “Book” book.

What exactly is so genius about this campaign? For starters, it grabbed attention. The market today is increasingly dominated by digital media, yet IKEA made something physical – a catalog – feel like a spectacle.

And they didn’t stop there. IKEA blended the physical and digital worlds by incorporating QR codes and augmented reality (AR) elements into the “Book” book. Customers could use their smartphones to scan QR codes throughout the catalog, which would then unlock additional content, videos, and interactive elements. Imagine browsing through a catalog and being able to see how a piece of furniture would look in your living room through AR. That’s what you call next-level engagement.

This unique mix of traditional and modern marketing created a memorable experience that captivated their customers. The physical catalog drove traffic to both IKEA stores and their online platforms. People were talking about the “Bookbook,” sharing it on social media, and showing it to friends, and making fun of Apple – exactly the kind of buzz any marketer could dream of.

The “Book” book campaign is a perfect example of how direct marketing can evolve. By taking a well-loved, traditional marketing tool and giving it a fresh, digital twist, IKEA demonstrated that catalogs aren’t obsolete – they just needed a little reinvention. This campaign not only engaged customers but also showcased IKEA’s creativity and ability to stay relevant in a digital age.

3. Airbnb: The “Live There” Campaign

Airbnb The Live There Campaign

Let’s take a trip – but not just any trip. Let’s dive into Airbnb’s brilliant “Live There” campaign, which turned the traditional idea of travel on its head. As a tourist, you don’t ever feel like you actually belong in the places you visit. At worst, you feel like a complete alien, and at best you’re able to walk the streets pretending like you know exactly where you’re going. With this campaign, however, Airbnb showcased a different experience: they invited travelers to experience destinations like locals.

It’s a campaign that struck a chord with many and is a prime example of how personalized marketing can create a more meaningful connection with customers.

When you travel, there’s a world of difference between staying in a cookie-cutter hotel and living in a neighborhood, shopping at local markets, and discovering hidden gems that only residents know about. Airbnb’s “Live There” campaign was all about that immersive, authentic experience. They wanted travelers to feel like they were part of the community, and not just passing through.

To bring this vision to life, Airbnb tapped into the power of personalized marketing. They sent out emails tailored to each user, packed with travel recommendations based on their past bookings and preferences. If you’d stayed in a cozy Parisian flat before, you might get suggestions for a similar experience in another European city, making emails feel more like a friend’s advice rather than a corporate pitch.

Additionally, Airbnb employed the use of targeted social media ads showcasing beautiful homes in various destinations, complete with local tips and insider knowledge that made each place feel inviting, almost as if you could book a flight right now and live there.

One of the most engaging aspects of the “Live There” campaign was Airbnb’s use of user-generated content. They encouraged travelers to share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #LiveThere. Photos and stories from real users were then featured in Airbnb’s marketing materials, providing authentic content for their audience to chew on and building a great sense of community. Seeing real people enjoying their stays and experiencing places like locals made the campaign relatable and trustworthy. It was real travelers showing how great Airbnb’s service was, not Airbnb itself.

4. Uber: “Refer-a-Friend” Campaign

Uber Refer-a-Friend Campaign

This campaign is a textbook example of how simplicity, combined with a little incentive, can lead to massive results. This works well in all markets, with affiliates or JV’s, but here’s how Uber did it and why it worked so well.

Imagine you’re an Uber user, and one day you get an email from them, inviting you to refer your friends. If they sign up and take a ride, you both get credits. The prospect of free rides creates a win-win situation, and suddenly, you’re not just a user anymore; you’re a mini-ambassador for Uber.

Uber made this referral process incredibly easy. Emails and in-app notifications guided users through the steps, showing them exactly how to invite friends and track their referrals. There wasn’t a complicated sign-up process or hoops to jump through – just a straightforward way to share the Uber love and earn some ride credits in return.

Now, why was this so effective? First, it was simple. The campaign wasn’t cluttered with unnecessary details. Uber knew that if they made it easy, people would participate. And they were right. Users could quickly send invites directly from the app, and Uber even provided ready-to-go messages to make the process smoother.

Second, the tangible rewards were a big draw. The word “free” is always powerful in the world of marketing, especially when it’s something as useful as a ride credit. Uber offered a clear and immediate benefit to both the referrer and the new user, and that was a compelling enough reason for people to join in.

Another key factor in the campaign’s success was the power of word-of-mouth marketing. People trust recommendations from friends and family more than any ad. When you refer a friend to Uber, it comes with your personal stamp of approval. It’s a powerful endorsement that can turn curiosity into action much more effectively than traditional advertising.

So, what happened next? Uber saw its user base grow rapidly. Existing users were happy to spread the word because they benefited directly from doing so. New users, enticed by the promise of free rides, were eager to try out the service. This organic growth, fueled by personal connections, helped Uber expand quickly and sustainably.

5. Barnes & Noble: The “Holiday Book Drive” Campaign

Barnes & Noble The Holiday Book Drive Campaign

This campaign takes a more different tone than what I’ve discussed so far. Instead of just buying, Barnes & Noble managed to convince people to actually give. They invited customers to join their “Holiday Book Drive” campaign, where they can donate books to children in need.

They used a mix of direct mail, email marketing, and in-store promotions to get the message out. They personalized their communications by highlighting local schools and organizations that would benefit from the book drive. Instead of a generic, sales-y call to action, it was an invitation to make a difference in your own community.

Now, convincing people to buy things is hard enough on its own – hell, doing it and teaching people how to do it is what made my whole career. You can imagine how much more difficult it would be to convince people to actually give something without any kind of return, yet Barnes & Noble managed to make it happen through a campaign, and what made it so special was its ability to create a sense of community involvement and social responsibility.

It tapped into customers’ values – the importance of literacy, education, and giving back – and provided them with an easy way to contribute. Buying books was a normal, every day kind of activity, but making a meaningful impact in the lives of children? That was an opportunity that no one with a heart could ignore.

Customers rallied behind the cause, donating books and spreading the word to friends and family. Barnes & Noble didn’t just sell books during the holiday season; they became a hub for generosity and goodwill.

6. American Express: The “Small Business Saturday” Campaign

American Express The Small Business Saturday Campaign

And finally, this last campaign is one that rallied support for the backbone of local economies – small businesses.

What makes this campaign unique is that they didn’t just target consumers. American Express’ “Small Business Saturday” campaign involved reaching out to small business owners to offer them marketing materials and promotional support to attract more customers. They used a mix of direct mail, email marketing, and social media to spread the word about the event.

And the impact was palpable. Small businesses saw increased foot traffic and sales, giving them a much-needed boost during a time when big-box retailers often dominate the spotlight. Through this campaign, American Express wanted to target the intangible benefits – the sense of pride and camaraderie that comes from supporting local businesses, and to cement involvement with that cause in the minds of consumers and businesses alike.

Unlike most of the campaigns here, the success of “Small Business Saturday” was not measured in dollars and cents. Instead, it was measured in the increased revenue for small businesses and its positive impact on local communities.

Last Remarks

These six companies have undoubtedly set the bar high when it comes to direct marketing campaigns. From Amazon's ingenious Prime Day extravaganza to American Express's community-focused Small Business Saturday, each campaign showcases the power of creativity, personalization, and genuine connection with customers.

What ties these campaigns together is their ability to go beyond simply selling products or services. They create experiences, tap into emotions, and foster a sense of belonging or purpose. Whether it's the thrill of scoring a great deal, the joy of discovering a new destination like a local, or the satisfaction of giving back to the community, these companies have mastered the art of engaging their audiences on a deeper level.

​All in all, if you want big breakthroughs in your business, then it all starts with learning how to market your business properly. In the new edition of NO B.S. Direct Marketing For Non Direct Marketing Businesses, I talk about more proven strategies and real-world examples. And for those serious about mastering direct marketing, consider joining us at Diamond, where you’ll be given immediate access to advanced training, monthly seminars, and a community of marketing experts.

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