FTD Companies, parent company of online floral delivery brands ProFlowers and Interflora, wants to get back to the basics of brand marketing.
“Our company, like many brands, has been obsessed with directly attributable, perfectly measured marketing for the last five years,” said Jeff Severts, CMO of FTD Companies, who previously served as CMO of Ulta Beauty and Best Buy Europe.
While its performance-focused has helped the bottom line, FTD is working hard to restore balance to its marketing portfolio by placing more emphasis on the upper funnel.
For the first time, FTD combined brand marketing for two of its portfolio companies – ProFlowers and the gourmet gift and chocolate service Shari’s Berries – in a Valentine’s Day campaign spanning traditional and digital media.
“We are interested in getting back to some old-school fundamentals of marketing, which is a little more storytelling and a lot more brand building,” Severts said. “We’ll focus more on channels that had been left to atrophy or that may have been dropped altogether.”
Severts and Raphael Weishaupt, new SVP of brand and acquisition marketing for FTD Companies, spoke with AdExchanger about FTD’s reemphasis on brand and the issues it still faces with attribution.
AdExchanger: How can FTD improve its marketing investment most?
JEFF SEVERTS: At one point, FTD was a huge brand and it just has not gotten a lot of tender loving care over the last couple of decades. We think we can do more to restore it to its former glory.
RAPHAEL WEISHAUPT: We didn’t strike the right balance between brand marketing and direct response marketing. We invested heavily in the latter, at the expenses of building brand equity and a true customer connection through storytelling.
What’s been the biggest challenge marketing in your category, which is historically really search- and display-heavy?
Weishaupt: If you compare us to our competitors [like 1-800-Flowers or Teleflora] it feels like a sea of sameness. It all feels very transactional, as if you’re on Amazon buying AAA batteries.
But this is an emotional gifting space, and people who gift want to make someone feel special. The industry, including us, has largely removed that emotional aspect and turned everything into a simple transaction around discounts and cheap price tags.
I would imagine that plays into your renewed focus on upper-funnel engagement.
Weishaupt: We want to get back to building that brand equity. A lot of companies are trying to use a display ad to get from first date to marriage, and I love that analogy because a lot of companies like us have tried that in the past. People may not have heard of Shari’s Berries, ProFlowers or FTD, and we expect them to click a banner, come to the site and make a purchase? That’s just not how consumers behave.
How do you change that as a marketer?
Weishaupt: Video allows us to create a story around Shari’s Berries and ProFlowers in this joint campaign called “Perfectly Paired.” There will always be an element of sales and discounting, but we are emphasizing the storytelling.
We will play in linear TV, obviously, but … YouTube plays a much bigger role than it has in the past, whether it’s bumper ads or TrueView ads or sequential storytelling. We’re going back to basics in terms of building brand equity while using the most current media mix to transport our message.
Many brands are demanding more from their media partners, yet there’s also this emphasis on driving efficiency. Are those compatible?
Severts: We could probably be a case study for the perils of obsession with measurement. Whatever value that could not be measured in this quarter’s P&L or could not be observed directly was assumed to not exist and we all know as marketers that that’s not right.
Say your cost of acquisition is $10. If I can get a customer to click on a Google AdWords ad or I can get that cost of acquisition after somebody has seen a digital video telling our story, I know what I’ll take every single time. Storytelling gives us the chance of having something that endures long after the transaction and keeps a consumer in the franchise. And that’s what the current math doesn’t really allow for.
So what is the right metric to capture more than just the low-hanging fruit?
Weishaupt: Cost per acquisition as a metric isn’t enough. We look at brand health metrics and on the digital side [with audience targeting], we also look at converted audiences – what kind of behaviors did people have outside of behaviors on our site?
What would you add to your wish list for your agency and vendor partners?
Weishaupt: Getting a better sense of attribution along the purchase funnel, which is an industrywide problem. The other challenge is cross-device tracking.
With more than half of traffic coming from mobile, we still don’t have the right metrics in place to track an individual customer through their journey from desktop to phone. These are issues Google and Facebook are working on, but that’s at the top of the list: understanding the device shift.
Severts: I do believe we can improve the science of what we do, but there are also limits to that and there will be dimensions we may never measure. At the end of the day, my old-school answer would be a brilliant, campaignable idea.
Interview condensed and lightly edited.