The gummy-textured Smartypants vitamins line has no room to waste when it comes up against well-heeled competitive brands like Centrum that have been rushing into the soft vitamin space in recent years. Clay Nichols, the company's vice president of marketing, told us at this week’s Programmatic insider Summit how the upstart brand is using programmatic mobile platforms to leverage an online brand recognition much larger than its retail share.
The company was founded only five or six years ago by Nichols' sister, who helped pioneer gummy vitamins made of natural ingredients. They started by selling direct, then through Amazon. In just the last couple of years, they attracted major retail attention and went from select small and health stores to the big drug chains.
The challenge now was to drive people to retail on a bare-bones budget, competing against big pharma brands with bottomless branding budgets. Nichols said they tried partnering with a boutique agency with the aim of launching their own top-of-funnel branding campaign. As great as the agency’s research, audience analysis and creative was, however, Nichols admits his company just didn’t have the necessary budget to see a good ROI. So they took all their marketing in-house.
The real marketing driver for Smartypants is sampling. In retail locations and especially at fitness and race events, the company will give away about 1.5 million samples each year, and at pennies apiece. Nichols still regards this as Smartypants' most efficient and effective spend.
But they still need top-of-funnel support, as well as retail drivers to locate and push people to the stores that carry the product. That's why they turned to mobile programmatic. The company can’t afford carpet-bombing audiences even based on refined personas because the product may not be available near most users. So they started using geo-targeting of coupon ads only in the specific retail locations where Smartypants is sold. Coupon codes were used to track sales lifts.
The company's most interesting use of mobile is in support of sampling efforts and event promotions. Smartypants is among the first customers of Under Armour’s Connected Fitness ad network. The apparel manufacturer has been rolling up a number of fitness apps like MapMyFitness and others to create its own network for mobile advertising. Nichols, who does all of his programmatic buying in-house, uses the Under Armour dashboard to target ads to areas where Smartypants will have a presence in the next month at events. This is also supported by some advance radio ads. The idea is that people will have both over-air and online exposure to the brand so they better recognize it when they attend the events and see the live activations. The company also uses these digital channels to retarget likely live event attendees with later messages.
It's interesting how the company is doing more sophisticated synchronized marketing programs on a shoestring budget than many much larger companies with magnitudes more resources. Smartypants is using mobile to do a rudimentary kind of sequential marketing and even retargeting with offline live encounters. And it's doing it all in-house.
To get more detail on the Smartypants marketing journey, check out the video from this week’s Programmatic Insider Summit.