May 10, 2021
Case Study

Customer-First Marketing: 3 case studies about how the NFL, Dawn Foods, and TeamUp used social media badges, quiz-based ads, and B2B ecommerce


“You are not a true success unless you are helping others be successful,” leadership author and speaker Jon Gordon said.

But that quote applies to far more than how you lead your business internally.

Marketing success comes from helping customers be successful – helping them overcome their pain points and achieve their goals.

To spark your next great idea that will help your customers succeed, read on for three specific marketing examples with results.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Customer-First Marketing: 3 case studies about how the NFL, Dawn Foods, and TeamUp used social media badges, quiz-based ads, and B2B ecommerce

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

According to the MarketingSherpa Customer Satisfaction Research Study with a nationally representative sample of 2,400 Americans, customer satisfaction expands dramatically when companies place consumer needs ahead of immediate business and marketing goals.

Customers are 269 percent more likely to be satisfied when they view a company’s marketing as putting their needs ahead of its business goals.

This satisfaction chasm, not surprisingly, mirrors a difference in purchase propensity as well. Nearly 92 percent of satisfied consumers indicate they are likely or very likely to continue to purchase from brands they are satisfied with versus 29.4 percent who are unsatisfied with a brand.

To give you ideas for taking a more customer-first orientation with your brand, we bring you three quick case studies in this article.

First, a fitness management software that found social media success by focusing on its customers’ achievements instead of its’ own.

Then, read how one of the most powerful sports brands in the world transformed its ad strategy from pushing customers to take an action to learning more about their preferences.

And finally, learn how Dawn Foods transformed its B2B sales process from a time-consuming offline task for its customers to an easy-to-use, online platform to save bakery owners time and provide greater access to ingredients and supplies.

Quick Case Study #1: Fitness management software gets more than 100 customers to share on social media by helping the customer brag

“In March 2020 when the pandemic first began, TeamUp was the first fitness software to integrate with Zoom to enable our customers to be able to run their fitness businesses online and give online classes during the pandemic,” said Jessica Armstrong, Marketing Associate, TeamUp.

When the one-year anniversary with Zoom occurred towards the end of March, the fitness management software for studios, gyms, and personal trainers created a campaign and sent customers an email with a badge, social media post, and announcement of how many online classes their company delivered in 2020. The number ranged anywhere from 100 to more than 1,000 online classes. “Our customers were beyond thrilled to receive this stat and get such positive information about their hard work and success after such a hard year,” Armstrong said.

“We had over 100 customers then share that badge and social post on their social media including Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter and many of those customers who weren't already following our social channels began to as well as their customers,” she said.

Creative Sample #1: Social media post by fitness software customer sharing badge

Creative Sample #1: Social media post by fitness software customer sharing badge

“In the first month the campaign went live, 10% of customers who received this badge shared it, garnering more than 60,000 views on just our Instagram page alone,” Armstrong said. Profile visits increased by 175%.

“We have built our Instagram as a community for our customers, and we saw a 20% rise in followers from the previous month,” she said.

Armstrong attributes the social media campaign’s success to the following:

  • It was focused on the achievements of customers and how they were able to keep their own communities strong, not on the software company.
  • Customers were given content to share and celebrate with their communities. They did not need to design a post or do anything other than write a caption. Armstrong’s team made it easy for them to share on every channel, wherever they wanted.
  • Rather than this being about COVID, the team made it a celebration of a year of online classes.
  • They had a specific goal – share personalized data regarding online classes with customers. No other motive beyond giving them something to celebrate and hoping they would share their great news.
  • “We didn't ask anything from them by providing this information, only that if they did post, that they tag us so we could share, which we did and included as many as we could fit in our Instagram online class highlight,” Armstrong said.

Quick Case Study #2: NFL engages 261,000 fans with interactive quizzes during socially-distanced virtual draft

The NFL (National Football League) seeks more than brand affinity – brand avidity is crucial. The more avid and passionate the fan, the higher the lifetime value. But people are rarely fans of just the NFL, which is why data on favorite teams is so important. Individual teams drive loyalty, so knowing a fan’s favorite teams is key to driving higher lifetime value.

Fan avidity is marked in specific steps along the NFL Development Journey: watching game highlights, watching the entire game, participating in fantasy football, buying team merch, attending a live game or springing for season tickets.

“My goal is to take a fan at whatever stage they are at on the fan development journey – from an introductory fan whose only NFL exposure is a cool video clip of an insane catch from Odell Beckham, Jr. or Saquon Barkley jumping over another player, to someone that’s been a lifelong fan of say, the Bears, and has season tickets and all the jerseys – and build both fan value and avidity as they interact with the league platforms and our league partners’ platforms and products,” said Aaron Jones, Director, Marketing Science & Strategy, NFL.

Traditional NFL ads and emails are transactional, e.g. “buy gear now.” But the NFL wanted to see if a more conversational strategy could help them achieve their long-term goals by moving fans along the journey. The NFL A/B tested the concept with a customer engagement and first-party data platform to create a quiz-based email that asked, “What Type of Fan are You?”

Fans were invited to disclose information about themselves, including the all-important team preference.

Creative Sample #2: NFL email control (before) which focused on transactions

Creative Sample #2: NFL email control (before) which focused on transactions

Creative Sample #3: NFL email treatment (after) which focused on interactions

Creative Sample #3: NFL email treatment (after) which focused on interactions

The quiz-based emails delivered a 200% increase in clickthrough rate compared to the traditional emails, 8% higher revenue from fans who engaged with the experience, and a 25% boost in fan avidity. Building on that success, the NFL deployed additional quizzes that allowed it to expand its database of fans. For instance, a “Fan of the Year” quiz invited consumers to pitch why they deserve to hold the title, yielding 52,000 submissions – of which 41,000 provided the all-important info about their favorite team and 35,000 were new users.

But perhaps the most helpful use of the new conversational, interactive strategy was in response to the shift to virtual experiences caused by Covid-19. “With the coronavirus hitting the world in March of 2020, we had to cancel our in-person draft in Las Vegas and move it from the Bellagio down to the basement of Commissioner [Roger] Goodell’s house,” Jones said. The team had to find creative ways to make the socially distanced draft engaging.

“As a result, we huddled and built out 11 different quizzes with the content team across all of our channels – in-app, on and its homepage, email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and partner channels,” he said. The quizzes engaged 261,000 fans with the most popular quiz – “Which draft prospect are you?” which ran for five days on five different NFL channels – getting more than 70,000 fans engaged.

Creative Sample #4: Quiz-based ad for the NFL

Creative Sample #4: Quiz-based ad for the NFL

Creative Sample #5: Form in quiz-based ad for the NFL

Creative Sample #5: Form in quiz-based ad for the NFL

“After all of the success we’ve seen with these interactive quizzes and the power of building up our first-party data, we have plans throughout 2021 to scale across channels and what that means is we're going to seek to do additional experiences throughout the offseason, both on our social channels of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, as well as on our digital media channels of and NFL mobile,” Jones said.

Initially email address and first and last name were the key components of the NFL’s first-party data collection strategy. Now the sports league is focused more and more on phone number (mostly for sending SMS texts) and knowing the fan's favorite team to personalize communication.

“The NFL saw success by leaning into a fan-first marketing strategy that’s entertaining and interactive. By providing an immediate value to their fans and then exchanging first-party data to ultimately understand them better, the NFL has been able to improve and personalize their communications, ultimately driving ROI (return on investment) and building long-term loyalty,” said Tom Coburn, CEO and Co-Founder, Jebbit (the NFL’s customer experience and first-party data platform). “Now, in the wake of the cookieless economy, success will become dependent on brands collecting their own first-party, declared data in order to effectively personalize their marketing campaigns.”

Whether you utilize interactive quizzes or take a different approach to learn about customers to prioritize their needs, test out your desired strategies to discover what works with your unique audience. “My main takeaway and advice from these case studies is to first start small and grow. We have a practice here within the league that we start small and we prove something out. We do things called proof of concepts with every single partnership that we have. Is it worth the investment of time and money?” Jones advised.

Quick Case Study #3: Dawn Foods serves more than 50% of bakery customers online with new B2B ecommerce system

“Our customers do not sit in front of a computer all day. They’re most often found working in piping-hot kitchens at all hours of the day, struggling to navigate the changing world driven by rapidly evolving technology,” said Gireesh Sahukar, VP of Digital, Dawn Foods Global.

All interactions with the company’s bakery customers happened by telephone or were in person.

The global bakery manufacturer and ingredients supplier launched a B2B e-commerce solution to provide these retail bakery customers access to its extensive product catalog. These customers can now order with one click without having to enter shipping or billing information and access an online payment portal. The new solution is built on a microservices-based responsive platform that works across different devices.

“With our new website, our customers can easily learn about and order our baking mixes, baking ingredients, and Bakery Essentials via their mobile, tablet and desktop devices, whenever they wish to do so. Our new content management system’s intuitive user interface allows our content managers to publish new content and make edits to existing inventory without intervention from our development team. Now our customers can benefit from a personalized digital experience,” Sahukar said.

Speed and flexibility were key so the team could react quickly to serve the bakery supplier’s customers.

For example, a couple of days after launching the site, the customer service team determined that the sign-up page’s language was not very clear to customers. They asked to change it. Since the page’s content was stored in the content management system (CMS), it was easy to make the changes and publish it, so it was on the live site in minutes.

Within a month of launching its new platform, the team learned more about how customers wanted to use the site, so they made more than 40 updates to the customer-facing front-end interface.

“Brands have shifted towards accelerating and investing in improving the customer experience, with the need for agile content and commerce solutions only increasing,” said Matt Bradbeer, MACH Business Lead, EPAM Systems (Dawn Foods’ software development services vendor). “The Dawn Foods experience with MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) as a strategy, both technology and ‘ways of working’ demonstrates that B2B commerce enterprises are in prime position to get the same gains to speed, capability and delivery that have been seen in the B2C space.”

Since the ecommerce site launch, more than 50% of Dawn’s artisanal bakery customers have registered as online buyers, and nearly all online orders include products that a customer hadn’t ordered before (through offline orders).

“Every week, we’re seeing registered customers buying the same products, plus one or two new ones,” said Bob Howland, Chief Digital Officer, Dawn Foods Global. “And once a customer places two or three orders online—then they are sold on the online channel, and then only place orders online.”

“As a marketer, now is a great time to reach across the aisle to IT and team up as you select the tools and platforms that run your business. By working together – and choosing together – you can make sure a product meets the specs of both technical and non-technical users,” said Matthew Baier, COO, Contentstack (Dawn Foods’ CMS). “In the realm of digital content, reject any CMS that sacrifices user experience to cram in additional functionality, as well as any CMS that focuses on the optics at the expense of technical chops. Look for solutions that treat both marketers AND developers as equal stakeholders and VIPs and never settle for less.”

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Customer Satisfaction Research Study

Customer-First Marketing Strategy: The highest of the five levels of marketing maturity

Customer-First Marketing: A conversation with Wharton, MarketingSherpa, and MECLABS Institute

Marketing Chart: How important customer-first marketing is to consumers

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