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Mar 23, 2004
Case Study

How to Use Online Ads to Build a Groundswell of Consumer Support (and Get Stocked in Wal-Mart)

SUMMARY: We love the way this campaign combines branding banners, contextual text-ads, and direct postal mail (all for a budget in the low five figures).

If you're marketing directly to women, dieters, and/or trying to convince brick-and-mortar retail store managers to stock your product, this is the Case Study for you.

Includes a sample (non-rich media) banner that got a 3.10% click through when it ran this January:

How do you convince major brick and mortar retailers to carry your brand when you don't have deep pockets to afford standard shelving fees?

Since the company was founded in 1995, No Pudge! Food has relied on consumers themselves push their local retailers into carrying the brand's no-fat all-natural brownie mixes. By 2003, No Pudge! was carried by thousands of mainly small, local grocers across the US, often serving the health food market.

They were also authorized by many national chains (which means store managers were allowed, but not required, to stock them.)

Owner & Founder Lindsay Frucci worked every angle she could included running small space ads in diet-related magazines; adding an interactive bulletin board and requests for consumer support on the brand's Web site; and of course traveling a great deal to meet with retailers personally.

She was thrilled with the growth, but now she wanted the brand to be stocked by more nationally-known chains and mainstream retailers such as Wal-Mart and Safeway. Consumer requests trickling in over years wouldn't make the big impression on store managers that No Pudge! needed to get over the hump of resistance.

Frucci needed to orchestrate a groundswell of requests in conjunction with her planned fall and winter trips to visit retailers. And she had to do it in such a way that all the money spent would be covered by immediate sales, rather than orders down the line.


She decided to center her efforts on the Web because it's the only high-impact direct response medium where you can reach masses of consumers with a media budget "in the low five figures."

Plus, her target demographic was very active online. "There is just tons of weight loss networking going on on the Internet. We saw our brand come up on message boards," she says. "We were watching that grow and we decided that we wanted to tap into it."

While search ads are a great tactic, they require a lot of hands-on management, which was something No Pudge! staff didn't have time for. Plus, they wanted the benefit of ads with product photos -- let's face it, a product image of a luscious chocolate brownie is just as powerful as any text-copy can ever be.

So, Frucci decided she wanted an online ad campaign that combined the benefits of contextual text ads, and graphical banners.

Rather than scattering her media buy across the Web, she chose to focus on dominating one site,, for a two brief periods. "We've advertised successfully in Weight Watchers magazine for years. And we knew it was working because when people registered on our site they told us that was how they had heard about us."

The creative included a graphical element -- banners featuring photos of brownies -- as well as the content element -- a recipe-of-the-day featuring No Pudge! mix as the key ingredient. The final step of the recipe's instructions was a hotlink to a landing page where visitors could purchase the mix directly online. (Link to creative samples below.)

Although advised Frucci to run the initial campaign in November which is a heavy recipe month, her gut told her to go with a day in October. "I just knew October would be better. October has always been a good month for us."

However, she heeded the media rep's advice and chose a Monday because it's usually the site's most active recipe-of-the-day day.

Then for the second campaign run, Frucci chose a Friday in January 2004. "That way," says Frucci, "it remained up over the weekend giving us three days instead of one."

She tweaked the landing pages for the campaigns to maximize mail order results. The goal was to try to make enough in sales that it covered the cost of the campaigns. Frucci explains, "I look at mail order as marketing," she says, "not as a profit center. I have to put my product in the hands of people so that they get hooked, tell their friends and take it upon themselves to get it into stores."

The landing page referenced the site to make clickers feel welcome. Plus pricing was expressed as "shipping included" instead of a base price plus shipping. (Normally the four-pack mix online is $12 plus $4.50 shipping, for this campaign the pricing was worded as a flat $16.)

Consumers received their orders in a branded white box that had the bright pink No Pudge! pig on the front.

Plus, inside they also found a flyer asking for their help as product evangelists with local retailers. All they had to do was hand a "special item request form" to their local store manager.

"The special item request form is the single most brilliant thing I ever did," Frucci says. On the front, it addresses the store manager, asking him or her, on behalf of the consumer, to stock No Pudge! Brownies. On the back, to make it as easy as possible, it lists all the distributors who supply the product.


Proving that photos of brownies are well nigh irresistible to dieters, the click rates on the banners for both campaigns were outrageously high:

Oct 2003 banner stats
125x125 pixel unit = 1.49% clickthrough
120x600 pixel unit = 3.34% clickthrough

January 2004 banner stats
125x125 pixel unit = 1.01% clickthrough
120x600 pixel unit = 3.10% clickthrough

Online orders took off during the campaign. "We sold $9,000 of product during the first three days," of the campaign in January, Frucci says. "In January mail order went from 5% of our business to 11%."

When she accounted for shipping and cost of goods, the campaign "came close to paying for itself." But, for Frucci, her goal of getting more retailers to carry the product was the main thing.

While it's impossible to get a completely accurate metric of how many consumers took the flyers into stores, Frucci says she has a heck of a lot of anecdotal evidence that the campaign worked.

Wal-Mart store managers have mentioned, "I've got all these Weight Watcher people coming in here with forms.'" Plus Wal-Marts in 22 states now actively stock the No! Pudge brand, plus Safeways in eight states also recently joined the ranks of No Pudge! retailers.

"I've also had weight loss leaders tell me they sat in class and had their members make out forms and then took them en masse to the grocery store." She adds, "I've sat in meetings with buyers who'll pull a stack of my specialty items request form out of their drawers."

During the campaign, Frucci also saw increased traffic to the page on her site that tells consumers-- state by state-- which stores carry her product. "There's no way to measure how many people went to the Where to Buy page and then went to the grocery store," she says. However, "we will do the campaign again. It was obviously enough of a success."

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from the campaign as it ran:

No Pudge! main site

Weight Watchers
See Also:

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