As we reported in a Case Study dated 11/14/2000 (see link below) IBM has raised sales by 30% to many of its biggest customers through its personalized Gold Service program. This winter, Gold Service Director Dan Flack and Integrated Marketing Communications Manager Dianne Lucca decided to see if all the media hype around rich media was true. Could a personalized customer campaign featuring Flash and audio raise sales even higher?
Until now, most rich media campaigns have been aimed at consumer audiences. Flack and Lucca had to develop a campaign reflecting IBM's brand, which targeted Fortune 1000 executives in suits, and sold products a lot pricier than the average videogame.CAMPAIGN
Flack and Lucca decided to run two tests to segments of their Gold Service customer database. They contracted outside vendor Townsend Agency to power the tests with its T-Card technology. (Links to both tests are below under Results.)
In both cases, IBM did not send customers a rich media email directly. Instead, they sent selected customers a personalized, text-based email or direct mail message that included a link to the rich media card online. Flack says, "We try to respect our customers. They don't receive the Flash immediately; they have to click out to our server to see it. So, they don't have to view it unless they are interested." IBM also added a link to the rich media cards on its special sites for Gold Service customers.
The first test, which featured a Flash video of a server, was sent in November 2000 to a selected group of Gold Service customers who'd previously expressed a strong interest in servers. You wouldn't think a Flash video of a server could be remotely interesting (after all, it's basically just a box) but this card really is a lot of fun while looking classy enough to impress a business audience.
We're most impressed with the fact that the clean design featured almost no copy, just a sense of excitement and not one, not two, but three hotlinks to click through to the response form. The top one and middle links both read, "Continue", while the bottom one read "Next" just in case people didn't already get the point. The offer at top read: "To open the box and receive a complimentary leather writing portfolio, click continue"
Next click throughs landed on a one-page response form with a paragraph of sales copy about IBM servers and about 10 required questions, such as "What's your level of involvement in IT purchase decisions?", designed to winnow out the best sales prospects. To encourage response, the very top right corner of the response form featured a hotlink entitled "Your Privacy." Privacy information was also detailed at the bottom of the form.
The second campaign, entitled "happy holidays," went out in December to a test cell of Gold Service customers who'd expressed an interest in servers, printers and storage products. Recipients were told to go to a special Web page to view a holiday greeting. This Flash video was much more like a little movie, showing a "Big Bossman" snowman sternly lecturing a stressed IT guy snowman about all the stuff he has to get done. (Both are wearing ties, naturally.) IT guy snowman gets a pained expression and starts melting. The next screen says, "This holiday don't have an ebusiness meltdown" and then viewers are presented with three options: play the video again, send it to a colleague or take advantage of special holiday offers on servers, printers and storage products.
Overall, the rich media cards have produced a response rate that's six-times higher than IBM Gold Service's average direct mail response rate. The server campaign got a 12% click through rate, and of those who opened it, 85% clicked through to the response form with 65% of these filling out the form completely and submitting it.
Proving that all rich media campaigns are not alike, the holiday card got an initial 25% click through rate. In this case 10% of these folks then clicked again to get to the special sale response form; 63% of whom then filled it out completely and submitted it. An additional 5% of card viewers chose to forward the rich media video to at least one colleague. Lucca notes, "There was no incentive here, no premium. It's a testimonial to the relevancy and the creative."
Of IBM's Gold Service customers who clicked on links to the rich media cards while visiting the Gold Service site, about 80% clicked all the way through to the response form and more than 65% of them then filled it out completely and submitted it.
Flack noted that these various response metrics made it obvious that the most critical challenge is, as always, to get recipients to click through to the response form. From that point on response rates are more uniformly high.
IBM routinely does post-testing when sending out messages. In the cases of these two campaigns, recipients had an astonishing 95% recall rate. However, Flack and Lucca do not expect any of these outstanding metrics to remain quite as high over the long haul; and, they both warn of the dangers that come with overusing new interactive ad technologies. Flack says, "Just like direct mail, email has the potential to be very inundating to customers so you have to be judicious about what you send and how often you send it. You also have to make it compelling for them to read." Lucca adds, "First and foremost, make sure the offer is something they're interested in!"
NOTES: The links to the samples below are not guaranteed to be good forever, so try them out as soon as possible.
Sample of the Holiday Text Email With Link to Card:
Subject: IBM wishes Dan Flack happy holidays
Dear Dan Flack:
IBM has sent you a special holiday greeting. So take a break and check it out. To view your holiday e-card, just go to
You will need Macromedia Flash Player installed. To download it, please visit:
If you decide you no longer wish to receive e-mail messages from IBM, please let us know by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and include "e-mail privacy - 100ARE19" in the subject line.