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Since joining Discover in 1999, Larisa Drake has managed a variety of marketing teams. Drake today heads brand strategy at Discover. She spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about Discover’s online marketing initiatives.
eMarketer: Over the course of the 2010 holiday season, Discover will run a promotion offering its cardholders “Double Cashback Bonus” for purchases made online. Tell us more.
Larisa Drake: We focused on online shopping because that’s where our card members want to use their card. When we did Double Cashback Bonus last year, we found that the online category was very popular with our customers. We choose the categories where customers can receive accelerated Cashback Bonus—restaurants, department stores and clothing stores—based on the data of where our customers shop. Also, when customers enroll to be a part of the program, they help guide us in terms of which are the most popular categories.
Online is a distinctive channel for Discover Card because Discover is both an issuing company and a network. We have the ability to identify online purchases accurately and reward our customers for those purchases, and that is a unique thing for Discover.
eMarketer: Given these factors, have you increased your marketing in the online channel?
Drake: We have a pretty broad media mix that includes all channels. We have increased our investment in online marketing, but we have also then sought to increase our exposure across multiple media channels, both online and offline. Last year we started promoting the 5% Cashback Bonus program in online display advertising as well as streaming video on sites such as Hulu and ABC.com. We found that to be very successful because as customers are online, they’re thinking about making purchases and we can target the websites based on the categories. For a category like restaurants, we can target advertising on sites where people might be consulting restaurant lists and reviews.
Online advertising has led us to expand into new channels like mobile. Now, in addition to display advertising on the website, we can place mobile advertising on sites where people might be looking for information about restaurants and reviews. We were able to do something similar with the 5% Cashback Bonus on gas. We placed the advertising online on sites where people might be planning a trip. We also placed ads mapping sites and sites such as The Weather Channel. If they are thinking of going outside, they might also be thinking about getting gas. We could remind them of the 5% Cashback when using their Discover card. We can also run a test on The Weather Channel’s mobile site, too.
eMarketer: With online advertising, what metrics are most important?
Drake: All of our online display advertising targeted at card members is focused on giving them reasons to pull out their card in relevant places. For ads alongside streaming video, we measure a couple of different things. First of all, we measure the engagement. Did people interact with it? We actually have an interactive environment where the TV ad plays within the environment, but then around that TV ad there are things you can mouse over and get additional information about the 5% program, or possibly about mobile, or some of the other features and benefits that Discover card members can get. We look to see what people are mousing over.
With our holiday Double Cashback promotion, we ran a game advertisement where people catch presents while learning about the program. We measure activity and the engagement level with the game. On most video sites, viewers are required to spend 30 seconds looking at the promotional material. Sometimes people spend more time. Again, that shows us engagement level. We’re not necessarily looking for them to click because they’re there to watch the show. We don’t really want them to leave that environment, but we do want them to be interacting with the space and getting more information while they’re there. Finally, we have a way of looking at their sales after they were exposed to that ad to see if that inspired them to use their card.
eMarketer: In addition to display, what other online channels has Discover found to be effective to drive card usage?
Drake: We use email pretty aggressively to communicate with our card members because results have shown that our card members like to be communicated with via email. We also use search, particularly to prospect for new customers, and it is an important part of Discover’s overall marketing mix.
eMarketer: What about social media?
Drake: We’re continuing to increase our engagement within social media. For a while we were in the listening mode, and over the last couple of years, we’ve taken a more active role in engaging with our customers and with people who are interested in our brand. We’ve got a presence on Facebook and on Twitter where we can communicate with our customers about news, ways that they can earn extra Cashback Bonus, our sweepstakes, where they can win prizes and new information about features and benefits.
The full version of this interview is available here, to eMarketer Total Access clients only. Every day they have access to new interviews with digital marketing leaders and trendsetting entrepreneurs.
Check out today’s other article, “UK Social Network Ad Spending to Double by 2012.”
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