Editor’s note: Erin Winters is vice president of marketing strategy at research company Acxiom, New York. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “A Seamless experience … turning guilt on its head.”
As a daily rider of the New York subway I have my routine down. Whether I get a seat or am a pole dweller I have my newspaper or book ready to whip out to immerse myself in for the ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I believe myself to be a pro at drowning out the din of the crowd, in particular the riders listening to their tunes with the volume at 10 causing you to suppress the desire to politely (or not so politely) let them know not everyone wants to hear their playlists at 7 a.m. The ads on the subway have historically been local ads, although that’s been changing. Taking notice of them was more often with an eye towards how unsophisticated they were, very reminiscent of those local TV ads for a lawyers offering their services for asbestos cases or dentists offering teeth whitening.
Enter Seamless, an online food ordering services that allows users to order food for delivery and takeout from restaurants. I took notice of their ads blanketing the subway cars beginning early last month. I found myself looking down the car to read those at the other end, turning around to read those on the other side of the car. In a word they are brilliant. Why are they brilliant?
Seamless clearly understands the importance of collecting data on their customers, and mining it to identify highly defined segments. They’ve taken these segments, applied analytics and some creative thinking to infer attitudes and behaviors that have driven their marketing strategy. The result is a campaign comprised of unorthodox segments that communicate “you know me” and in way I appreciate. But what stands out most is the tone. Seamless’s messaging tone manages to flip the perception of habits Seamless customers might feel highly sensitive to and has told us “it’s OK” and in-fact it’s better than OK. You’re not alone, and you should wear it with a badge of honor. Consider the following headlines:
“Cooking is so Jersey.”
“Shut the fridge up.”
“Thinking about cooking? Don’t even go there.”
“Because I’m only pretty sure how to pronounce ‘gyro.’”
“Avoid cooking like you avoid times square.”
“Over eight million people in NYC, and we help you avoid them all.”
For more a visual representation, check out the series posted by Adweek.
These sampling of Seamless ads illustrate how effectively they recognize their customer segments across gender, age, behavior, demographics and hometown pride. The ads manage both to be highly personalized and broadly inclusive, and the combination drive incredibly effective brand affinity. They’re also excellent messages for driving acquisition. Think about it, from the above message samples, a large percentage of New Yorkers will identify with at least one of those messages. Boom, new customers that feel like they want to be a Seamless customer, it fits their individual brand.
Also, Seamless is laser-focused on the timing of the campaign. As we know, you need to appeal to customers in the right channel, with the right message, and at the right time. With Winter fast approaching Seamless knows they are heading into the peak months for their business, and want to reinforce the value of their service, and bring on more customers as we head into the frigid weather where walking even three blocks to pick up food seams unbearable. I understand this perspective is based on an urban campaign, and urban mind-set but arguably many feel the same way about getting in their car: Why waste the time when you have Seamless? You don’t even have to speak with someone. (The mind-set that makes that preferable is an entirely different discussion.)
Let’s unpack the approach of Seamless for this campaign, as it will offer invaluable best practices for marketers across industries, be it a local or national campaign.
- A laser-focus on harnessing customer insights.
- Thorough analysis of those insights to drive organic segment creation. Seamless didn’t put customers in standard buckets simply based on age, gender, location and lifestyle. The company triangulated that to create highly targeted segments that fall outside traditional approaches.
- Application of those segments to create highly personalized and playful messaging that makes a customer cackle and say “that’s me.”
- Ability to now measure Seamless customers’ orders across location, demographics, gender, age etc. to determine the efficacy of this campaign across segments and optimize based on the results. The company can likely map back their campaign on a particular subway line to orders received from customers most likely to be traveling on those lines.
- An acquisition campaign that draws on look-alike models. If Seamless knows that x percent of their customers ordered in the wee hours of weekend mornings, it can apply these models to tap into subway riders that fit this profile.
- Time of need. Just like any retailer ramping up their campaigns for the holidays, the peak season, Seamless has applied this approach to be in market in advance of their peak season (December – March).
- Messaging that truly communicates at both the personalized and broadly inclusive level. Customers and prospects find themselves in one or many of the Seamless messages, making them feel both unique and part of a group they want to be associated with, often with a sense of pride.
While this is essentially a local campaign, given the size of the New York City metro area (eight million) it takes on the dimensions of a national campaign the scope of its reach. Most instructively, it illustrates how to effectively create multiple messaging across your varying customer base while retaining a clear tone that always adheres to the brand. Within two campaign cycles it seems likely one would know it’s a Seamless ad by the tagline, regardless of whether you saw the Seamless brand. That is gold!
During the winter months, those of us in cold weather climates will likely see an up-tick in our Seamless orders, and those of us in NYC will likely feel a bit less guilty about it (come on… there is some shame in not getting off the couch to walk a couple blocks) and maybe even good about it.