In marketing, match brands and products to right media, merchant says

Online drives 50% of sales and search engine optimization alone accounts for more than $500,000 in incremental sales at Vermont Teddy Bear. But brands also need a lift from traditional media, says the company.

Kurt Peters

Telephone orders drove sales in the early days of 20-plus-year-old Vermont Teddy Bear Co., but by 2002, the web site launched in 1996 was accounting for at least 50% of sales, which totaled $27.5 million over the past year. While it’s a combination of radio, online and television marketing that sent customers to both the Internet and the phone to order, the company’s different brands and products within the brands shine best in different media, says web manager Tom Funk.

“We recognize that not all brands have a good radio pitch to make, and not all brands look great in a catalog, so there is a ‘right’ direct marketing for each brand,” Funk says. Calyx and Corolla, for example, the high-end online and catalog florist the company bought last year, faces stiff competition from lower-price sellers of more traditional floral arrangements when advertising on the radio around holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Yet online sales of the brand`s "Year of Flowers" program-a complex product pitch for radio-soar in December, Funk says.

Similarly, the company`s TastyGram gourmet food gift brand does particularly well online thanks to search engine marketing. “A lot of people have a food gift in mind, but no brand,” says Funk. Under that scenario shoppers look online for a New York-type cheesecake, for example, but not a specific manufacturer. “That’s why search engine optimization has been one of the leading strategies for TastyGram,” Funk says.

Search engine optimization has contributed to sales at all brands, says Funk, who estimates that optimization alone has produced on the order of $500,000 to $750,000 in incremental sales. “But we also realize that a brand is going to need a traditional lift whether its radio, TV or catalog, he says. “We have pretty much found it`s all about smart direct marketing.”


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