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Marketing Briefing: Zenni’s vp of growth marketing on making the switch to ‘bite-sized’ planning windows due to Covid

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Since March 2020, marketers and agency execs alike have been operating at a different speed, adjusting and readjusting their marketing plans and advertising to adapt to a constantly changing mood due to the ongoing pandemic. To get a sense of how one brand marketer managed those shifts for a growing brand, Digiday caught up with direct-to-consumer eyewear brand Zenni’s vp of growth marketing, Courtney Fadjo Biro. This conversation has been edited and condensed. 

How did you handle pivoting Zenni’s advertising due to the pandemic?

The pivots happened in several ways. I was focused on our digital media. But we also had a lot of traditional mediums that got disrupted pretty quickly as well. So we made sure that [our content and marketing] felt very relevant to what was happening. We didn’t want to feel tone deaf to what’s happening with the concerns around the pandemic as a whole. Keeping that in mind, we wanted to make sure that we also recognized that a lot of people that would typically shop brick and mortar or shop at optometrists no longer had that option when everything shut down. So we wanted to also make sure that people who had a need [for new glasses] knew that they could come to [Zenni]. 

Many marketers pulled back on spending on out-of-home, experiential, etc. Does that include Zenni?

When it comes to the traditional mediums, we were pretty heavily invested in things like airline magazines — and, of course, the airline industry and travel was hit big time, as well as a lot of billboards and out-of-home [businesses]. So we had to do some pretty quick shifts and pivot there as well. We did keep our OOH on in the San Francisco area. This is our home and we wanted to continue to support, even though a lot of people were not out and about because of the restrictions within the city. We didn’t want to pull back completely. 

In recent weeks there’s been an uptick in Covid numbers in some areas due to the delta variant. Is that having an impact on your marketing plans yet?

I would say that what the pandemic has taught us, and a lot of businesses, is to let the customer be the one that leads the way. We continue actively listening to our customer base, as well as our employees even within our business, to understand their comfort level, what their needs are and their concerns. And we let that influence what we’re doing. So as of right now, because everything is changing so drastically on a regular basis, and we are in a needs-based business, we’re continuing to lean in where our customers are actively searching for glasses, or looking for our types of products. And we’ll probably continue to do so and just let them sort of determine how to continue to move forward.

We’ve heard from lots of marketers that this pandemic has changed their approach to planning. Is that true for you at Zenni? 

Yeah, absolutely. I would say we have shifted into a different type of planning mode as a result of the pandemic. I think a lot of businesses used to plan for longer cycles. Now we do these smaller, bite-sized cycles where we have plans, but we’re very fluid. We know we have our plans in front of us, but we are willing to shift and move a lot more even than we previously had been because we want to be as relevant as possible as to what’s going on. This gives us an opportunity on a daily basis to decide [how to adapt if things] are shifting in social, or if the demand is looking different in search or [consider how] different cities or different places [are doing as] the restrictions are changing. We want to try to continue to listen and be as relevant as possible.

By the numbers

Marketers have a lot to think about when it comes to targeting with the end of third-party cookies and other data privacy laws coming soon. Even though Google’s cookie-delay offers marketers a bit of breathing room, some have already started preparing, according to new research from self-service programmatic ad platform, Choozle. Here are some highlights from Choozle’s mid-year digital advertising trend report, below:

  • Trends show that more digital advertising campaigns have used third-party data (from 35 percent to 42 percent) and contextual targeting (from 6 percent to 16 percent) since the end of 2020. 
  • Despite higher CPMs, marketers have increased the usage of third-party data targeting because they see higher CTRs, highlighting how this targeting strategy enables reaching the right audience.
  • Marketers have moved on from IP-address targeting in 2021, with usage decreasing by 20 percent as businesses offer more hybrid work options. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“Over this period we’ve seen clients diversify their budgets into areas like CTV and Snap but that’s not necessarily meant they’re switching dollars away from Facebook. Few media platforms have the interactions, conversions and audience data that Facebook can offer even now, which is why we’ve seen budgets change the way they have done over the period.”

— Playbook Media’s Bryan Karas told senior news editor Seb Joseph and senior media buying and planning editor Michael Burgi for their piece on how Facebook’s ads business is doing with Apple’s cookie changes.

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