Craig Elbert did not start out looking to work in marketing or in digital. An English lit major at Dartmouth with an MBA from Wharton, Mr. Elbert began his career in finance. But today he leads digital efforts for Bonobos, an online menswear brand that has been recognized for its exceptional fit and great customer service—as well as an industry-leading approach to using data.
When Mr. Elbert started with Bonobos, the company had only a dozen people on staff. Five years later, as VP-marketing, Mr. Elbert now oversees the company's customer acquisition, retention, public relations and brand marketing teams. He says his goal with Bonobos marketing is to balance the data-driven approach of a high-growth online retailer with the confident intuition of a fresh lifestyle brand.
He's recognized as a Digital Trailblazer for leading Bonobos' risk-taking and data-driven approach to increasing sales and driving new business.
Q: As a Digital Trailblazer, you're doing outstanding work to further digital marketing. While you have an English degree and worked in finance, are you glad that digital has become a focal point of your career?
Mr. Elbert: The journey has been fun because digital advertising and marketing really represents a combination of art and science. When I was studying literature in college, there was a lot of focus on empathy and creativity. In contrast, finance puts the constraints of the real world on all that, focusing on the need to create a profitable company. But if you can get that fantastic collision of creativity and analytics, you can really drive growth.
A lot of online marketing is about catching demand for existing products—and if a company is good at things like search-engine optimization, it can catch that demand. But at Bonobos we had to create a brand and create the demand, too. That meant creating an emotional connection with customers, an awareness of why they were attracted to our brand.
Q: Tell us about a moment in your digital career that was pivotal.
Mr. Elbert: For me the pivotal moment was when I started connecting what was happening with why it was happening. The specific point was when I was still working in finance, but on the side began creating Facebook ads for our brand. I would create certain taglines for specific problems or issues and look at the results in terms of click-throughs and cost per acquisition. I began to really look at what was happening with those ads—why they resonated, where the connection came from.
Q: What makes a good marketing organization in today's digital world?
Mr. Elbert: A good marketing organization has a balance between driving profits and brand marketing. There should always be a healthy tension between the two.
Q: In your opinion, what's interesting or telling about the Millennial generation—about the way they communicate, make connections or build relationships to effectively market new products?
Mr. Elbert: Our Bonobos audience is broader than just Millennials; our core customers are in the 25-to-40-year-old range. But for me two things stick out about Millennials. First, getting and maintaining their attention can be challenging—there are so many distractions these days. Your communication needs to be strong, and the concept needs to be strong. Second, they are expecting to interact with and share a brand's content.
We had an April Fool's Day spoof on wearable tech that was humorous and emotionally resonant that got a lot of great traction on social media, a lot of media coverage and generated significant traffic to our site. [The Bonobos "TechStyle" line was "introduced" in a video that discussed tongue-in-cheek features like the Wi-Fiber and Smart Fabric of its shirts.] We got a lot of love from that special effort.
Q: What do you think of programmatic? Is it helping you in your marketing efforts?
Mr. Elbert: The short answer is that it works. We have been working with Quantcast on programmatic marketing and seeing good results. Programmatic is not just about computers, or data, but really putting rule sets in place that leverage that data. We have had a lot of success with it in terms of finding consumers who are more likely to purchase, who are more interested in our products, and driving them to the website.
Q: What one piece of advice do you have for other marketers looking to integrate a data strategy into their marketing efforts?
Mr. Elbert: You can't have data in a vacuum. You have to have a narrative. Data for the sake of data can be a waste. Sometimes it's best to start with a question. For instance, in terms of attribution, there are so many different data points out there—what did they click on, what did they see when they went in store, were they retargeted—you can get lost in the data. Instead, you can start by asking a question—such as, I want to know how the customer initially heard about the brand, the first touch. That helps me use the data in a focused way.
About the Sponsor
Today's trendsetters are also today's digital leaders. The Digital Trailblazers Series profiles some of the industry's most visionary digital executives—those pushing the boundaries in digital marketing. For more on this series, including intelligence and insights from Quantcast, visit the Digital Trailblazers Hub.
Quantcast is a technology company specialized in real-time advertising and audience measurement. As the pioneer of direct audience measurement in 2006, Quantcast has an in-depth understanding of digital audiences across the Web, allowing marketers and publishers to make the smartest choices as they buy and sell the most effective targeted advertising on the market. More than 1,000 brands rely on Quantcast for real-time advertising. More information is available at www.quantcast.com.