Friday Forecast: Manhattan Media's Marianna Morello: The Evolution of a Direct Marketing Trailblazer

by Colleen Ferrier and Rick Petry on May 19, 2017 10:16:13 AM DRTV, Direct Response

Marianna Morello.jpgIt was in the early 1990s when the first National Infomercial Marketing Association (NIMA) annual convention descended on the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Like the manmade volcano that erupted in front of the resort drawing awestruck tourists, Marianna Morello, having recently launched her agency Manhattan Media, was white hot. Word had circulated that she was behind the success of the first print campaign for product marketer A.J. Khubani and Telebrands. Because of this huge success, the direct response television (DRTV) industry was eager to hear more.

Flash forward to the present and that trade organization, now known as the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA), like Marianna and her agency, has diversified its focus to reflect the new, omni-channel reality. While Manhattan Media still leverages unmatched experience in print advertising, today they help facilitate integrated marketing campaigns that include digital, social, out-of-home, and broadcast media. “We don’t take a one size fits all approach,” Marianna explains. “We look at each client differently and try to understand what it is they are trying to achieve. We’ve developed expertise in some areas that many agencies tend to neglect.” Take out-of-home advertising, for example. Manhattan Media partnered with a brand agency to help take what was once a regional spirits brand in Austin, Texas and gave it national recognition. They created an innovative anchor program in New York City that leveraged everything from a custom painted wallscape in SoHo, to taxi tops, bus wraps, and print. Today that brand, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, is a bestselling vodka brand and is distributed from coast-to-coast and in Canada.

Tito's Handmade Vodka-1.jpgA Hampton Jitney bus wrapped with Tito’s Handmade Vodka seen on the streets of Manhattan.

Marianna and her team, many of whom have worked beside her for 10, 15 and even 20 years, treat clients like family. Among the value she holds most dear, the agency leader cites availability and transparency as paramount to her success. “All of my clients have access to my cell phone and I make sure they know I am available 24/7. We partner with clients and agencies and bring in any needed strategic partners so the client is clear about the team that is collaborating on their behalf."

When it comes to approaching the consumer marketplace, the agency employs a four-pronged approach:

  • Arrest Attention: For Manhattan Media, the first step is about creating and building powerful awareness. “The response from a consumer doesn’t necessarily happen in one shot anymore,” Marianna states. That is why her agency uses a blend of different kinds of media to stoke interest in products and services. By way of example, she continues: “TV is a great way to reach a mass audience, but digital allows us to surround the audience when they go online. On the other hand, print hangs around the household so that an interested prospect can go back and refer to it again and again. All of these different tactics combined can help build a robust audience of prospects.”

  • Infiltrate Minds: Once a consumer has expressed an interest in an ad, Manhattan Media uses frequency and retargeting to stoke that initial interest across a spectrum of different audiences. As Marianna puts it, “Once we have a prospect’s IP address we can market directly to them, test different messages and offers, and optimize. We aggregate demographic and psychographic characteristics that then allow us to pursue other prospects that have demonstrated similar qualities. When you combine that kind of ability to target with the right offer, it really helps deepen interest among a broad cadre of prospects.”

  • Win Wallets: With the agency’s extensive background in direct marketing, they are experts at creating a sense of urgency that converts prospects into buyers. One example of how Manhattan Media does this is by providing retail support. “Often times we’re tasked with driving purchase in the retail aisle,” Marianna reveals. “That could mean using retail tags on billboards or in print ads, or employing limited time offers such as discount coupons or other incentives. Again, we test and refine to make sure that we have the most powerful and effective offer to drive sales across multiple channels, whether that be via e-commerce or at brick and mortar retail stores.”

  • Occupy Hearts: Manhattan Media’s unique relationships create opportunities for value and that reinforce good feelings among consumers once a purchase is made and help foster a community of brand evangelists. For example, it is not uncommon for the agency to negotiate favorable editorial coverage of products such as Splat, a hair color line popular among teens and Millennials. “We recently helped a client secure a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for their product,” Marianna proclaims. This kind of accreditation is powerful social proof that helps fortify the brand, but also reassures consumers that they are making a prudent purchase decision.

OKMagazine.jpgAn example of value add for haircare product SPLAT in OK! Magazine.

Manhattan Media’s diversification into integrated media is a testament to the trust they have developed with marketers who have relied on them for new and innovative solutions amid a marketplace that has become more complex and fragmented. “We work with brands, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and even inventors,” Marianna remarks. “But the common denominator is the same: to deliver results. It is something that we are extremely passionate about and, even though we are in our third decade, that passion has never waned. It’s what drives us and what has fueled our continued success.” Whatever course marketing takes into the future, you can rest assured that Marianna Morello and her team will be on top of it, more than keeping pace.


 About the Authors

Colleen & Rick.jpgColleen Ferrier is a seasoned direct marketing expert who specializes in guiding integrated direct-to-consumer campaigns with an acute focus on ROI. Her broad experience has included management oversight of marketing, operations, media, and international distribution. The campaigns she has been instrumental in helping lead to success across her 15+ year career include Pillow Pets, Little Giant Ladder, Dream Lites, and Stompeez. Ferrier has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Augusta University, Georgia.

Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO/DoubleFlex. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University.

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The statements, opinions, and advertisements expressed on the ERA Blog and other online entities owned by the Electronic Retailing Association are those of individual authors and companies and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Electronic Retailing Association.