Founded by a group of creatives in 2012, Wonderbly is now one of the UK’s fastest-growing media startups. Its sales have risen by 294% in the past three years and in 2015, it received over $8 million in a funding round led by Google Ventures.
Their debut children’s book was based around the recipient’s name: rather than simply inserting names at certain points within a narrative, the company uses algorithms to generate artwork and text based on the combination of letters in that name for each of its books. It has published 13 titles so far and last year, collaborated with the Roald Dahl Estate on My Golden Ticket – a journal-style book recounting a tour around Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Wonderbly advertises through a range of channels, from TV to outdoor and search, but says Facebook is its primary channel for growth. The brand believes its success on the platform is down to its strong focus on individual products, its use of engaging visuals and its iterative approach to advertising throughout the year.
Kate Haynes, Paid Social Lead at Wonderbly, says the company uses paid-for Facebook ads to drive sales and organic posts to build brand awareness. “Our paid activity is heavily focused on conversions, driving customers further down the purchase funnel. While we don’t run much in the way of paid-for ads for brand awareness, we’re keen to ensure that everything we publish is on-brand and in keeping with our tone of voice,” she explains.
Wonderbly’s playful tone of voice is reflected in its ads. Copy is short and concise but reflects the brand’s warm and friendly personality: “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we like to use fun, exuberant language,” says Haynes. “We want to make sure the sentiment and sense of delight in our books is reflected in the ads as much as possible.”
“We always use high quality product photography to ensure the beauty and uniqueness of our products shine through and really are the hero of our ads,” adds Zeena Shah, Lead Designer at Wonderbly. “We keep things playful but never saccharine … our ads are always be fun, colourful and never too serious. ”
Most of Wonderbly’s Facebook ads are focused on a single product. This targeted messaging has proved more effective than ads promoting multiple titles, says Haynes. “We are planning to experiment with more multi-product messages [such as carousels showcasing a range of books], but often, when we present too many options, our conversion rates suffer, as customers find they can’t decide which book to buy. For us, single product messaging works really well,” she adds. Focusing on a single product has also led to increased product recall, which Wonderbly says is reflected in its paid and organic search results.
Ads range from a single image accompanied by a line of copy to a slideshow explaining the book creation process in a few simple steps. Some ads use illustrations from the relevant book while others feature photographs of children reading Wonderbly titles. “We like to make sure we have a real mixture within each ad set to make sure we’re optimising for every possible person, whatever format they tend to respond to,” explains Shah.
Most of Wonderbly’s ads feature static images, but the brand has been investing more in video of late. For the release of My Golden Ticket, it created a charming CGI animation which offered a glimpse inside the book and highlighted key features such as its gold foil cover and a personalised poem based on the recipient’s name. The ad was Wonderbly’s biggest selling book of 2017 and Shah says the ad continues to perform well on Facebook.
As Wonderbly’s products are often bought as a gift, most of its sales (around 60%) take place within the last three months of the year. The brand advertises on Facebook all year round, but uses quieter seasons to test new creative formats. “We’ve found that during our quieter periods, we have a good opportunity to be testing and learning from different creative formats and concepts that we haven’t tried before, and refining what we should be running during peak season. Then we can be confident that we have the best selection of ads at a crucial time of year,” says Haynes.
Each year, Wonderbly uses a range of data to analyse the maximum return on profit that each of its marketing channels can deliver, and uses this to plan its ad spend during its busiest months. While many brands opt for a ‘last click’ model to determine the effectiveness of different media (looking at the most recent media served to a consumer before making their purchase), Wonderbly uses a ‘multi-touch attribution’ model, crediting a percentage of revenue to each of the channels a customer has interacted with.
It has also adopted a flexible approach to advertising in peak seasons. Rather than allocating fixed budgets to each channel months in advance, the brand uses data visualisation to measure the performance of different platforms in real time. This allows Wonderbly to take a much more agile approach and scale campaigns up or down at peak times depending on their performance.
Over time, the brand has learned that shoppers’ buying habits change significantly during the festive season. People usually purchase a product within one or two days of seeing an ad for it, but in the run up to Christmas, they can take considerably longer to consider their purchase. As a result, the brand now forecasts a percentage increase in sales for the 28 days ahead. It has also adjusted its spending patterns to account for this, spending more on advertising in October and November ahead of the early December rush to buy gifts.
Wonderbly takes a broad approach to targeting, and relies on Facebook’s algorithms to select people who might be interested in its products, though it has targeted groups such as parents and grandparents in the past.
“We used to target quite specific audiences and subsets of people, but recently we’ve found that the Facebook algorithm has become so good at recognising people with a high propensity to purchase our products, that we can target a very broad audience and still see great returns” says Haynes.
The company has also been using Smartly.io to automatically manage its ad campaigns. The platform automatically adjusts spending, allocating more money to adsets that are performing well on Facebook and less to those that aren’t, and switches up creative to ensure consumers aren’t repeatedly served the same ad – reducing the time that Wonderbly’s social team spend on managing paid-for posts.
Wonderbly now spends 60 to 70% of its advertising budget on Facebook, depending on the time of year, and says the platform has been crucial in helping it enter new markets and grow sales. It attributes 35% of its sales in the past two years to the site, compared to 11% for TV and 17% for other media.
Wonderbly claims its approach to digital advertising is different to brands who are more focused on an overarching creative concept: “[It] is not about a big creative idea, the big idea here is that the product and marketing is used to connect that idea with customers at the perfect moment. The brand is built from the product up, and each sale brings to life the Wonderbly mission…. Every decision is based on data and a precise understanding of exactly how each £ spent on advertising pays back to the business.”
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