Marketing Brand Strategy Ecommerce

Etsy’s CMO on building brand awareness through emotion and leaning into TV


By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

July 30, 2021 | 8 min read

Mere weeks after acquiring resale platform Depop for a reported $1.6bn, Etsy, the e-commerce marketplace and popular source for handmade and custom goods, has launched its new television campaign celebrating independent makers and craftsmen. The company’s chief marketer Ryan Scott sits down with The Drum to discuss how Etsy has combated pandemic-induced challenges, why it’s investing in new marketing tactics and what’s next for e-commerce.

Ryan Scott smiling

Ryan Scott aims to create greater top-of-funnel awareness by focusing on the emotional elements of Etsy’s story

Tell me a bit about Etsy’s new ‘Find Greatness in the Making’ campaign. What was the inspiration behind this work?

A key pillar of our marketing strategy is to connect with new audiences and this moment when many are glued to the TV provides an opportunity to introduce Etsy to a wide audience. The creative shines a spotlight on the path – usually a less popular one – that many creative artists take starting at a young age to become creative business owners.

We’ve focused on shifting to more emotional advertising as a way to [build top-of-funnel awareness]. We keep our sellers at the heart of everything we do. So much of what Etsy is built on is the passion and commitment of our sellers, and what they inspire among consumers – to be more thoughtful and intentional about where we shop, and to appreciate the time and effort that goes into making something handmade.

In the narrative of this campaign, there is an inherent connection between the journey of an athlete and of makers [which is why it made sense to debut this campaign ahead of the Tokyo Olympics]. There is no greater moment than achieving mastery in your craft – whether it’s gymnastics or pottery throwing.

How did the pandemic impact Etsy’s business, and more specifically, its marketing efforts? How did the company adapt?

In what became our new normal, Etsy’s mission to ‘Keep commerce human’ has never been more relevant or more important. In early April of 2020, we quickly spun up a new marketing campaign, #StandwithSmall. We felt it was important for our narrative to evolve and we wanted to highlight the heart and soul of our company – our sellers, who are still making one-of-a-kind items, right from their homes – when many main streets were shut down. The heart of this campaign now runs through everything we do.

Etsy’s growth during the pandemic was remarkable. We outpaced the rest of e-commerce by a lot because the ‘cottage industry’ of our sellers can create so many things – in home and living, apparel, accessories and so many categories. Our business model is different because we have no facilities, complicated logistics or supply chains...

In what ways has Etsy’s approach to marketing evolved over the years? What are you doing today that you’ve never done before?

We’ve been rapidly expanding marketing initiatives for about two years now, leaning more heavily into upper-funnel strategies to amplify our sellers in ways that they could not accomplish on their own, [by focusing on] TV ads and new channels such as paid social and search engine marketing.

In 2020, Etsy reactivated many buyers who hadn’t shopped with us in a while, brought back existing buyers more frequently, and added many millions of new buyers to the marketplace. We are currently focused on retaining and engaging with these buyers in meaningful ways using full-funnel marketing strategies. We’re also hard at work improving our own channels; we’re optimizing email and push notifications through the buyer journey while building out an integrated buyer CRM strategy across life cycles.

What are some key trends you’re seeing in the e-commerce space?

During 2020, people turned to online shopping more than ever before, leading to record e-commerce acceleration. Etsy was well-equipped to handle an unprecedented influx of buyers and sellers because of our agile business model. Our sellers can move remarkably fast to meet consumer demand, eliminating many of the supply chain constraints faced by other e-commerce players.

We also continue to see a cultural shift as more buyers are shopping with their hearts and want to support small businesses and underrepresented communities. At Etsy, we offer resources to do just that, such as curated pages for Black-owned shops and LatinX-owned shops, to name a few.

What are Etsy’s top priorities today when it comes to marketing?

We’ve continued to evolve ... to keep Etsy top-of-mind. We are laser-focused on driving buyer frequency and using our marketing channels to do that, whether it’s app notifications or email triggers.

We’re also investing in brand marketing channels including our work with influencers. We’ve long benefited from this relationship, but we’ve now created a scalable experience where influencers can curate or co-create their own set of items and then market to their own followings.

The single most important thing Etsy can do to help all of our sellers is to bring them more buyers and marketing efforts are a very effective way we can do that. In addition to driving new buyers to Etsy, we’re also laser-focused on bringing them back, not just for special occasions but for everyday essentials – whether it’s a new personalized doormat or a one-of-a-kind chess set.

In terms of mix, we’re doing brand and performance marketing spanning TV, streaming TV, digital, out-of-home, podcast, digital audio and paid social. We’re seeing great success with TV – driving powerful brand impact while generating sales. Given the success and learnings from the US TV campaign, we’re starting to invest in television in some international markets to get us to scale even faster. We’ve already started leaning in more in the UK and Germany to see how above-the-line marketing can drive brand awareness and visits and look forward to learning more in those markets.

What’s your vision for Etsy’s future and what role will you play in getting there?

Many of us shop with mass retailers to get the basics and those companies are increasingly commoditizing everything, reducing online shopping to price and speed of delivery. But it’s very hard for them to be the place people want to go when they want something to be or to feel special. That’s where Etsy steps up and where our opportunity lies. With over 90m unique items for sale – many of which can be customized and personalized – we’re continuing to invest in the core areas of our marketplace with a goal of introducing Etsy to new buyers and keeping repeat shoppers coming back.

We’re doing things such as improving search so buyers can easily find what they’re looking for, creating more transparency around shipping and delivery times and building tools to further foster the human connection between buyers and sellers that makes Etsy so special. My team and I are tasked with taking all of the incredible work being done to enhance the Etsy experience and sharing it with the world.

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