The Bradford Group’s Gold-Plated Marketing Efficiency

tm0615_bradfordgroup.jpgIn the early ’70s, The Bradford Exchange’s computerized trading system helped set the company apart from its collectible-plate competitors because its customers could get real-time market prices in order to buy and sell plates. By 2015, though, a main differentiator between The Bradford Group — a company that now encompasses 16 brands, including The Bradford Exchange — is what might be called an old-time value.

Challenge: Increase marketing efficiency.

Solution: Apply marketing automation to print marketing.


  • 90% faster time-to-market on campaigns
  • 75% reduction in setup time for campaigns
  • Eliminated pre-print and storage

Unlike other e-commerce businesses that only provide package labels or maybe packing slips inside deliveries, the group sends personalized invoices and letters with one of the 16 brand logos, a “thank you,” a product description, and information about customer service and product guarantees.

All of these shipping invoices are folded and placed in an envelope attached to the packages. However, without marketing automation for the Niles, Ill.-based collectibles, jewelry, apparel, home décor “and more” business, the direct mail and insert process was getting out of hand. The group was sending its more than 1 million active customers tens of millions of communications printed on internal equipment that employed 27-year-old proprietary code, which had been written by a long-gone employee. It was time to outsource, recalls Wendy Ring, the group’s VP of marketing operations.

So in July 2011, The Bradford Group hired Ojai, Calif.-based marketing software and services provider Elixir Technologies to help the company continue to stand out, while using a lot less sweat.

“We decided to upgrade virtually all aspects of our customer correspondence,” Ring says. “We made it much more dynamic, much more automated in the sense that we don’t have to set each and every product up. We have over 25,000 SKUs, so you can imagine that we had a person who was trying to manage all 25,000 of them at any one time.”

It took a year to organize and transfer the information, but Elixir’s tool now uses data gathered by The Bradford Group’s technology — which tracks customer history regarding recency, frequency and last purchase — and plugs it into the company’s more than 1,000 business rules to trigger dynamic messages for each customer, she says.

“We’re slowly dismantling the legacy system,” Ring says.

Eventually, she says the group will even add digital channels to its marketing automation options.

For now, though, The Bradford Group is rather happy with the 90 percent improvement in time-to-market with its campaigns, 75 percent reduction in campaign setup time, and millions saved with the ability to send information to an outside printer rather than having to inventory the in-house, specialized equipment. Business rules that used to require a full-time employee to manage, and designs that once took days to produce, now require just hours.

Plus, the company can now quickly change how it wants to communicate to each customer — whether it be all the way down to the product level, complete with inserts about other products, or back up to the product line and simply thanking the person for buying a doll. It’s one of the reasons “customer communications” is how The Bradford Group terms its various types of invoices — including dunning, shipping and reservations. The latter asks customers to subscribe and is the company’s chief revenue-generator.

Perhaps this direct mail improvement will join The Bradford Group’s history page for providing customers with “innovation, artistry and design of enduring value.”

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.
Publish date: June 16, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT