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How Amazon helped give Bai a boost

Targeted online marketing leads to increased sales and a Super Bowl ad

Fighting (and paying) for shelf space at brick and mortar can be a challenge for startup challenger brands. Which is why the limitless shelf space and low barriers to entry for e-commerce is so enticing.

During his keynote presentation at digital marketing conference DX3 in Toronto last week, Tamir Bar-Haim, the head of Amazon’s advertising business in Canada, told the story of Bai (pronounced bye) -- an antioxidant beverage brand that launched in the U.S. in 2009 and invested heavily in online marketing to build awareness and grow sales.

As a challenger brand with low awareness levels, Bai invested "disproportionately" in e-commerce and worked with Amazon to address its challenges with an end-to-end marketing strategy, he said. Amazon looked at Bai's shopper data and married it to its own and found a group of customers Bai products would resonate with the most. From there, Amazon deployed native, search and targeted display ads to ensure the right message was being served to the right customer, said Bar-Haim.

For example, a customer review was served to shoppers who were unaware or unfamiliar with Bai products; customers who had explored Bai products or placed one in their cart, but never made a purchase, were served with a coupon; and customers who had purchased a Bai product in the past were given the option to subscribe to that product to receive it on a monthly basis.

The marketing program worked and in 2015 Bai was named Amazon's Vendor Of The Year. "They saw their sales skyrocket and they eventually became the number one best seller in a number of different categories including flavoured water," said Bar-Haim. Having a great product certainly helps. Bar-Haim said Bai has more than 3,000 reviews on most of its products and an average 4.5 star rating.

Additionally, in 2017, Bai made its Super Bowl debut with a 30-second television commercial (see below) starring Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken. It didn't hurt, of course, that Bai had Dr Pepper Snapple's marketing machine behind it thanks to a $1.7-billion acquisition in the fall of 2016. But a few important steps made in the online space in the brand's early days is what positioned it for success and helped it catch the eye of the American soft drink giant, said Bar-Haim.

“What I love about this story is that you have a brand that not only had some very meaningful sales by investing in e-commerce, but they built their brand and equity online and they were able to use that to eventually get to the Super Bowl instead of the inverse.”

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