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Billboards Are Still OP

How Monday.com uses billboards to generate awareness.

Hey — It’s Nico.

This is another edition of Failory’s Behind Tactics 🧠, the newsletter in which I analyze the different strategies startups use to get ahead in their markets.

Today, I want to talk about an unexpected trend in the startup world: billboards.

In recent years, many startups have invested heavily in this traditional form of marketing, which isn't usually associated with the digital world.

One standout example is Monday.com. They've conducted several offline marketing campaigns and placed billboards worldwide. 

Let's examine this strategy and try to understand why startups are turning to billboards and how this classic approach can effectively cut through the digital noise to boost brand awareness.

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The Strategy

B2B Billboards?

I live in Argentina. Here, most billboards on the street publicize local businesses like clothing stores or banks. Until last year, I had never seen a billboard for a startup on the street. In my mind, startup ads belonged online, not in the real world.

That changed last year when I was on the subway and saw Monday.com ads plastered all over the walls. I already knew about Monday.com because their ads were in every YouTube video I watched, but seeing them on the subway really grabbed my attention.

Why was a B2B startup advertising on the streets of Argentina? It didn’t seem like it would be profitable.

When I looked into it, I found this was part of a bigger trend. Many startups were moving away from using just digital ads and starting to fill the streets with their brands.

So, why is this happening? Why are Monday.com and other SaaS companies spending money on billboards around the world? Is this strategy worth the investment? And can we even measure its success?

Real World Marketing

In 2019 and 2020, Monday.com spent 95% of its revenue on advertising. Although this number has decreased since then, they still allocate a significant portion of their revenue to ads.

A lot of this money goes into online ads. You've probably seen them all over YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. Monday.com adopts a strategy of broad reach for its online ads. Rather than focusing solely on potential customers, it tries to reach as many people as possible.

This strategy is common in B2C startups, but many B2B businesses are now using it too. The idea is that people who see the ad might talk about it with their teams, which could lead to a sale.

But not all of Monday.com's advertising budget goes online. The marketing team decided to invest in offline ads as well. They started in New York, filling the streets and the subway stations with ads.

After the success of the New York campaign, they replicated the strategy in many other countries.

So what's the idea here? Is Monday.com trying to target all the business founders who take the subway daily?

Not really. Billboards aren't for performance marketing; they're for increasing brand awareness.

For a new startup that nobody knows about, putting up billboards can make the public think you're a much larger company than you actually are. It helps get the word out about your brand and makes people see you as a legitimate business.

Additionally, it keeps your brand in people's minds. Every time they see an ad, it reinforces your presence. So when they need a product like yours, your brand is the first one they think of.

Online and Offline

Monday.com's marketing strategy is effective because it combines both online and offline marketing. The billboards increase brand awareness, while the online ads focus on selling the product.

In many ways, the billboards enhance the effectiveness of YouTube or TikTok ads. Someone who has seen the billboards and then encounters an online ad a few months later is much more likely to convert than someone who is just learning about Monday.com from the online ad alone. The billboards then work as a cost-effective way of improving your online ads conversion rate.

Measuring Impact

Measuring the effectiveness of outdoor advertising, like billboards, is a challenge compared to tracking digital ads. Directly quantifying the return on investment (ROI) is difficult, but Monday.com uses several methods to gauge their impact:

  • Signup Data: When new users sign up, Monday asks them how they heard about the company. This helps attribute signups to specific ads and identify the most effective advertising channels.

  • Surveys: Monday conducts surveys before and after the campaign with target demographics to track changes in brand awareness and recognition.

  • Quantifying "Lift": Monday measures changes in website traffic, demo requests, and other metrics in the billboard's geographic area. They then compare these changes to control cities without billboards to identify any significant lift.

  • Anecdotal Feedback: Gathering feedback from friends, prospects, and employees or hearing that people noticed your ads could also be a strong indicator of increased brand visibility.

Should I?

Why This Works

  • Builds Brand Awareness: Billboards are excellent for increasing brand recognition in a specific location. They make your company appear larger and more established, boosting trust among potential customers.

  • Gets Shared on Social Media: An eye-catching or uniquely designed billboard can be photographed and shared on social media, expanding your brand's reach. For example, 3D billboards, though expensive, are highly effective in generating social media buzz.

  • Increases Brand Frequency: People in the area where your billboards are located will likely see them multiple times a week. This repetition helps embed your brand in their minds, ensuring that your company is the first they think of when they need a product like yours.

  • Cost-Effective: If placed in the right location, billboards can be a highly cost-effective way to increase brand awareness. Compared to other online marketing strategies, which can be more expensive and less effective at boosting brand recognition, billboards offer great value. This is especially true if your billboard's design is eye-catching enough to be shared on social media.

How to Apply It

  • Choose the Location: This step is crucial, so take your time comparing different spots. Monday.com did extensive research, analyzing pedestrian traffic data to determine where their target market was most concentrated. These factors helped them choose a prime location in Manhattan.

  • Design the Billboard: Beyond making the billboard visually attractive and easy to read, focus on a compelling message that resonates with your audience. Use bold colors, clear fonts, and a strong call to action to capture attention.

  • Measure the Impact: Measuring the effectiveness of offline marketing isn't easy, but it's essential. Use methods like brand awareness surveys, tracking signup data, and monitoring changes in website traffic to gauge the campaign's success. For example, ask new signups how they heard about your company or compare metrics from areas with and without billboards.

Yes, But

  • Hard to Track: Although Monday.com has developed various methods and KPIs to track the effectiveness of billboards, it remains much more challenging than tracking online ad campaigns. Measuring the success of brand awareness marketing is never easy.

  • Requires Specialists: Billboard marketing is entirely different from online marketing, so you will require specialists in offline marketing. Additionally, you'll need designers to create compelling billboards and data specialists to track their performance.

  • Iteration is Not Easy: One of the advantages of online ad campaigns is the ability to modify ads on the go. You can quickly see how an ad is performing, make changes, and immediately assess the impact. You can also run A/B tests to determine which ad works best. None of this is possible with billboards.

Keep Learning

Others Playing It

  • Lattice, the people management platform, has been investing in billboards for many years.

  • Rows.com has made some billboards that have gotten quite a bit of social media traction.

  • MongoDB has also made some billboards. This one is the type of billboard that only works in SF.

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