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Case Study: How Pioneer Achieved a Whopping 60%+ Click-Through Rate for Its Online Ads

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Company: Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc.
Contact: Ted Cardenas, Director of Marketing, Mobile Entertainment Business Group
Location: Long Beach, Calif.
Industry: Electronics, B2C
Annual revenue: $150,000,000
Number of employees: 500

Quick Read

Would you believe 2009 wasn't all bad? Onerous as it may be to peer through the wreckage left in the year's wake, there were a few bright spots deserving of a marketer's respect—including the explosion of social media and, with it, an unrivaled capability to precisely target specific consumer groups on a grand scale.

Moreover, we now have the means to listen in on—and participate in—the conversations consumers are having about their experiences, opinions, interests, and needs in relation to our products and brands.

Having effectively married those two elements of social media, electronics manufacturer Pioneer was able to achieve click-through rates topping 60% on its ads in online communities where consumers gather.


Pioneer Corporation is a leading maker of consumer and commercial electronics, offering audio, video, and computer products for the home and car. It has subsidiaries and affiliates around the world.

Pioneer Electronics (USA) is the sales and marketing arm of Pioneer's North American headquarters. The company's Mobile Entertainment Business Group manages its in-car product portfolio, which includes car stereo, satellite radio, and navigation systems.

In anticipation of a challenging 2009 holiday season, Pioneer's Mobile Entertainment Business Group began running aggressive rebate offers for two of its in-dash navigation products, the AVIC-Z110BT and the AVIC-X910BT. The rebates were good on purchases made between October 16, 2009, and December 31, 2009.

Next, it needed to get that message out to consumers. But it wasn't just any consumer Pioneer was after.

Because aftermarket navigation systems can be quite challenging and expensive to install in certain vehicle models, the company wanted to maximize the success of its rebate program by specifically targeting consumers who were both (a) owners of those models for which installation is not so difficult and (b) auto enthusiasts, who would be more inclined to upgrade their systems.

"We needed to get the message out to consumers who are familiar with our products, receptive to putting our products in their cars, and not going to have difficulties when they go to a retailer to get our product installed," explained Ted Cardenas, director of marketing for the Mobile Entertainment Business Group.


Pioneer worked with PostRelease to develop an in-forum sponsored-post campaign, which involved the following:

  1. Identifying targeted message boards. Using Pioneer's extensive registered-owner database, which contained information on which vehicles its navigation systems are most frequently installed, and PostRelease's data on the more than 130 forums that participate in its network, the two companies first identified the best forums for reaching the target market.

    They then dug deeper to identify the most optimal areas within those forums to post in—for example, the section of a Ford F150 enthusiasts forum where navigation systems are commonly discussed. In all, 55 message boards were selected.
  2. Crafting the message. Under a headline that read "$200 Rebate on Pioneer Navigation" in bold type, the companies used clear calls to action (e.g., "Click here" and "Visit") to drive users to the Pioneer Electronics website, where they could learn more about the two navigation products, such as pricing and features, and view official details on the rebates being offered.

    Separate links were used to usher users directly to the information they were most interested in. Pioneer's and PostRelease's sponsorship was also clearly marked and explained at the bottom of the post, with another link to contact PostRelease with any questions.
  3. Prominently posting the message online. Pioneer used PostRelease's "sticky post" feature to insert its message, with product images attached, into the lead position on each targeted forum, where the message remained from November 2, 2009, to November 9, 2009.

    After that first week, the message became like any other post and gradually moved down the board as new messages were posted, archived for the life of the forum.

    Cardenas said that by leveraging the "sticky post" feature for one week, Pioneer was able to achieve the "best mix of being top of mind but also active in the forums," and that the company's message remained high in the thread list on smaller forums well into the second week.


During the week of November 2, Pioneer's message was read more than 12,000 times and received approximately 7,500 clicks, for a click-through rate of more than 60%—far better than any of Pioneer's related online banner campaigns.

Cardenas credited the success to the message's pronounced placement directly where users were seeking information on the topic of navigation systems.

It's difficult to tell how many units were sold or rebates were redeemed directly as a result of the campaign; Cardenas noted, however, that by advertising directly within forum posts the company's messaging also gained rank in search-engine listings, enabling it to reach an even broader, albeit still targeted, audience.

Lessons Learned

  • Reach consumers where their product opinions and buying decisions are being formed. Many users turn to online forums to gather product information from peers, so figure out where your prospective customers are gathering, then contribute to those conversations.
  • Be extremely targeted in your approach. Cardenas noted that the best click-through rates came from enthusiast sites for vehicles in which aftermarket installation is easiest. By researching customer and forum information ahead of time and strategically selecting the most targeted channels, Pioneer was able to maximize campaign results.
  • Don't spam. Transparency is paramount online, so it's important to clearly communicate that you are a marketer and that your post is an advertisement.

    Cardenas suggests using a conversational tone so that your copy reads similar to other users' posts.

Related Links

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via

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  • by Dan Redman Tue Feb 9, 2010 via web

    Insignificant data. If you only track half way through (no conversion data), no sample pieces, and you can only approximate the number of views, it's dismissed in my book. A case study should be replicate-able because you discovered something scientifically relevant. I don't see any of that here. You've angered me.

  • by Paul Mulzoff Wed Feb 10, 2010 via web

    I agree with Dan. I would have liked to see the actual visits/sales rates and how they tracked where these visitors/conversions oriuginated from, i.e. SEO, PPC, or the forum

  • by Tracy Wong @ PostRelease Wed Feb 10, 2010 via web

    As with any advertising campaign, building awareness and generating interest is a first step towards generating sales. Companies pay to achieve that first step any number of ways - they buy banner ads, bid on search keywords, etc. What this case study shows is that forum advertising is a highly effective way to get people to that first step whether it's watching a 2-minute product video on YouTube or going to a product page. Tracking the sale from there depends on the advertiser's tracking methods, and it is indeed possible to track online sales and website traffic that originated from PostRelease. Since Pioneer sells its product primarily through distributors who then ship to retailers, direct sales data tied to this specific campaign was not available.

    Forums are formed to speak specifically about a product or interest. In this case, we targeted automotive enthusiast forums and gave them a message about new in-car entertainment products. The purpose of this case study is to show the effectiveness of the targeting and the PostRelease ad unit as evidenced by the high click-thru rate.

    PostRelease has many more examples that demonstrate that these results are indeed repeatable - overall, click-through rates average 33 percent. A similar campaign for American Tire Distributors generated a click-through rate of 69 percent; some current campaigns are in the 40 percent range at the moment. A recent analysis shows that PostRelease results increase by an average of more than 100 percent one year after a paid campaign has ended, because forum posts get indexed by search engines.

    The numbers are not approximates - the numbers listed here are actual results, and the clicks came directly from the PostRelease posts within the forums.

  • by Dan Redman Wed Feb 10, 2010 via web

    Certainly an interesting concept, but the sample size is still quite small. Impressions have value, and 12,000 of them probably doesn't move the needle for a big company.

    'Pioneer's message was read more than 12,000 times and received approximately 7,500 clicks'. The words more than and approximately have never meant 'actual'.

  • by Mark Kilens Thu Feb 11, 2010 via web

    The three points at the bottom are essential for being successful with inbound marketing. Awesome idea by making the blog post "sticky." Great story and thanks for sharing.

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