Gilson Spreads More Than Just Holiday Cheer

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Gilson’s private-label holiday hot sauces were a central part of the 2018 marketing campaign.

What started as a conversation about how to ease the pressure on our internal production staff during the busy holiday season turned into one of our most successful – and economical! – marketing campaigns. Read more about how a fictitious sauce brand transformed Gilson’s sales model in our latest case study.


The Sticky Situation

Those familiar with Gilson may have seen the byproduct of our recent holiday campaigns around town in the form of tiny personalized cardboard elves. (If not, you can read more about it here.) As another record-breaking campaign came to a close in December of 2017, conversations turned towards how we could improve.

The primary driver of this process-improvement conversation was the hope of eliminating some of the internal pressure on our production staff during what is already one of our busiest times of year. Our customers trust us to handle their most challenging, most time-sensitive, most complex print-on-demand and fulfillment projects – and yet our marketing campaign was an annual source of pain for our internal workflow.

The nature of the project did not lend itself to automation of any kind, and the chain of custody once the customized elves were produced was a challenge. We sat down to explore what an ideal campaign might look like.

“The secret to the success of so many of our customer’s projects lies in our Mindwire® portal,” said Sally Gilbert, Director of Fulfillment Programs. “There’s really nothing else like it on the market today. If you want accurate, well-managed print-on-demand and fulfillment, Mindwire is your tool.”

Mindwire® is Gilson’s proprietary B2B e-commerce portal that serves as the single access point for sales and marketing tools such as literature, digital assets and images, wearables and promotional items, manuals and more.

It is completely administrable by the customer, and offers real-time inventory access and reporting. Hundreds of Gilson customers currently use Mindwire in some form or another.

We knew that if we could use Mindwire as the central hub of our marketing campaign, the campaign deliverables would flow through the shop much more smoothly, and also allow us to showcase the tool to our customers with their own customized demonstration experience.

“We had already established that increasing our customer’s exposure to Mindwire® was going to be one of our sales goals for 2018, so deciding early on to use it as a focal point of our next campaign just made sense,” noted Marketing Manager Kim Elmore.

“Not only was our original process a bit clunky on the back end, but our response rates were getting out of control,” said Elmore. Too many campaign responses can be a waste of resources, if the proper follow-ups cannot be made. “We were getting double-digit response rates on a list that was well over 1,000 people. Our sales team just wasn’t able to keep up.”

Armed with the decision that we wanted to keep our response rates high, but our follow-ups manageable, and also the desire to create a more streamlined campaign fulfillment process, we set to work developing the Gilson Holiday Campaign 2.0: Hot Sauce Edition.

A Solution to be Savored

In the beginning… there was sauce.

If we take a spin in the way-back machine, we’ll find the beginnings of this new sauce-themed holiday campaign stretch all the way back to the early 2000s.

“We knew that in order for us to show off everything Mindwire could do, we needed to let customers see it in action,” said Jeff Palmitier, Executive Vice President of Technology. “Unfortunately in order to do that, we would need to share existing customers’ Mindwire sites, which in many cases is a violation of their confidentiality agreements. We needed a dedicated demo site that we could freely share, that would show how a business might use Mindwire for sales and marketing support.”

The idea of developing a fictitious company that we could use as a demonstration tool for our Mindwire® product never fully got off the ground from an execution standpoint, but plenty of creative groundwork was laid.

In 2017, we decided to wipe the dust off the bottle and pick up where we left off – first with a complete brand development exercise for “SAUCEWORX”, an imaginary sauce manufacturer founded in the tiny Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill.

The “Sauceworx” branding exercise included typography, color palette, logo and wordmark design, as well as content development and copywriting for each of the fictitious products. All creative was executed by Gilson’s internal creative agency, Tonic.

Complete with made-up backstory and a whole new graphic identity, the Sauceworx squirrel icon made its debut on a dedicated consumer-facing website and coordinating Mindwire site, ready to demonstrate all that Mindwire had to offer.

Fast forward to 2018…

Using the Sauceworx Mindwire site as the basis for our holiday promotion was a natural fit. Our team developed limited edition sauce flavors and packaging, complete with gift sets, direct mail pieces, campaign landing pages to capture responses, and more.

All of the creative elements were completed over the summer, produced in the fall, and ready for deployment just prior to the holidays, spreading the workload over many months and allowing it to be completed during slower production times.  

The business development team identified a targeted list of companies who could benefit from a Mindwire solution, and then allowed the sales team to hand-pick which individuals at each company should receive the promotion.

This precision targeting ensured that the majority of responses would be pre-qualified leads, removing the guesswork on the sales person’s part as to whether or not to follow-up with a sales pitch or just a friendly thank you was required.

Recipients of the campaign were driven to a landing page that would capture and confirm their email address, which would be used as their username for accessing the Mindwire demonstration portal.

After completing a few steps to set up their password, users were granted access to the holiday-themed Sauceworx Mindwire site and allowed to choose one of three holiday gifts.

Once their order was complete, items were picked, packed, and shipped to the location of their choosing – just like any order they would have placed for marketing materials if they had a Mindwire site of their own.

Sauce Success!

Predetermining a realistic response rate was critical to the success of the campaign, since all premiums would be produced in advanced and sitting on warehouse shelves awaiting deployment once ordered. Anticipating too many responses would result in wasted resources on the shelves; underestimating our response rates would have caused us to run out of giveaways before the campaign reached it’s conclusion.

Using historical data on previous Gilson holiday campaigns, the marketing team set a goal of a 30% response rate and produced enough giveaways (branded hot sauces, squirrel-shaped desk organizers, and saucy greeting cards) to fulfill all orders should our response rate be around that 30% mark.

Within 2 days of the first mailed touchpoint, the campaign had already received an impressive 15% response rate. As a result, we decided to eliminate a few of the emailed touch points so as not to exceed our goal and run out of giveaways prematurely.

At the conclusion of the 30-day campaign, 42% of all recipients had visited their personalized landing page. Of those, 73% went on to complete the Mindwire® demonstration and requested their free gift for an overall redemption rate of 30.4%.

The result was a successful holiday campaign that caused minimal disruption to Gilson’s existing production workflow, demonstrated our creative, production, and fulfillment capabilities, and yielded a pool of strong, qualified Mindwire® leads for our sales staff to pursue. All of this was conducted on a fixed budget and timeline, allowing us to more accurately account for our ROI.

If your marketing strategy isn’t yielding the qualified leads you seek, give us a call for a complimentary consultation and brainstorming session. We’d be happy to share our secret sauce with you.

Also, if Mindwire has piqued your interest, you can learn more or request a demonstration by visiting,, or contacting your Gilson account representative.