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Insight Comes Before Inspiration
LAURA KLAUBERG COULD safely count herself as one of the world's most influential forces in digital media—except for that whole embarrassing incident on Facebook.
Klauberg, Unilever's powerful senior vice president of global media, has long played an instrumental role in shaping the personal care giant's strategies for capitalizing on integrated, 360-degree consumer advertising campaigns spanning both traditional and nontraditional media outlets.
Think of such initiatives as In the Motherhood, a web-based TV series from Suave Shampoo featuring Leah Remini and Jenny McCarthy that enabled the site's devoted fan base to vote on upcoming story developments.
Don't forget Dove beauty brand's massive television, web, outdoor, and mobile initiatives for the much ballyhooed "Campaign for Real Beauty," which encourages women around the world to eschew big media's conventions of beauty.
On the other end of the spectrum, think AXE Deodorant's browraising viral videos and racy games such as AXE Shower Gel's Dirty Rolling game—in which players get points for directing a young couple as they get, well, interactive, rolling across all manner of things (a lawn, shrubs, ice cream cones, other people). The idea: Get the couple as "dirty" as possible, before they end up showering together.
In Klauberg's view, digital media is fundamentally transforming the way brands interact with, and engage, consumers—especially young ones.
And she has inspiration: her daughters—ages eighteen, twenty-one, and twenty-three—who provide a living laboratory for how young people interact with digital media.
Not that the lab is always peaceful. There was, after all, the time the girls were mortified when Klauberg set up her own Facebook profile page and then "friended" them in an effort to immerse herself in the online social networking scene.
"I caused a riot among about two hundred kids," Klauberg deadpans. "Within literally hours, there were posts on everyone's pages about keeping me out."
Klauberg says that the whole experience helped open her eyes to the way today's generation interacts with media.
"That's really their world. They do everything on-demand, on their terms."
Klauberg's not alone. Around the world, brands and their ad agency partners are struggling with how to best reach out and connect with this generation. Their approaches vary widely. Some are well thought out. Others, decidedly less so.
On-Demand, or Digital du Jour?
It seems that in every advertising agency across the land, if you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times.
Let's do "x"—insert your own trendy marketing buzzword here— from branded entertainment, to "user-generated content," to augmented reality, to advergames and more. Not because it has any relevance to their clients' target consumers—who don't, despite what you may think, necessarily want to seek out ways to engage with your brand.
Rather, it's because "x" is the sexy digital watchword of the day, and every agency needs to be doing it—whatever "it" is—before the agency's (or at least its creative staff's) coolness credentials are questioned.
And if you think it's bad at agencies, it can be worse among the ranks of brand marketers—especially the larger and more established brands.
Who hasn't heard this uttered at least once from a high-level executive's mouth: "We need a mobile (or social media, or viral video, or some other 'x') strategy."
Never mind that these are channels, not strategies, and that it's akin to someone proclaiming, "We need a TV commercial strategy," or "We need a brochure strategy."
I was recently in a meeting in which a top executive at a major consumer products brand exclaimed, "We need to get into online video." When asked why, and I'm not kidding here, he replied, "Because it's cool and everyone's doing it."
He certainly could be right on both counts—the trend and the need.
But as I've learned in talking with some of today's most innovative marketers, the most successful digital initiatives typically don't start with the idea for a cool new digital experience, or a me-too approach to major trends. Instead, they start with consumer insights culled from painstaking research into who your customers are, what they're all about, how they interact with consumer technologies, and what they want from the brands they know and trust.
For a case in point, look no further than Klauberg's Unilever, and its Dove beauty brand's "Campaign for Real Beauty."
By now, most marketers are familiar with this award-winning campaign. But many may not know its origins.
For those not in the know, the effort is an integrated tour de force; an expansive print, television, outdoor, web, and mobile initiative that encourages women around the world to ignore big media's beauty stereotypes—as counterintuitive a message as has ever come from a beauty goods brand.
Mind you, Dove would have no doubt been successful with a standard-issue TV campaign featuring conventionally beautiful women pitching the brand's Calming Night Bar, Smooth & Soft Anti-Frizz Cream, or its Energy Glow Lotion.
But Dove took a different approach.
Instead, Dove marketers and ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and research firm Strategy One worked with researchers at Harvard University and the London School of Economics to conduct a ten-country study of more than 3,200 girls and women ages eighteen to sixty-four in order to better understand women's views about what beauty means today—and to measure satisfaction with their own beauty.
Instead of finding a sisterhood of preening narcissists, the study found that a mere 2 percent of women would describe themselves as beautiful. In fact, only 4 percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds would do so.
What's more, women of all ages say marketing pitches featuring supermodels make them feel worse about their looks, and forever pressured to strive for "the eye-popping features and stunning proportions of a few hand-picked beauty icons."
The marketers used these insights to tap into a broader dynamic emerging within the zeitgeist: a growing desire for "empowerment" and "authenticity." Not the "truthiness" sort, mind you, but rather the "live-your-best-life" variety personified by brands like Real Simple magazine and Oprah Winfrey.
They also tapped into coinciding research showing how teens and women use digital media, from the Internet to mobile phones.
The Pew Internet & American Life project, for instance, has found that young women have become the most prolific drivers of many social media channels. Nearly 70 percent of American girls between the ages of fifteen and seventeen have built and routinely update profile pages on websites like MySpace and Facebook. Some 35 percent of girls have their own blogs, compared to 20 percent of boys. And 32 percent of girls have their own websites, compared to 22 percent of their male counterparts. While the breakdown of gender participation in these kinds of activities approaches parity in adulthood, women are more likely to use them as a means of fostering and maintaining nurturing, empowering emotional connections with others.
In a kind of perfect symbiosis, Dove's resulting multiplatform marketing campaign seamlessly hocked products like Intensive Firming Cream and Exfoliating Body Wash while encouraging women to define their own beauty and reject popular culture's ever-narrower definition of attractiveness.
One Beauty of a Campaign
Indeed, although later studies revealed women actually feel better about brands that use the young-and-thin aesthetic, even as they feel worse about themselves, Dove has stuck to its positioning, deploying a number of innovative digital marketing strategies to engage its target consumer.
In Times Square, digital billboards featuring everyday women in underwear—the models more Rubenesque than anorexic—asked passersby to participate in text voting on whether the featured woman was a) wrinkled or b) wonderful; a) fat or b) fabulous; and a) oversized or b) outstanding.
Contests asked consumers to create TV commercials for airing during the Oscars. And the groundbreaking viral videos Evolution and Onslaught showed how harmful media images can be on our sense of beauty.
In Evolution's case, a video uses time-lapse imagery to show an average-looking woman transformed into a beautiful billboard model, thanks to an army of makeup artists, stylists, and the miracles of Photoshop. The tagline proclaimed: "No wonder our perception of beauty is so distorted."
The spot ran during the Super Bowl and was shown a handful of other times on TV. But it became a viral phenomenon online, drawing nearly 6 million hits on YouTube alone.
Onslaught, on the other hand, featured a freckle-faced little girl hit with a barrage of beauty-industry imagery, from emaciated models to bikini-clad provocateurs to Botox needles (see Figure 1–1).
Highly interactive online video experiences drive home the point in other ways. In Amy, a boy stands outside a girl's house for hours, calling her name in hopes that she'll come out and visit. Copy reads, "Amy can name 12 things wrong with her appearance. He can't name one." Users are able to customize the name the boy calls out, and then send the customized video to encourage girls they know to see themselves as others do—not as flawed, but beautiful just they way they are.
It is also, as I recently told Broadcasting & Cable magazine, an enormous paradox, designed to "equate the idea of rejecting society's conventions of beauty by buying products from the beauty industry."
A bit more playful, Waking Up Hannah—dubbed as the world's first interactive romantic comedy—is an online video experience that enables visitors to choose from three different story lines and then watch as the title character gets ready for a blind date.
The site enables visitors to do things like help Hannah get ready for the evening (you can choose which Dove products Hannah will use), click on her mobile phone to view her text messages and pictures, and hear ongoing commentary.
There's even the occasional glam: One component of the campaign involves a cross-promotion with the hit CW TV series Gossip Girl. In this case, a "Dove Go Fresh" website featuring videos, blogs, and games about four Upper East Siders—an aspiring designer, an "It" girl, a filmmaker, and an Ivy Leaguer—who share their real stories about growing up, surviving, and succeeding in New York City.
The centerpiece of the entire effort: Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" website, which features educational downloads for parents, teachers, and teens on how to foster feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance.
Visitors can also contribute to a special "self-esteem" fund—an impressive effort designed to promote positive body image among girls and women worldwide. Dove even donates a portion of sales from select products. In fact, by 2010, educational programs sponsored by the fund had touched the lives of 5 million young people in forty countries throughout Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East.
Which is admirable, yes. But this is far more than just the perfect match of cause and commerce.
Following the launch of the "Campaign for Real Beauty," market share for Dove's firming products, for instance, grew from 7 percent to 13.5 percent in its six biggest markets (the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain), far exceeding the marketers' expectations.
In fact, global sales for Dove products increased over 10 percent in the first two years of the campaign, according to statistics from Information Resources Incorporated. That puts Dove sales at well over $600 million per year.
It was also the first campaign to ever win both the television and cyber Grand Prix awards at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
In short: This campaign demonstrates that success is not about understanding technology, it's about understanding your customers— and then capitalizing on that insight across the digital platforms that make sense for your audience, in the ways that will resonate most.
To that end, let's look at key tenets for following Rule #1.
KNOW THY CUSTOMER—AND THY CHANNELS
If you don't know who your customers are, what they like, and how they use—and want to use—digital media, you're just shooting in the dark. But armed with customer insights, the sky's the limit. And Dove's parent, Unilever, is not the only company to realize this.
Toyota has practically made it an art form—from product design all the way to market implementation.
When it launched its youth-targeting Scion brand, the company researched and refined its target audience, building an exquisitelydetailed profile of a young, eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old male that Jeffrey Rayport, chairman of Marketspace LLC, describes as "a tuner, one of those guys who has a forehead tattoo, a tongue-stud, lives in Southern California, buys used cars, customizes them with fuzzy dice and mag wheels, and expresses himself and his entire identity through the World of Warcraft scenes that are airbrushed on the doors of the car."
The company then did something amazing in its simplicity. It created a car to fit this profile—essentially a stripped-down Corolla with an intentionally unrefined chassis that is purposefully marketed as "incomplete"—meant to be cocreated with the customer as he pimps his ride with Scion-branded and third-party accessories and options.
The brand then went out and found its creative "dude demographic" where he lives. With very little television ad spend, Scion has infiltrated car shows and sponsored streetcar design competitions. In fact, according to Rayport, Scion has discovered in its ongoing research that its customers spend as much money in the first three years of ownership customizing their cars as an expression of themselves, and their identities, as they did buying the car in the first place.
Scion has also quietly, yet radically, redefined the way to market cars online to an audience that not only disdains advertising, but also avoids most media channels through which an advertiser would typically market its products.
There is, for instance, Scion Broadband, an online entertainment portal that showcases short films, Japanese anime, live music events, and short episodic TV-style shows, along with video demos of those cool new Scion models.
There's the partnership with gamer site Kongregate to help aspiring game developers learn how to create new shoot-'em-up video games.
And there are myriad virtual world initiatives, including Scion City in Second Life, Club Scion in Whyville, and Scion experiences within Gaia.
In Gaia, for instance, users can buy and customize Scion automobiles using the world's virtual currency. They can buy, sell, and trade items like rims, paint, decals, and spoilers to customize their rides. Within the offering's first hour of launch, Gaians acquired over 28,000 Scions, a figure that grew to 600,000 within six months.
We'll learn more about Scion and its efforts later on in the book. Suffice to say, it has all met remarkable success—helping to sell 175,000 cars in its first four years, and making it one of the most successful car launches in North American history.
For Procter & Gamble, this kind of innovation-through-insight is standard operating procedure.
To better understand and address the needs of parents, P&G—a notoriously staid, conservative corporation—recently teamed up with Google, the antithesis of corporate sterility, for a staff-swapping program whereby P&G marketers would spend time working at Google, and vice versa. The idea: Gain insights on the way its customers use technology, and spur new ideas.
That may sound more unconventional than it is. P&G, the world's largest advertiser with $8.9 billion in annual ad spend, has a long history of revolutionizing new media. It was P&G, and its first nationally advertised brand, Ivory Soap, that wrote and produced the first radio and television "soap" opera, Guiding Light.
As part of its staff-sharing project, Google helped Procter & Gamble understand how women use the Internet and in particular, the influence of so-called "Mommy Bloggers"—blogs like CityMoma, Mommy Needs Coffee, This Full House, and a host of others that collectively attract over 21 million moms seeking advice and camaraderie every week. For example, it turned out that 85 percent of people who read blogs in the BlogHer blog network report that they've purchased a product based upon a blog recommendation.
Excerpted from The On-Demand Brand by RICK MATHIESON Copyright © 2010 by Rick Mathieson. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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