Brand owners go digital to engage consumers

15 September 2010

NEW YORK: Procter & Gamble, Sprint and Zappos are among the brand owners making heightened use of digital media to connect with consumers.

Matt Symons, a digital marketing director at Accenture Interactive, told AdWeek that a fault line is rapidly emerging among executives.

"[One camp sees] the shift to digital as a terrific opportunity to embrace a reinvention of marketing - the methods and processes and essence of what good marketing means," he said.

"The other camp agrees things are changing, but are not yet clear on what the next generation of marketing needs to be."

Telecoms giant Sprint sought to follow the former route in attracting shoppers, launching several programmes as part of this strategy.

Online took the lead role in its "Now Network" campaign, which featured a widget tracking data in real time to measure impact and effectiveness.

"If you're a CMO and you're not deeply engaged and intimately knowledgeable when it comes to all things digital, then you're stuck in a prior decade and destined to fail," said Bill Morgan, Sprint's svp, corporate marketing.

Procter & Gamble, the FMCG manufacturer, has placed a considerable focus on this area in 2010, starting with the "Proud Sponsor of Moms" multimedia effort during the Winter Olympics.

The "Smell Like a Man, Man" communications drive for Old Spice became a viral sensation, enhancing the momentum gained via two TV spots by delivering 186 YouTube clips responding to netizens' questions.

Both platforms represent a "major shift in how we have historically worked", according to P&G's global marketing and brand building officer, Marc Pritchard.

"We need to change our mind-set from marketing to consumers to serving consumers, and change from just selling attributes so people buy our products, to touching them with ideas that create emotional bonds with our brands," he said.

"Innovation, especially as fast as the world changes, can't always come from within. You have to build and sustain a great internal team and the team has to know the power and skill in building the partnerships that keep us at the forefront of what's next."

Automaker Toyota put Facebook at the heart of a bid to turn around negative perceptions after issuing high-profile recalls.

The organisation's current "Auto-biography" initiative asks its 163,000 Facebook fans to upload videos and messages regarding the best qualities of Toyota cars.

"Sometimes digital inspires the entire campaign," said Kimberley Gardiner, national digital marketing and social media manager, Toyota Motor Sales US.

"Our brand has been through a challenging time over the past few months. But through the Facebook campaign we've seen a groundswell of loyal owners championing our brand."

Zappos, the online retailer founded by Tony Hsieh, and now a unit of Amazon, forged a distinctive position in this space thanks to its unique culture, and ensuring staff act as "brand ambassadors".

"A lot of companies talk about how to generate the short-term marketing buzz," Alfred Lin, Zappos' cfo, said. "But if you don't have the goods, nothing you do is going to be a good long-term approach."

"Twitter is just another way for our customers to contact us and communicate ... to establish that personal and emotional connection that you can't get with a TV or print campaign."

Data sourced from AdWeek; additional content by Warc staff