NEW YORK: Hellmann's, the mayonnaise brand owned by Unilever, has provided a demonstration of how marketers can effectively leverage mobile-messaging tools such as WhatsApp to engage consumers.

Thana Uchino, Unilever's digital marketing manager in Brazil, discussed this topic while speaking at the SM2 Innovation Summit, an event organised by the Mobile Marketing Association.

Fully 79% of the smartphone population in the South American country, she informed the delegates, use WhatsApp – an audience potentially extending to 32m people.

To connect with these consumers, and help them tackle the daily "dilemma" of what to make with ingredients they had left over in the fridge, Hellmann's introduced the WhatsCook campaign. (For more, including results of this initiative, read Warc's report: Hellmann's taps into WhatsApp to find new inspiration for mayonnaise.)

"When you arrive home, you are starving, you are tired, and you have to think about, 'What's for dinner?', or, 'What do I have to cook for my children?', or, maybe, 'I don't know how to cook, but I don't want to order pizza today'," Uchino said.

"And we started to think how we as a brand could take advantage of this dilemma, of this moment, to be the solution … We could help people [by] being there and answering their questions."

For ten days, Hellmann's thus allowed consumers to register for WhatsCook on a dedicated website, and then receive one-on-one guidance on making a bespoke meal from a chef via WhatsApp.

Roughly 500 dishes – all featuring Hellmann's mayonnaise alongside the other items participants had available – were made using this real-time form of engagement, which generated huge amounts of online buzz and PR.

While many brands were already providing recipes and culinary tips on social media and their brand websites, Uchino reported, this idea took such thinking on a step.

"It was really useful – a real service, and a relevant service, for our consumers, different from anything that was happening in the food/digital scenario," she said.

"The main learning was that it's not about just advertising; it's about creating a relevant service; it's about creating real conversations, real connections with consumers; and answering a real need in the exact moment that they are needing your help."

Data sourced from Warc