A fundamental shift in mindsets must occur for marketers to succeed in digital marketing. On the web, they need to get discovered. They need a pull strategy to attract customers by serving useful, relevant and interesting information. They need to compete for keywords and phrases that these customers are entering into search engines’ search boxes.
This contrasts with conventional media which involves different forms of “buying” attention to push products to customers.
A pull strategy is even more important for products that consumers do not usually seek information about on the net. Take shampoo for instance — consumers do not usually go to the net to decide what shampoo to buy, yet they do discuss their hair issues there. According to NM Incite’s white paper (December 2012) there were 2.3 million messages on hair care on social media in the U.S., for the first 6 months of 2012, and only 4% of these pertained to specific hair care brands. Top google searches in hair care, depending on country, usually cover topics such as hairstyles, hair fall, haircuts, hair colour, shampoo, long and short hair and hair salon.
When initially launched in June 2006, Hindustan Unilever’s Sunsilkgangofgirls.com exemplified the pull strategy. Proclaimed as India’s first “online all-girl community” the site provided social networking space and consumer generated content features such as blogs and communities (gangs). Content-wise it focussed on hair, beauty and fashion, and prominently featured hair care experts.
Promoted through a media blitz, the site attracted a high level of interest from its target group, garnered a large base of registered users and “gangs”, reached almost 200 million hits and was attracting an average of 12–13 million page views per month.
The website evolved over time and is now more brand-centric (see Exhibit 13.1) than it used to be. Linked with Sunsilk’s Facebook brand page and Twitter, the website now places greater emphasis on networking through these platforms as opposed to developing their own — i.e., you can no longer form a “gang” on the site. Well aligned with its identity, it continues to serve the information that target consumers are seeking, offering tips from hair experts on hair care, hair trends and fashion, in addition to information about the Sunsilk brand.
P&G’s BeingGirl.com (Exhibit 13.2), which offered advice on puberty and periods for teenage girls, in a teen-friendly manner, was another apt example of a helpful and informative site. According to Velvet Gogol Bennett, P&G’s North America’s feminine care external relations manager, the site was “a safe place where they can go for information about changes they are experiencing but are too embarrassed to discuss.”
Some criticism arose due to accusations of “exploiting” teenage girls, which could have been avoided if the company was more selective on their choice of content. P&G’s current feminine hygiene websites such as Always.com, remain very informative and helpful. No longer purely teen-centric, the sites use personalization to filter content according to the user’s age profile.
Pampers.com, which offers baby and parenting advice, is yet another example of a site that attracts consumers by providing the information that they are seeking. The site is also a good example of the use of personalization in crafting a website. When a mother visits www.pampers.com, the content on the website is filtered and displayed according to her baby’s age group.
As mentioned earlier, the internet is a great leveller. A new or unheard of brand, could gain awareness, and build relationships with consumers without having to spend the kind of money that is required in conventional advertising. Sugarpova is one such example.
At an initial investment of only US$500,000, Maria Sharapova made effective use of the new media to market Sugarpova, a new candy line. On 20 August 2012, armed with her star power, and 10.5 million Facebook fans and 400,000 followers on Twitter, she launched the premium candies without mainstream advertising.
It was candy veteran Jeff Rubin who conceived of the product concept and coined the name Sugarpova. The candies are available in a variety of flavours which come with labels such as “Flirty”, “Smitten Sour”, “Sassy”, and “Splashy”. They may be bought online on Sugarpova’s website (Exhibit 13.3) or at select outlets in a number of countries across the globe.
About a year after the launch of Sugarpova candy, Maria Sharapova introduced a range of clothing and accessories under the same label. Later in 2014 she launched “Speedy”, a yoghurt gummy that comes in the shape of the iconic Porsche 911, and, more recently, in 2016, partnering Baron Chocolatier, she introduced the “chocolate collection”, premium chocolate bars launched in four flavours.
Soon to be sold at the 7-Eleven convenience stores and Kroger supermarkets (U.S.), the distribution of Sugarpova’s Premium Chocolate collection will cross 50,000 outlets by the end of 2018, and sales are expected to soar to U.S. $ 20 million.
Meanwhile as Sharapova’s base of followers on social media cross 23 million (2017), the Sugarpova company milks her star power through digital marketing.
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