Walkers: Using social media in new product development

Dan Calladine

Research from comScore recently revealed that 75% (211m) of adult internet users in Europe visited social networks in December 2008. Bearing in mind that three years ago social networks were almost unheard of in Europe, this is an amazing statistic.
Generally speaking, each market has its favourite local network (for example: Hyves in Netherlands; Studivz in Germany: Tuenti in Spain), but Facebook has started to make real inroads into markets outside the UK, particularly in Italy.
An Italian colleague recently explained to me that if you joined an Italian network you could just connect to other Italians. Facebook had far more long-term potential, because it is so international.
The scale of social networks has increased marketers' desire to find ways of using them to actively connect with their audiences. The audience is there - so the potential to harness this power must also be there.
A good recent example from the UK is the 'Do us a Flavour' campaign by Walkers crisps, part of PepsiCo. Walkers is the most popular brand of crisps in the UK, and last year embarked on a mission to develop a new flavour through "crowdsourcing". Wired magazine defines the term as "the act of taking a job performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call".
In this case, Walkers asked consumers to suggest new flavours, via its website, together with a description and a picture to represent the flavour.
Reportedly one million flavours were submitted, from which six flavours were chosen to go into production. All six will be on sale in the UK until early May 2009, when a winner will be chosen from public votes. As soon as the six flavours were chosen, the campaign moved to Facebook to add a social element.
Facebook page was created for the overall campaign, where has 8000 'fans' have made nearly 500 wallposts. In addition, there are individual pages for each of the flavours, so that people can become fans of specific variants, such as Chilli & Chocolate and Builders Breakfast. Here, they can discuss their merits and cast a vote to decide the ultimate winner. (Incidentally, the smart money is on Builders Breakfast, which has far more fans than any of the others).
The Walkers' story well illustrates a recent quote from the American social media guru,
Clay Shirky, who recently wrote: "More interesting than thinking about what's possible in 10 years is thinking what's possible now but that no one has built".
The work that Walkers is doing has been technically possible for some time, but it is only the increased popularity of social networks, like Facebook, that has provided the mass audience to make it worthwhile. With social media, we are now more limited by imagination than by technology.
Twitter is fast becoming the "new Facebook", in terms of the press coverage that it achieves. The buzz about the site in the media is very high at the moment, and has been climbing since late 2008, partly because of the use of the site by the then US Presidential candidate, Barack Obama.
Another reason for this surge of popularity is that, since Twitter does not sell advertising, many other sites do not see it as a competitor, and are happy to promote it and use it to connect with their audience.
For example,
Google has now started "tweeting" officially, as has YouTube and MSN which, in the UK, has over 30 different accounts.
All of this serves to increase the popularity of Twitter, and seems to guarantee that it will keep growing in at least the short and medium term. The story for Twitter, and what it will add to social media, is only just beginning.
We are very, very unlikely to get 75% of internet users joining Twitter, but it is likely that things using elements of Twitter will soon start to make a real difference to people's lives.

Strategies from a new generation of challenger brands

Quarter 1, January 2009

Adam Morgan

As we move into what looks to be the most severe downturn most of us have worked through, we will obviously need to consider what changes and what stays the same in how we approach brand building, marketing and sales.
The tendency will be to think in terms of a profound change in tactics. But I would argue that what is needed is a profound strategic shift in the way we think about marketing, and using what we have to build stronger relationships with consumers.

For years many marketers have been unintentionally lazy. They haven't explored the full potential of the marketing tools in front of them because they haven't needed to – they've always more or less worked. Over the next two to three years, the consumers are going to be short of money, time and attention. A recent study by OMD and Yahoo! suggests that the average global family man or woman was getting through 43 hours of activities in a 24-hour day, because they were doing a number of them at the same time – 36% of texting in the UK occurs in front of the TV.
So the challenge facing us is not just one of consumers being more value conscious, or having reduced budgets and resources. It is how we gain the attention, interest and renewed relationship with a consumer who has less time and inclination to listen to anything from people they do not have a strong and valued relationship with.
So what can we learn from people who have already been in this position?
Analysts typically tend to look at how brands generally have succeeded in previous recessions. I would suggest a different model – let's look at recent examples of brands that have built strong relationships with time-poor consumers in busy marketplaces with very limited budgets. In other words, people whose circumstances have always been those we are now suddenly finding ourselves in. Let's take a recent generation of challengers and see what we can learn from how they have succeeded in creating stronger relationships with challenged resources.

I would suggest that there are five thought-provoking themes for us to draw on.

1. Make Yourself Visible
At the risk of stating the obvious, if you are competing in a world where attention is at a premium, the first thing you need to be is visible. Yet most of the brands around us are, to all intents and purposes, invisible. Unremarkable in their product or service offer, they rely instead on communications to give them visibility, and difference.
But if we cannot rely on adspend to make us visible, we will have to find ways of creating more intrinsic visibility.
Look at method, for instance (Figure 1). Unable to rely on advertising they have built unique visibility into their structural packaging by investing in eye-catching iconic design.

In the service sector, npower has recently looked to compete against British Gas' boiler service by creating a hometeam who want to make visible the respect they give to their customers' homes when they service them. They make this respect instantly visible by literally rolling out a red carpet to protect the floor and furniture while they are working – a brilliant piece of theatre that has led to business increases of up to 50%.

2. Be Startlingly Useful
Google has risen from being one of a number of search engines to become not simply the global leader in search, but one of the world's favourite brands (in May, it was voted 'the UK's Best Loved Brand'). And yet it has done this without any active marketing of itself at all.
For those of us trained to believe that powerful marketing was the way one built brands with strong relationships with consumers, this is an extraordinary disruption. How on earth did it do that?

The answer is that it did it by being startlingly useful. I search for the 'meaning of life' and it gives me 20 million possible answers in 0.08 seconds. Or if I want to see what my neighbours' gardens look like, I punch in their details on Google Earth and there they all are. I have forgotten to send my party guests directions – Google Maps helps me do it in a couple of minutes. It is this startling usefulness that makes Google loved without doing any marketing – over and above, of course, having an exceptional product.
Not all of us can offer startling usefulness in everything we do. But we can look for places to create it. And those challengers that do are rewarded with word of mouth and affection disproportionate to their actual size. Virgin Mobile in Australia has offered its users a variety of startlingly useful services that show it understands the real lives of its customers – rescue services that help you get out of a bad date, for example, or that stop you calling up your ex when you are a little over-refreshed. Without any paid-for communication, it became the talk of every bar and party every weekend.
Of course I am being a little glib here because Google is not just offering startling usefulness, it is also free. But the challenge to us holds: how could we make all or some of our offer startlingly useful?

3. Find a Source of Conflict
So we have made ourselves genuinely visible, and are looking at how to make our product or service startlingly useful. What next? We need to be more compelling as brands.
There is much that we have forgotten from English classes, but the one thing we do remember is that what makes any story compelling is conflict. Not necessarily in the sense of person vs person, but in terms of the protagonist needing to overcome something in order to succeed. And if we look at challengers who break through with very limited resources, it is because they are often creating compelling stories for us by finding something else in popular culture to rub up against. They recognise that having a clear sense of themselves is only half of what they need in order to capture our imaginations – they need another surface of some kind to rub up against.
There are said to be seven kinds of conflict to create a drama that draws us in. The seven types of conflict are:

  1. man vs man

  2. man vs nature

  3. man vs societal environment

  4. man vs machines

  5. man vs religion/God

  6. man vs self

  7. man vs supernatural.
The conflict that deserves a little more attention is the last of these (man vs supernatural), and particularly the idea of how challengers create and use monsters to make themselves more compelling to us.
Monsters have a number of important values in stories. They raise the stakes by creating drama, emotion and conflict. They throw up a hero. They give the hero a very visible adversary and clearly position the hero as being on the side of right. They highlight what his or her virtues are – there is nothing like a little darkness to give definition to light.
Perhaps most important from our point of view, monsters unite the community against them. This is one of the important differences between a monster and an enemy: an enemy is a threat to you, but a monster is a threat to the larger community. This is what brings the community together: however disparate, divided or simply indolent the community had been up to that point, the presence of a monster brings them together in unity against it. And in fighting the monster, the hero (or challenger) is thus fighting not just for themselves, but as the champion of the community as a whole.
We have seen challengers use monsters in this way for years. In many ways Richard Branson's brilliance has been to convince us that his personal business enemies (such as BA) are in fact monsters working against the interests of us all, and that he is our champion, fighting them on our behalf.
Fast forward 20 years. What makes this strategy much more interesting and powerful for a challenger today, is the ability we now have to mobilise these communities against our chosen monsters. This kind of mobilisation can take place in both grass-roots marketing and within social media and networks. The monsters we see such challengers rallying their chosen community against are not always other brands – they are often historical characteristics of the category that they are making redundant (the postal film service Netflix railing against late fees for DVD return) or social tendencies such as conformity (Vivienne Westwood's bête noire).
The household cleaning range, method, whose packaging we noticed earlier, has created a monster in the US called Toxicity. Method goes to a city, sets up in a pop-up store and invites people to 'Detox their lives' – to come and exchange all their toxic products for method's environmentally friendly ones. All of this, of course, is publicised and the community engaged and mobilised through blog and press. Through the careful creation of a monster, method has created a compelling and involving story which people tell each other for them.
We tend to think of the classic challenger as 'little guy vs big guy'; in fact, it is far more often 'hero vs monster'.

4. Rethink your Media
We all know the innocent story, yet we continue to misinterpret its real relevance. To judge from the tsunami of imitations across all categories, you would be forgiven for thinking that the key learning from innocent is to be a little more chatty on the side of our packs.
But innocent's thinking as a challenger was much more profound than that: it was to recognise that packaging of all kinds, delivery vehicles of all kinds, and POS presentation of all kinds are all media. These media are, in many ways, the most effective media you can ever 'buy' because every single piece of it is reaching your desired target audience. If you characterise them as house media, they need as much creativity, refreshment and senior attention as any other kind of media we have more traditionally put on a conventional plan.
So as paid-for communications budgets are pared down, look at putting our house media on the media plan, and behave towards them with the creativity and senior attention they deserve. Packaging, leaflets, service plans, stacking trays – think of these as the canvas for brand expression.
Next is social media – not to be automatically confused with digital media. There may be all kinds of social media that would create more goodwill and attention than a viral communication.
For example, Umpqua Bank, a regional challenger bank in the North-west of the US, has for a number of years operated what it calls 'handshake marketing' – acts of neighbourliness in its physical community that create goodwill and conversation. So for instance, at one point they rented and branded vans that simply drove around distributing free ice cream in summer and free hot chocolate in winter. This simple act of social goodwill inexpensively positioned it as the bank that really is a friend of the community, and created considerable social conversation and coverage in the process.

5. Take Personal Responsibility for Talkability
Which brings us to talkability. We know that challengers thrive on PR. But up to now we have left it to our PR agency to come up with an episodic series of initiatives planned out in advance throughout the year to generate on- and offline buzz. What a more recent generation of challengers is teaching us is that the people in charge of the marketing take personal responsibility for making sure the brand is always being talked about.
42BELOW, the New Zealand super-premium vodka, has never had a formal advertising budget and so constantly sought to keep itself in the news through PR. When the founder felt the brand had been out of the news for a few weeks, he would convene his team, they would look at the day's papers and see what topical stories they could attach themselves to that week.
In one meeting the team read that that morning the New Zealand Navy had announced it was selling off one of its frigates. By early afternoon that same day the team had sent the paper an illustrated story that they were pitching to buy the frigate to turn it into a 42BELOW nightclub. The paper published the picture the next day alongside the story, and the radio stations soon followed. 42BELOW was back in the news again.
Reframing your objectives for your story will help you push it as far as it needs to go to really break through. Skandia had sponsored British sailing for years but coverage had never got beyond the sports pages. Looking for more mainstream coverage before the Olympics, it asked itself what it would take to get in the main body of the papers. The answer it came up with was to get the future Olympians naked, and then paint them gold. The story and picture got a double-page spread in a leading Sunday newspaper and was then picked up by a number of dailies in the week that followed.

This is not a time for tweaking, or simply falling into temporary tactical offsetting. It is a time to embrace what it will take to succeed as a brand in an environment where it will be much harder to genuinely engage a consumer's imagination and pocket.

Topps 3D Live

Admittedly it often doesn't take a whole lot to blow our tiny little minds, but this latest piece of augmented reality wizardry from Total Immersion is quite special...In collaboration with Topps, makers of confectionery and trading cards, Total Immersion has created a new series of 3D Live baseball cards which put superstar players in the palm of your hand. Like any other augmented reality (AR) initiative, users need simply to hold the card in front of a conventional webcam, at which point a fully 3D rendering of the featured player appears. However, using a simple online interface, users can then drop the player straight into a selection of simple practice games. We suggest (no, insist) that you check out the video below (courtesy of CrunchGear.com) to see exactly how this looks.
The only thing which caused more excitement in the Contagious office was the realisation that Topps is also responsible for the Match Attax football card dynasty. We were left wondering how long it would be until we’re in possession of pocket-sized, animated Crystal Palace (edit ) Liverpool (edit ) Middlesbrough players...For more extraordinary augmented reality from Total Immersion, check out the link below for a demo.

Richo: Times Square Adopts 'Windvertising'

March 10, 2009
-By Katy Bachman,

MediweekIn the next few weeks, Japanese copy and photo manufacturer Ricoh will launch a Times Square spectacular powered by wind at 42nd and 7th Ave. The sign, using wind turbine technology developed by WePOWER, will be powered by 16 wind turbines and 64 solar panels, saving 18 tons of carbon per year and about $12,000 to $15,000 a month in electricity.Ricoh isn't the only advertiser to seek an eco-solution in outdoor's most iconic locale. On New Year's Eve, Coca-Cola Co. launched its new digital billboard at 47th and Broadway powered by wind, offsetting the release of 1,866 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.WePOWER, which calls its eco-outdoor ad solution, "windvertising," expects to work directly with advertisers on about 25 custom applications of its technology this year, expanding its footprint in 2010. The company is also in discussions with outdoor media companies about applying its technology in other locations. In addition to the sign itself, windvertising could also be applied to the turbine's air foil blades to reflect an image, creating a moving image. "I always tell people to think of Windvertising as a flipbook that you played with as a child," said Marvin Winkler, CEO of WePOWER.According to Winkler, if the nation's 500,000 billboards were to adopt Windvertising, the billboards, spinning at 10 mph would generate 16.8 billion kWh of electricity. They could power approximately 1.5 million homes and would reduce about 5.3 million tons of CO2 being emitted into the air.

Quaker Oats Jumps on Health and Wellness Bandwagon

March 9, 2009
-By Elaine Wong

PepsiCo's Quaker Oats today fueled New Yorkers' morning commute as part of a breakfast giveaway, which is tied to a new campaign touting the company's whole grain oats.The event, which took place in New York’s Times Square, marks the first time the company will kick off an integrated campaign linking all of its oat products—including Life cereal and Chewy granola bars—under the health and wellness category.

The campaign is dubbed “Go Humans Go.”Former Oprah Winfrey chef Art Smith was on site in Times Square for the breakfast giveaway, which included hot oatmeal and energy smoothies. The promotion coincided with Quaker Oats' renewed emphasis on cause marketing, as the brand steps up its hunger awareness project with charitable partner Share Our Strength.

Today's event also featured an on-site food donation drive, hunger awareness bloggers and bicyclists using “pedal power” to blend their own smoothies.Outdoor elements of the campaign have started appearing on Quaker Oats’ Web site, and on bus and taxicab ads in the Big Apple and other major metropolitan cities. The bulk of the effort begins March 16, with television ads elaborating on the “oat as a nutritious fuel” theme. The ads were created by Quaker Oats’ new lead agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Print ads will appear in April in consumer publications.In an interview with Brandweek, Quaker Oats CMO Annie Young-Scrivner said the company chose to focus on the oat because “it’s not just a grain. It’s a super grain that powers your day and helps you do amazing things.

It lifts you physically and emotionally and makes you feel good knowing you did something good for someone and yourself, and it’s one of the most nutritious grains.”Quaker Oats, which spent $50 million on advertising last year (not including online initiatives), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, may be onto something, said Harry Balzer, vp at the NPD Group’s Chicago office.

Calling attention to oats' wholesome, filling properties is indicative of a larger consumer trend: The shift from meat-based to grain-based meals, Balzer said. “It’s a way of moderating food costs,” he added, noting that grain-based meals are usually cheaper.

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