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At the recent presentation of the 2010 Best New Products Awards at the offices of consumer publication Better Homes and Gardens in New York, along with a display of the winning items and the results of a survey of over 50,000 grocery shoppers by Toronto-based independent market research firm BrandSpark International, attendees heard a talk by marketer and author Bob Gillbreath, who imparted digital media insights gleaned for his latest book, “The Next Evolution of Marketing.”
Chief marketing strategist at digital ad agency Bridge Worldwide and a veteran of such major companies as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Anheuser-Busch and Ford, Gillbreath acknowledged that the advent of digital media was making marketing harder, with online spending down 3 percent and display ads down 17 percent. Running bigger banner ads isn’t the answer, however, he cautioned, noting that consumers were using technology such as Firefox’s AdBlock to avoid online ads altogether.
This state of affairs has spurred certain creative companies to take a new approach. Among others, Gillbreath cited Kraft Foods, which recently introduced the iFood mobile phone application offering such handy features as recipes, thereby attracting a much younger, more male audience than usual for a food manufacturer. Proof offered by Gillbreath of the initiative’s success was that 60 percent of the people who downloaded the app are continuing to use it regularly – a rarity in a medium where users normally lose interest after a day or so – and that it had landed in the top 10 of sites used by females.
The way companies can succeed with consumers, according to Gillbreath, is to implement “marketing with meaning” -- campaigns people choose to engage with and that actually improve lives. At the “base level” of this approach, which borrows from Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” theory of psychology, were such solution-based initiatives as the “e-Saver” digital coupon program originally rolled out by Kroger and P&G. The two-year-old program drove people who didn’t use coupons to use them, increased loyalty card use at the grocer, and now is being expanded to other vendors. Another example is an online tool launched by Vicks to determine which of its products can help consumers’ symptoms.
With reciprocity a key influencer when it comes to marketing, Gillbreath discussed campaigns that target consumers’ desire to repay with repeat business those companies that provide a valuable free service, including Kroger stores’ offer of free Clorox wipes to clean shopping carts, and Dole’s trace-back capabilities that enable people to find out the farms from which their products originated.
At the next level, connection, Gillbreath noted that companies were also sharing entertaining experiences with others, as was the case with ConAgra Foods’ Healthy Choice brand, which wanted to introduce a its line of shelf-stable lunches to a younger audience. The company’s solution was to target the 60 percent of office workers who eat lunch at their desks and spend time online on personal business with a humorous “Working Lunch” Web series of on-the-job adventures. Although the series no longer offers new episodes, it’s garnered about 5 million views to date, he said.
Another smart strategy to connect with consumers is to personalize products, as M&M’S, Jones Soda and Pringles have all done, Gillbreath pointed out
The top level encompasses marketing campaign that help consumers, their families and the world, including Abbott’s online support platform for people with diabetes, which concentrates particularly on meal planning, he noted. As well as benefiting the target consumer, the program has helped Abbott as well: participants use three times more of the company’s products. He also mentioned the cause marketing of U.K. beverage brand Innocent Drinks, which ran a quirky campaign that involved consumers in sending or even making little hats to place on its bottles as a way to raise awareness of elderly people at risk of dying during periods of cold weather.
In discussing emerging media, Gillbreath observed that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are becoming the “new first impression,” so it was crucial for companies to consider how to add value to people’s social interaction by “err[ing] on the side of what the consumer wants.”
“The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect With Your Customers by Marketing With Meaning” by Bob Gillbreath is published by McGraw-Hill and has a list price of $27.95.