Reckitt’s recent decision to move $20 million in advertising from TV to the web for more than 15 of their brands—including Lysol, Clearasil and Frank’s RedHot—got the attention of many industry leaders. What made the CPG company finally put dollars against digital and social media? What are the plans for aggressively promoting the company’s many diverse brands within social media? Get answers and insights from the internal and agency leaders driving the decisions.
Advertising Manager and Internet Specialist, Reckitt Benckiser
Vice President Emerging Media and Client Strategy, 360i
Digital Editor, Advertising Age
Q: Background on digital shifts at Reckitt?
Marc: We noticed a fundamental shift of consumer media habits moving to the Web. Digital is a new language, and it’s tough for everyone to get it. “Don’t go back to marketers and talk to marketers and talk about click-through rates and engagement rates.” Marketers want to know what it does for sales and brand equity.
Q: Where does social fit in?
Marc: Social’s new for us. “We just hired 360i officially last week.” Had explored it for over six months. Now he’s educated enough to take Reckitt into the new space. There are several new programs about to go live. The focus is female consumers. Launching things like Clearasil, Frank’s Red Hot – brands with passionate followings. Now it’s about getting the lay of the land and understanding common metrics.
Q: How do you get buy-in for hiring a social media agency to centralize it?
Marc: The buy-in started out in the groundswell – let brand stakeholders get involved. 360i heads up social media. There are also other agencies, doing “traditional digital.” We had to come up with a reorganization. They had to prove to decision makers: brand managers, marketing directors. It’s about building credibility. There are weekly or biweekly meetings with the CMO, who supported the dynamic shift. The research proved there was scale. Everyone from the CMO down is embracing digital and the agency restructure. It’s what’s necessary for the 21st century of marketing and advertising.
Q: And you Sarah?
Sarah: It fits in with various marketing disciplines. It’s often easier to get budgets from media. The carrot is there’s a great opportunity to have conversations with customers without a middle man – no media, etc. When marketers hear about ceding control of the brand. Then there’s the stick: people are talking about your brand no matter what. Covering your ears is not a strategy.
Q: Even packaged goods? Lysol?
Sarah: People are talking about needs and challenges. People are talking about swine flu. If you have a solution to help, insert yourself.
Q: Are some brands still holding back, and why?
Sarah: There is definitely a fear factor associated with it. Big brands have doen amazingly exciting marketing programs – Whopper Sacrifice, Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. But marketers don’t anticipate they can get CMO buy-in. Another challenge is measurement – tying it into numbers marketers understand.
Q: How do you sell it in?
Sarah: Education is the first part. It’s important to get buy-in across the organization – media, PR, creative, web development, CRM, human resources. Get them more comfortable with the medium, and it becomes less scary. Then it’s easier to say you have to be there.
Q: Customer service is also key. How do you change the philosophy within the organization?
Marc: We haven’t necessarily tied it into customer service at this point. It’s coming out of the media budget. Social media is this great untapped pool of millions of consumers passionate about what they’re doing.
Q: Your company has to sell millions of units a year but you can’t have millions of conversations a year.
Marc: I’ll empower our social media agency to facilitate these conversations and empower people who are already advocates and enthusiasts to reach out. The other opportunity is that there are conversations that are related. Compare it to search – how many people search for Lysol? Not a lot, but there are searches for lots of relevant needs.
Q: You went outside of your regular stable of agencies for this. Why?
Marc: You want to go with the experts. I met with a lot of agencies over the last 6 to 8 months and identified 360i as the one that worked best for me. Reckitt has different PR firms for different brands. There are bits of smaller social media programs happening this way. But we needed to have a concerted effort for this.
Q: Is this a common thing? Do you feel empowered to corral other agencies?
Sarah: When you come in as a social marketing agency, especially overseeing paid media and earned media, it feels like being the child of divorced parents. Marketers need to make sure the rules of the road are being followed, that it fits in with the architecture. The pressure is mostly on the marketers to show it works well together.
Marc: We have to go to an agency that has a history with social media. Collaboration across cross-functional agencies is key. Brand marketers can see how it all fits into the big picture. It’s very necessary to integrate with others. Everyone’s a stakeholder.
Sarah: You do need that evangelist, and it doesn’t really matter where they sit. You have to have internal collaboration. We were in a meeting with a large travel company a few weeks ago and the first thing we showed was what people were saying about their brand online. The CMO called in the head of customer service. There were brand managers. Internally they all got their heads around it to understand what was going on without them paying attention. Then they could get their agencies involved. It’s about speaking the same language – understanding social media and social marketing, earned media, widgets, Twitter, etc. It’s not about a Twitter strategy or widget strategy. It’s about a social marketing strategy.
Q: I wanted to ask about earned media vs. paid media.
Sarah: You want to get in the conversation instead of around the conversation. You can create the most unbelievable Twitter feed or Facebook app, but if you don’t promote it, it’s a tree falling in the forest. You can do this via earned or paid media, but it’s a different kind of planning.
Marc: We dabble in buying video and some social network buys. When you’re going to that environment, you need to provide utility. With Clearasil we created a widget that’s like Photoshop within the widget – you can clean up photos with the widget. The point was helping consumers.
Sarah: That’s endemic to the issue. The widget helped people solve a problem. But what if Marc decided to measure success of the Clearasil program? But what teen will say I’m a fan of Clearasil? That’s not happening. Is your brand fanworthy? [Upon review, there basically aren’t fans of that brand on Facebook.]
Q: What are you measuring with social media?
Marc: I really like the sheer size of social media – it’s a huge pool to fish from. It’s a pool with many ponds around it. The currency is how many people I’m getting in contact with. With blogs for instance, not everyone on a blog read the thread you’ll show up in. When a marketer talks about the need for measurement, when a measurement proposed doesn’t work that won’t get us where we need to be. I need context – how many times I’m getting in front of someone with my message that’s measurable, and then tying it back to other KPIs of my program. In traditional web measurement, we go for coupon downloads, CRM measures, etc. I need to tie social media to that on engagement, and also get it to scale.
Q: With digital, often no one spends enough to get it to show up in marketing mix modeling. Social media has that issue even moreso.
Marc: It’s a challenge. It’s hard to have an ROI when the budget’s not there. With social media, it will be the same question/problem/solution. It will be breakthrough on the measurement side. There will have to be some risks taken. I don’t have the answers on measurement yet.
Q: We’ll have to have you back in a year. Because you come from a planning background, how do you decide how to allocate budgets across digital?
Marc: It starts with media consumption habits. Based on that, look at objectives, goals, strategies for the year, then rank them in priority order. You have to look at it all holistically.
Audience Q: How do you manage social media for a global brand?
Sarah: That’s the same challenge with any organizational structure. Sometimes global brands have different promotions in different languages. If you’re trying to keep marketing within the U.S. Earned media programs can be U.S.-centric. If you have a global brand, and you are setting up your social media footprint, you have to get in touch with global groups and other regional groups. You can work a lot better when you work in tandem.
Marc: From my experience, the U.S. has been a testing ground. We are a bigger organization globally than the U.S. I’m leading the charge. When we see an opportunity to coordinate internationally we’re doing that. You will have to account for market specifics though.
Audience Q: How much of media spend is online?
Marc: I can’t give that here. It might be in the press. It’s significant enough that it’s been a paradigm shift within the organization. Use TNS though.
Sarah: We keep finding an imbalance with time spend and advertising allocations. It hasn’t necessarily corrected itself.
Marc: The media spend is so disproportionate toward traditional. We’re coming much closer toward closing that gap. We’re talking about decades of comfort, research, and business results. Some say the model’s not broken – don’t fix it. The model’s cracked and it will break eventually. The migration is clear. The research and results will empower more of it.
Q: I wonder whether social media will balance it out or throw it more off balance. Earned media doesn’t show up in TNS numbers.
Sarah: Empower the brands. It’s not just about selling advertising. Sometimes brands don’t just want to buy advertising. Maybe they want tools to better understand their customers.