Lost In The Sauce
Since its emergence on the changing landscape of media, Unilever, the maker of Ragú Pasta Sauce, has readily embraced social marketing and demonstrated a commitment to remain at the marketing forefront across the spectrum of digital platforms.
We have forged successful partnerships with bloggers and value their ability to bring our products and messages to their communities. However, Ragú came under criticism last week from some corners of the blogsphere that felt it failed to follow fundamentals of social media.
An admitted misstep occurred when six dad bloggers were @mentioned a link to a video featuring our Mom Bloggers discussing "What Happens When Dad Cooks." Without having the context of the broader seven-month program, which addresses a range of dinnertime topics families face, we completely understand how the recipients felt a disconnect.
We knew better than to send an out-of-the-blue link and readily acknowledged such. Yet we believe that the reaction was a disproportionate response to the program as a whole, with many critical posts and tweets devoid of fact-checking, relevant information or evidence of having viewed the video in question. It is ironic that our social savvy came under criticism as a result of lack of context, when many of the posts critical of our efforts similarly fell short.
When we reflect on the resulting rhetoric, along with the criticism of our response time, we are somewhat dismayed. Very few of the most vocal opponents appeared to take the time to visit the Ragú community on Facebook or watch the other episodes in the series before taking to Twitter and the blogsphere with a point of view conceived via the lens of six errant tweets.
The Ragú "Mom's the Word on Dinner" program is an inherently social program and steeped in the principles of listening and engagement. With the program, Ragú's marketing evolved from messages originating from the brand to topics coming directly from the Ragú community. Although clearly mom-targeted, the program has been inclusive from inception. Just recently, it received industry accolades for the brand's ability to engage.
It's a concern that to some "responding" is only defined as writing a tweet or a blog. The value of a phone conversation to resolve a miscommunication seems to be lost and labeled as "radio silence" as we sought to hear directly and learn from a detractor. Listening to the conversation organically unfold before jumping in to "defend" is being cited as lacking an understanding the pace of the social community, rather than exemplifying respect for its very nature and its ability to restore balance through sharing information. A thoughtful response must be calibrated on the right thing to do, rather than a race against a stopwatch.
To see the space in this light, when dedicated practitioners are working concertedly to "get it right, " to champion bloggers and social platforms in the face of skepticism about value and journalistic integrity, gave us pause.
We are an organization committed to the people who make social media great -- from the innumerable bloggers with whom we have worked to the media and network partners that helped us create award-winning campaigns. We conscientiously initiate each engagement with thoughtfulness and respect. Those who know us know this.
"Mom's the Word on Dinner" has achieved results that normally would speak for themselves and demonstrate a significant understanding of social media. Our content clearly underscores a respect for the role of mom, as well as the family as a whole, which was overlooked in the rush to judgments and sensationalist headlines.
Since the introduction of "Moms the Word on Dinner" in March, nearly 500,000 new members (including many Ragú dads) joined our Facebook community, growing steadily with a highly engaged, family-oriented fan base that actively participates in quality discussions.
The Facebook hub has an average active user rate of 60% -- three times Facebook's benchmark for success. Overall, "Mom's the Word on Dinner" has generated nearly 1.5MM total engagements, including likes, comments, shares, blog posts and video views.
We hope that brands unsure of how to leverage social media to its fullest do not see the bandwagon pile-up on Ragú as a reason to shy away from investing in the medium. We enthusiastically believe that the ability to connect with one's consumers in an increasingly social, sharing-centric world is invaluable and well worth the pains.
We'll take this experience as another invaluable lesson learned and we will continue to adapt, evolve, and apply this learning across our portfolio of "always-on" brands. We will be even more diligent and thoughtful in our efforts and actions. We would ask the same from the social sphere.