P&G Unit Chief Lights The Way To Entertained Consumers

PG productsIf any company has a history in branded entertainment, it's Procter & Gamble.

The company has, for some 70 years, sponsored, produced or otherwise expedited radio shows soap operas--and lately, digital properties. At Thursday's Association of National Advertisers conference in New York, Steve Knox, head of P&G's in-house word-of-mouth agency Tremor, talked about how marketers succeed or fail when it comes to getting consumers to talk amongst themselves.

Tremor works with Procter & Gamble's P&G Productions, a production studio and branded entertainment shop.

Knox says the obvious by way of an intro to word-of-mouth. "First, you have to identify the right consumer," he said. "We chased early adopters for years, and what we got was tremendous variability. Sometimes marketing to early adopters was effective, sometimes it wasn't."

Instead, says Knox, Tremor goes after a group called "connectors." "They are people who have social networks five to six times larger than normal people." What the agency does, among other things, is to tap into a network of several thousand connectors to find out what they think.

"What we have learned in eight years is that there is a message the consumer wants to hear, and really doesn't mind [being subjected to] advertising as long as it's relevant," he says. But, he adds, in terms of campaigns intended to generate buzz, marketers are shooting themselves in the foot. "There is a message the consumer wants to share with friends, and it is always different than the advertising message."

Knox said that two factors--advocacy and amplification--are intrinsic to the success or failure of campaigns meant to generate conversation among consumers. "The issues, for consumers, are 'why do I care? And if I do care how do I share?' There are brands that are amplified but nobody talks about them." Crest Strips, he says, are a good example. They have a lot of awareness, but nobody will want to say "Look at my teeth! Crest Strips did it!"

"The danger zone no marketer should inhabit is brands or products that are highly amplified but not advocated: never use the term 'buzz marketing.' Buzz marketing is the danger zone." He says the Office Max Elf buzz campaign--in which consumers create and email to friends, animated dancing elves of themselves during the holidays last year--is an example of sound and fury signifying nothing. "Some 123 million people 'elfed' themselves," he says. "It got incredible viral amplification. But same-store sales declined 7.5%. Don't go for the head fake."

He said Tremor was able to create the opposite condition--both amplification and advocacy--with its work on P&G's Febreze brand of air freshener by using its 'connectors' network to study what consumers actually say about Febreze.

"What we uncovered was that what they were saying had nothing to do with what the advertising was saying. What consumers shared with each other was that it could freshen a house in 60 seconds: 'In one minute my in-laws are coming over. What can I do?' That's what they talked about."

He says the agency created a word-of-mouth campaign touting how Frebreze can do the job in 60 seconds, and then activated it through Tremor's network of moms.

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