Colgate Product Launch Represents Shift in Importance of Internet

Colgate-Palmolive is in the midst of its biggest product introduction since 1998. Results are starting to pour in from the September 16 online campaign launch for the consumer products company’s new tooth whitening product, Simply White. The $60 million campaign represents the ramp up of a category that could hit $400 million in 2003. What’s more, it signifies a major shift in the role played by the Internet in Colgate’s marketing strategies from afterthought to out-of-the-gate necessity.

According to Carrie Soriano, partner, group director at Y&R’s The Digital Edge, the digital media firm involved with the launch, the reason is “the Web’s ability to create relevance by employing mindset as a targeting vehicle for a new brand.”

The importance placed on the Web is a bold move by the typically traditional advertiser, and so is Colgate’s choice for buzz-building: email. The success of that email campaign proves the much-maligned medium deserves a second look, despite its anti-spam driven reputation.

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More than targeting certain demographics, Colgate aimed to attract particular types of people while in certain modes of thought. With that in mind, The Digital Edge and Y&R 2.1, Y&R’s digital branding unit, approached Daily Candy, a website and daily opt-in email newsletter that provides trend obsessed consumers with a heads up on designer apparel sample sales, innovative beauty products, new restaurant openings and the like.

Daily Candy subscribers are more than just 25-34 year olds who earn over 75K per year; they’re what the site’s senior sales executive, Marcy Swingle, refers to as “avid consumers.”

“What really sets them apart,” she says, “is that they do care about trends and they do care about fashion. They want to know first.”

And how did they do it? About a month before the actual Simply White product launch, when Daily Candy distributed Colgate’s sponsored email notice to its subscriber list of 140,000, offering free Simply White product samples to the first 500 people to submit requests, they couldn’t have predicted a better outcome. Within a matter of a few hours, each and every sample was taken.

Plus, the niche group of influential recipients naturally want to pass along the new product gossip to their friends, creating the viral aspect that Colgate and the agencies had hoped for.

A second email sent to Daily Candy’s list prompted fashionistas to print out coupons for Simply White purchases offline.

The agencies also looked to target three “demographic buckets” through rich media ads placed on sites the consumers would most likely visit while in particular mindsets: Occasion Mindset (online dating sites including Match.com, party planning sites, etc.), Self-improvement Mindset (dieting sites, fitness sites, etc.), and Vanity Mindset (fashion and beauty properties including Style.com).

According to Y&R 2.1’s interactive strategist, Attila Kelemen, whiter teeth are automatically associated with vanity. “The emotional draw dictated the message,” he says.

That message seems to be getting across. During the first two weeks of the campaign, the overall click-through rate for all online components including email was 3.25%. Results like that just might convince Colgate that the Web and email are required weapons in its branding arsenal.

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