My good friend Saskia from Brussels asked me to put together some thoughts for one of our largest clients in the consumer space; these are not necessarily specific to that one company, so I thought I might as well share them here.
“Reasons to Adopt” Series
Fast-Moving Consumer Goods
This document outlines the rationale for a FMCG company to include Social Media in its Marketing Mix. Of course, while the general reasoning is supported by our experience, every case is a different story and deserves a deeper analysis grounded in research and finalized to the specific objectives of the client.
It is well known that a growing proportion of consumers use the Internet on a regular basis for a wide range of activities; when however one analyzes usage data by age group, the picture is quite different.
The Platform shift
GenY consumers are almost universally “tuning in” to a Social Media-oriented style in consuming information: from news, to product related information (e.g. reviews), to entertainment the main source is not mainstream media anymore, but rather communities and platforms whose usefulness and desirability are first and foremost determined by the fact that their peer group is there already.
Therefore a stand-up comedian is best enjoyed on YouTube rather than plain old television not so much because it is different (it’s not) but because it affords the viewer a much finer-grained control over what s/he watches (what if I want to watch ten straight episodes of “Lost” or a whole evening’ worth of Jay Leno?) and because it makes it easy to share a skit we particularly liked with our best friend or to rely on peer judgement to select directly the best ones.
In our experience this behaviour leverages two out of three main reasons people use Social Media and is in our experience a very powerful and sustainable proposition to consumer – more so than “pure” UGC (User Generated Content) which is in many cases of shoddy quality and uneven availability. (find here a short video on the three behavioural components of Social Media)
For marketeers, however, this means that these consumers are increasingly living their social life in a world lined with a different media mix than previous generations UPDATE (thanks, Eman); if you think about it, media were created to serve two purposes (which is also reflected in the P&L of the average good quality newspaper): to offer services like news, commentary or classifieds to readers and to offer a vehicle for advertisements to marketeers. A healthy balance between these two stakeholders is the trademark of the anglosaxon media industry but this balancing relies on a single, fragile pillar: audience.
No audience, no media industry which explains why they are so obsessed with shares. As we discussed above, audience will flock to those media who provide a “better” set of the services they care about and we have now understood that “better” means not only “more” or “cheaper”, but also “less biased” or “more choice” or again “allowing me to participate more”.
Perhaps most of all it means “where more of my friends are”. As a marketeer, you must accept this, and follow your audience if you want them to hear what you have to say.
The Engagement shift
Once this is accepted (and you only have to pick your choice of basic research data to confirm this – our favorite source is the McCann Erickson’ Social Media Tracker) the next step is the realization that the type of engagement is also changing.
We have seen no evidence of wear&tear on the ongoing love relationship between consumers and brand PROVIDED THAT brands are willing to change their rules of engagement with the new (young) consumer; in particular, the conversational style of this new relationship requires an inclination to listen to be added to the ability to talk.
We are finding that consumers still want to be fascinated, and perhaps in this virtual world the values’ compass provided by brands is more needed than ever to provide inspiration and orientation to their lifestyle, but they also expect and demand a more active role. The successful brands are/will be the ones which listen to their patrons (or potential ones) and do not attempt to take over every conversation simply based on the much superior firepower they possess.
Let’s take the example of a soft-drink company selling a wide range of products from water to juices and most everything in between. While the basic promise of “Stay hydrated, feel good” would remain unchanged, it would probably need to be made relevant to the lifestyle situation target audiences are feeling attracted to and these might or might not be the same as before.
Once these situations have clearly been described, the company would need to find smart ways to “add to” those situations, instead of “taking them over”: as an example a web-based resource could be developed to calculate the hydration needs of each person allowing the user to build a fairly customized model of him/herself (age, weight, complexion, food preferences, geographical location etc.) and placing this “virtual self” in a series of lifestyle situations for each of which the system (“Hydro”) would recommend the best hydration recipe based not only on the person activity or tastes, but also on the location and the weather conditions found there.
This service could be either web based, but also delivered as a Facebook app, and its periodical recommendations (“Heat wave today in Rome! Hydro recommends you drink at least 0.5 liters of still water every two hours if you are exercising, or every three hours if you are inside”) as a Twitter stream which would also be seen by anyone following that particular user, facilitating viral dissemination.