P&G steps up interactive initiatives

P&G’s spend on interactive marketing has tripled over the past year

Interest in interactive marketing is growing as consumers come to understand it better. E-volve talks to Procter & Gamble interactive marketing manager Shuvo Saha about his company’s use of the medium as part of its overall marketing strategy.

E-volve: What exactly does your role involve?

Shuvo Saha: My role concentrates on ways to build a competitive edge for Procter & Gamble (P&G) through innovation in interactive media.

A big focus for the interactive marketing team is getting to know our consumers: understanding how they use interactive media, how this fits in with their lives and with their use of other media too.

We are fully integrated with the brand marketing teams – working closely with them to drive innovation. We seek out, pilot, qualify and establish new models of marketing so as to integrate interactive media in the marketing mix.

We also work with our global counterparts, spreading new knowledge and expertise, building this into training right across the organisation for teams that need to be involved with the integration of interactive marketing.

E-volve: How much progress has P&G made with its interactive strategy over the past two years? Has it been steady, incremental progress or has it been punctuated by one or two big leaps forward?

SS: P&G is really starting to turn the corner with interactive marketing – our plans are smarter and we’re seeing some real successes. In the late Nineties we were – along with the rest of the consumer goods industry – experimenting with many different ideas. Since then we have been focusing on the activities that truly add value for the customer, making steady but very significant progress.

Some examples of interactive marketing are performing exceptionally well, there are some clear success models emerging. One example of this is the very simple use of interactive media in providing consumers with product samples. Interactivity allows samples to be sent only to the consumers who request them, reducing any wastage in trial campaigns.

Another more sophisticated example is the Pampers’ programme to provide personalised information and advice on baby development through regular e-mails and the Pampers website. This is highly valued by the mums who subscribe and it builds brand loyalty at the same time.

Overall, compared with two years ago, our interactive projects tend to be bigger and more strategic, and have a clear role to play in brands’ marketing campaigns.

E-volve: How would you sum up P&G’s approach to interactivity and its use of new technologies? Has this approach changed significantly?

SS: P&G’s approach to interactivity is built on our approach to business in general: the consumer comes first. P&G is totally committed to using interactivity where it really adds value for the consumer. In our team, we are all trained focus-group moderators and will personally conduct our own focus groups to help us get under consumers’ skin and understand what aspects of interactivity they get most value from.

We’re learning about the rapid speed with which consumers move from a complete lack of understanding to total mastery of new technologies. They are unimpressed by technology itself. For them it is just a tool. Once they’ve mastered it they quickly want more and develop very high expectations. As such, the challenge for the marketer is to meet the expectations of an ever-more demanding consumer. To achieve this we need to provide reward and gratification at every click of a mouse and press of a button.

We also believe in integration. The consumer does not think about a brand medium-by-medium, so we should not make the mistake of taking this approach in our marketing campaigns. Interactive media and new technologies often work best when used in an integrated way, and in concert with other media. A simple example of this is, once again, requesting a sample. A television ad provides the call to action to request a sample on the Web, which is then fulfilled via direct mail. In this case three different media work together to make it easier for the consumer to try a new product.

E-volve: Which P&G brands would you say best demonstrate the company’s new-found commitment to interactivity, and why?

SS: Pampers’ relationship programme for mums is an excellent example of P&G’s commitment to interactivity and has been recognised by the industry. We recently received a commendation in the Marketing Connections Awards 2003.

Our haircare and beauty brands also continue to demonstrate their commitment to interactivity. Clairol, Head & Shoulders, Max Factor, Olay and Pantene have all integrated interactive marketing within their overall marketing plans.

Pringles continues to drive innovation, with P&G’s first trial of enhanced TV sponsorship in February’s Brit Awards. Even among our fabric and homecare brands – traditionally a “lower-involvement” category – the recent promotions run with Disney have created completely new ways for these brands to connect with their consumers.

Again this is receiving industry recognition – particularly October’s Flash/Lilo & Stitch interactive TV (iTV) ad. Fairy has already built on this success with its new Treasure Planet campaign, which included both iTV and Web activity.

E-volve: What sort of investment has P&G made in interactivity, in terms of manpower, time and money? What sort of share of P&G’s overall marketing budget does interactive marketing now enjoy and how do you expect this to change in the future?

SS: We’ve invested a great deal globally and locally. In the early years we probably over-invested, but now we’re getting it about right, with room for growth again.

Interactive marketing is still a small share of overall spend. However, in the UK total interactive spend has more than tripled this year compared to last, and we should expect to see continued strong growth in this area.

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