Packaged goods firms building relationships online

While companies of every shape and size have embraced Web-based marketing wholeheartedly, packaged goods manufacturers are still struggling to find a niche in the online world....

While companies of every shape and size have embraced Web-based marketing wholeheartedly, packaged goods manufacturers are still struggling to find a niche in the online world.

For many businesses, after all, the lure of the Internet lies in the prospect of e-commerce. But there’s no indication, as yet, that consumers have any interest in buying tinned soup or toothpaste online. So how will packaged goods firms leverage the Web?

Recent initiatives from some major manufacturers suggest that the new focus will be on relationship-building, through interaction with consumers looking for more personalized online experiences.

Recently, for example, Kraft Canada previewed its soon-to-be-launched personal recipe e-mail service. Once the service is operating (in about six months), consumers will be encouraged to sign up to receive their choice of recipes, via e-mail. The Kraft Canada Web site already boasts several related features, including an interactive kitchen, a meal planning service and a recipe finder/cookbook.

"Our focus going forward is really much more about one-to-one marketing to individual consumers," says Irene B. Rosenfeld, president of Kraft Canada.

Procter & Gamble, meanwhile, recently set up its own interactive marketing team in Canada. This group will work collaboratively with I-Ventures, the global Internet arm of Cincinnati, Ohio-based P&G.

Win Sakdinan, public affairs manager with P&G in Toronto, says the packaged goods giant wants to use the Web to provide more relevant and personal experiences for consumers, while at the same time gathering valuable insights about them.

The Canadian interactive team recently completed its first initiative: a Web contest supporting several major P&G brands. Visitors to the site could register for the contest online, and play various brand-specific games for additional chances to win.

While these kinds of activities are all to the good, some analysts suggest that packaged goods companies would be even better off finding ways to collaborate with their retail partners on Web-based activities.

Miles Faulkner, senior vice-president of e-commerce with Toronto-based Ernst & Young, suggests that they might, for example, work together to build applications designed to drive traffic to the retailer’s site, and help that retailer move more of the manufacturer’s product.

By marketing their brands directly to the consumer online, packaged goods firms risk a backlash from retailers, notes Michael Szego, a consultant with Toronto-based J.C. Williams Group. If a manufacturer wants to create an environment where they can interact with consumers, he says, they should consider building it on a retail partner’s site.

Unilever Canada, for one, is looking hard at how it can work co-operatively with retailers in the online realm.

Bob Noble, vice-president, customer business development and special markets with the Lever Pond’s division of Unilever, says the company wants to understand how retailers do business with consumers on the Web, so that it can help facilitate those efforts.

"We’re trying to understand how the consumer shops the sites and makes a decision about what to buy," he says.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group