Why social sucks for grocery brands

Social media. Everybody’s doing it so why not a product that’s used by all eight million Australian households? Laundry detergent. Let’s call our product Super Soapy Suds.

Super Soapy Suds advertises to busy mums on TV so why can’t we get a slice of the social stuff? Jeez, think about it for a nanosecond. Mum manages the household, feeds, clothes, transports the kids, works 20 to 30 hours a week in a paying job and if she is lucky has about 2.5 hours a week to actually spend relaxing. In those 2.5 hours she’s watching TV, going for a run or looking at internet sites she enjoys. The last thing she’s going to want to do is connect with Super Soapy Bloody Suds. The only way Super Soapy Suds will ‘engage’ with busy mums is when she chucks a few grams into the washer.

You’ve got no hope in hell of breaking into that precious 2.5 hours of ‘me time’ – as the snack food companies call it – to establish an ongoing, meaningful, sharing relationship. She’d much rather be talking to her friends on Facebook, pinning her dreams to Pinterest or buying clothes on The Iconic.

I’m not singing solo here – the other day I read a McKinsey article talking about how many grocery brands are struggling to gain traction in the social space, finding it difficult to measure success and don’t see numbers big enough to support an ROI case.

The category numbers support this, too. It’s a $500 million market, 200 million litres, used by everyone, hopefully… but the leading brands have only a meager 10,000 to 35,000 Facebook followers.

Even when you point this out some clients will say, ‘That’s great, but we’re still going to do it. So tell us how. After all, there are so many great food brands doing well like Coke, Red Bull, Skittles, Oreos…’

Bloody hell, he’s talking about global food brands with mega bucks invested into a full range of marketing channels over many, many, many years.

They also have an extremely compelling level of sensory engagement that the majority of grocery products don’t. That is, these products are all bloody delicious and Super Soapy Suds taste like, well, soap. Combine that with the time that most of them have been on the market and you’ve got more nostalgia in their bottle top than the entire Super Soapy Suds brand.

So what are you going to do with $50-200K (on a good day) to communicate with loyal Super Soapy Suds users on social media?

Firstly, forget talking about the product on social. That plays straight to the issue here. Your target is online for enjoyment and relaxation, not to learn about how the special chemicals in your product mean it clogs up the washing machine 300 times slower than its nearest competitor. Instead, lets talk to the combination of the consumer’s life stage and the brand’s emotional benefits, looking for similarities and cross-overs between the two.

In the case of Super Soapy Suds, history can give us a lesson on what they could do. In the 1950s and 60s soap brands knew how to connect with their market. They sponsored shows on TV and radio like Lux Theatre and hence the expression soap operas. The key to making this work is content.

Why should people visit the Super Soapy Suds social site? If we make it part of their leisure activities they will but we have to think beyond the supermarket aisles.

For instance, Mills and Boon sell more books than God. And now with the Fifty Shades phenomenon this genre is set to go to the next stratosphere! Pair up with them and pay for content. Half a dozen romance novels, new chapters downloaded every day. On-site blogs about soap operas, novels and even a ‘How to become a writer’ section. Prizes for book ideas or outlines – encourage your audience to participate and add content themselves. It becomes self-perpetuating for Super Soapy Suds. (If you’re from Unilever or Proctor & Gamble, you read it here first!)

Like this example, once you’ve nailed what you’re going to talk about online, get the direction established and the content can be sourced through your agencies once you brief them on the lifestage vs emotional benefit mix.

Combine your great content with ‘multi-social-platform’ placement and commitment over a decent period of time to test what will work and then you might just have a shot at getting a few minutes in those precious 2.5 hours of me time.


Nick Hickford
BY Nick Hickford ON 27 September 2012
Nick Hickford, Wilson Everard CEO, has spent the last 10 years running agencies after 15 years client side in FMCG marketing roles across Sanitarium, National Foods, Berri and Energizer. In 2011 Nick joined Wilson Everard from The Bridge, one of Melbourne’s original strategic planning agencies, bringing his strategic experience to partner to the creative strengths of Wilson and Everard. Nick can be contacted via nick.hickford@wilsoneverard.com.au or +61 3 98675100.