Social Media, Shampoo and the “False Truth Bubble”
Josh, a brand manager with 5 years of experience in marketing walked into his boss Anne’s office with a big smile. He wanted to be the first to tell her the good news. The FB campaign for Frendzz (their shampoo) had generated unprecedented “likes”. Since the campaign started one-week back Frendzz had more likes than any other shampoo brand. Other, bigger shampoo brands had been active on FB but none had anywhere near the number of likes that Frendzz campaign achieved. The campaign had a lot of “shares” too. This was very preliminary information coming in from their newly appointed digital agency. Anne was excited, the brand needed some good internal news and finally she had something to tell the management team. She ran into the CEOs office (her boss) and blurted out the millions of likes and shares the campaign had received. The CEO got further excited and grabbed the Supply Chain Head to see if they would have enough stock to meet this crazy demand about to be experienced by the brand that was #4 in the category and declining. All from one campaign. Next he called two of the board members about the new campaign and the millions of likes and thousands of shares it was delivering. The Supply Chain Head had rushed into the Raw Material Planner’s office and figured out they could move a few things quickly around and make enough shampoo but the shampoo bottle was outsourced to an outfit in Taiwan who worked on a 12 week fixed forecast. They were the biggest plastic packaging supplier in the world and ran a very tight ship. He made the call to Taiwan and figured out they could turn this around in 2 weeks though at a much, much higher cost. An urgent management meeting was called. Josh was busy trying to work out the estimated sales jump which they had not forecast. The sales head who was travelling down south to discuss a margin issue with a major customer was asked to jump on the next flight and head back. With 3 million likes on FB for the new campaign and over 100 thousand shares – the Frendzz campaign was about 20 times more successful than any of the bigger competitors. If the conventional ratios of awareness and engagement to trial were valid then Frendzz was soon to take over leadership of the category. At the management meeting it was decided to go ahead and make at least half the volume potential which was a substantial investment for the brand – “opportunities like this rarely come again” said the CEO. The sales manager was very excited and his key account team was asked to prepare small presentations to send / deliver to major customers advising them of this deluge of shoppers about to enter their stores for Frendzz. A few in the management team were already dreaming of the bonus they might get this year – this was godsend, just 2 months before the year end. They were going to smash the target. Josh and Anne were on a high. Anne, who normally never missed her Pilates classes on Tuesday and Thursday for anything related to work, simply refused to leave the office and wanted to be beside Josh as they went about working through the logistics of stock allocation by customer with the sales team. They were not going to have enough. It was a nice problem to have. 2 days later the digital agency head rang Anne and asked for an urgent meeting. Anne made sure there was some cake from the expensive artisan bakery next door to celebrate the success of the campaign. The agency head looked glum as he entered the meeting room. Anne, Josh and the CEO who liked cake were waiting, wanting to congratulate the digital agency. “We have a problem” said the agency head. “The ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ numbers are right but they are all coming from teenage boys between 13 and 17”. The core target for the campaign had been women between the ages of 18 and 30 with whom the campaign had only achieved 15 thousand likes. The model they used in the video campaign was a girl who looked about 25. She had gorgeous hair, a prerequisite to shampoo modelling, as well as a pretty face and flawless skin. She was also a YouTube gaming sensation with a lot of followers, mostly teenage boys. She played games online and communicated using sexual innuendo while doing so – that was her appeal on You Tube. No one in the organisation had heard of her until Frendzz hired her as the model for the video. And then once she shared the news about her Frendzz modelling gig with her subscribers – the likes on the FB campaign went through the roof. The teenage boys had seen her face and heard her talk while playing games, but in the video of the Frendzz campaign, she steps out of a shower in a tiny towel - which got the teenage boys excited leading to all the likes and shares. The campaign likes reached 4 million before eventually being suspended. Anne vanished back to Pilates and Josh wished he could have a ‘dislike’ button. Social media does provide instant analytics and creates the impression that engagement (liking/sharing/commenting) is possibly equal to an intention to buy. This, many campaigns have learnt the hard way, does not always happen in the FMCG world. However, two things have not changed: Consumers mostly do not like grocery shopping. Actually most find it the biggest waste of their weekend. Secondly, consumers / viewers don’t like ads of any kind, they know they have to put up with it to get something for free or cheap. On social media most consumers do not want to discuss eggs, shampoo, cleaners, bread etc. maybe the odd new flavour of confectionery at best. They would rather see what their friends are up to. But as you can see it does create “False Truth Bubbles” that deflate very fast using organisational energy as in the story above for potentially strange reasons, while others still halo over the organisation creating a direction which becomes detrimental to the brand. The benchmarks for ‘Impressions’ to ‘Likes’ to ‘Comments’ to ‘Shares’ to ‘Trial’ vary tremendously from category to segment to product life cycle to target audience. The variables are infinite and the social media advertising industry nascent. Still a lot of brands in the FMCG space suffer from herd mentality and end up running campaigns that do not deliver. Social media like TV advertising can build awareness and brand engagement if done well, however in FMCG the conversion to trial and retention is impacted by many other factors. Therefore, unless done in a controlled environment it is near impossible for social media campaigns to be able to isolate their impact on sales. In the meantime, make sure your brand is not haloed by a “False Truth Bubble”.
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- The above is a work of fiction and any resemblance to you or people you know and work with is purely coincidental ☺
- This is an extract from a book that has been WIP for the last year