A fashion show isn't a typical promotion venue for the Procter & Gamble Co. Yet in today's highly competitive, consumer-oriented and overcrowded market, it represents the type of marketing strategy needed to stand out from the competition.
"A fashion show is a great way to break through the clutter and show we are in tune with our consumers' needs," said Alexander Marichal, brand manager at P&G's Multicultural Business Development Organization, the San Juan, Puerto Rico-based ethnic marketing group that created the event.
P&G teamed with Rampage clothing to promote its Always feminine care product in the Hispanic teen market. Several shows were held in New York and Los Angeles.
The P&G program exemplifies the lengths consumer packaged goods manufacturers are going to reach out to consumers in more creative ways. And there's good reason. Retail and manufacturer consolidations have made the CPG industry more competitive than ever. And don't forget about the thousands of new products that flood the market each year. In 2000 alone, about 32,000 new CPG items were launched.
"There are more products coming out than retailers have on the shelf. New and unique promotions are needed to help raise them above the clutter," said Robert McMath, founder and director of NewProductWorks, Ann Arbor, Mich., a consultancy for new products.
Other obstacles also exist. On the consumer side, CPG companies are challenged to deliver product that will save consumers time, plus give them high quality at a low price. At the same time, retailers are more powerful than ever, and are making more demands on manufacturers.
All this has an impact on promotions. The most successful programs are those that make consumers familiar with a brand before they go into the store, said Phil Lempert, a Los Angeles Times columnist, NBC "Today" show correspondent and radio food show host. This often means catering to consumers' wants and needs.
Michael Lucas, executive director of brand packaging at Interbrand, New York, a branding consultancy, said promotions should connect a brand with consumers. To do so, they need to work in concert with the true meaning of the brand.
While creativity is nothing new in the CPG promotion arena, it's now being taken to new levels. Manufacturers are doing everything from beefing up traditional programs to creating innovative Web-based events, a key area for many firms.
"There are a lot of reasons to buy our cereal without a premium, but because we're in a category with so many brands, it's important to offer a promotion that sets our brands apart," noted Cheryl Moser, General Mills' promotion manager.
Following is a look at some of the ways various CPG manufacturers are sharpening their promotion skills.
Hitting the Runway
The goal of P&G's fashion shows was to build brand loyalty for Always. Aligning the brand with a fun, trendy event was a good way to tap into the teen market and convey the Always brand message: confidence, said Marichal.
"When you're confident, you can do and wear what you want," Marichal said.
Samples and giveaways were key to the program. Free T-shirts were given to anyone who brought an Always proof-of-purchase to the event. All attendees received an Always sample.
Music to Their Ears
Like P&G, other companies are also taking their promotions to new heights. Music seems to be one of the more popular ways many are getting their messages across.
General Mills, for instance, joined forces with GetMusic, an on-line music content and community site, to run its largest Internet promotion to date. For the first time, it enabled consumers to sample a promotion before they purchased a product. Eighty million cereal boxes featured an on-pack offer for a free customized CD. More than 20 brands participated, including Chex, Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Total.
Consumers could get the CD by visiting a General Mills minisite at www.getmusic.com, and providing a code printed inside the cereal boxes. The only cost was $2.99 for shipping and handling. Called "Gotta Get It Hits," the CDs were available in eight categories: Teen Pop, Adult Pop, Alternative, Country, Classical, Jazz, R&B and Holiday.
Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Plano, Texas, has also used music to promote its brands. For 7-Up, the company is running a "Sit Your Can at the Grammys" promotion. Throughout the summer, consumers have a chance to win a variety of music-related prizes. The grand prize is a trip for two to the 2002 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, including admission to the show, round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations.
"Music is hot with kids right now," said Carol Duncan, director of promotions for Seven Up and Cadbury Beverages. 7-Up is also the media sponsor and the official soft drink of the awards for the next three years.
Dr Pepper/Seven Up is also using music in new and innovative ways for its Dr Pepper brand. Under a summer promotion called "Dr Pepper Rocks," conducted in conjunction with Rollingstone.com, consumers can win instantaneously by looking under the cap of specially marked 20-ounce Dr Pepper's or in specially marked 12- and 24-packs. Several winners will get VIP concert packages that include tickets to three concerts of their choice, front row seats, backstage passes and a digital camera.
A host of other CPG products are benefiting from music-oriented promotions. Strudelpalooza is a music event designed to promote Pillsbury's toaster Strudel Pastries in the tweens market. Strudelpalooza gives consumers a chance to meet music stars during a trip to Orlando.
What made the program unique is that rather than focusing on "Mom the buyer," it centered on kids, said Kennon Jaeger, vice president of consumer and customer marketing at Pillsbury. This approach came out of consumer focus groups and research that set out to find what kind of incentive motivated tweens. Music, bands, CDs and collectorship emerged at the top of the list.
Under the promotion, consumers who purchased specially marked packages of the pastries could enter a sweepstakes to win a VIP trip to Strudelpalooza, an event being held this month at Walt Disney World that features two musical acts, BBMak and Youngstown.
Just as music has been successful for some brands, air travel is an area of interest to the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich. The company has teamed up with American Airlines for the American Dream, a promotion that awards 100 AAdvantage frequent-flier miles per box of participating Kellogg products purchased.
Now in its second year, the promotion has increased purchase frequency and number of boxes purchased among participating brands, according to Kellogg. During last year's promotion, consumers redeemed more than 150 million miles.
Kellogg strengthened American Dream by featuring 43 brands this year, up from 18 last year. In addition to Kellogg's adult cereal brands, certificates are being featured on boxes of Nutri-Grain cereal bars, Nutri-Grain Twists, Nutri-Grain Squares, Pop-Tarts Pastry Swirls and selected Eggo waffles varieties.
The Cat's Meow
Promotions like the American Dream are creative because they make consumers feel like the program was made especially for them. Such is the case for a new event at Heinz Pet Snacks, an affiliate of the H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh.
Heinz has teamed with Pet Sitters International, a King, N.C.-based pet-sitting service, to distribute 100,000 samples of its new Pounce Purr-fections, a gourmet cat snack. Additional samples are being provided to veterinarian technicians, cat breeders, radio personalities and celebrities.
"Pet sitters can strongly influence a cat owner's purchasing behavior," said John Cullen, brand manager, Heinz Cat Snacks.
Heinz also obtained valuable retail frequent-shopper data for the first time to distribute 1 million snacks to consumers who have purchased cat snacks in the past, according to Cullen. Cullen declined to say from whom the data is being obtained, except to say they're among the nation's largest food retailers.
"We're reaching consumers who we know buy pet treats," Cullen said.
The program features one of Heinz Pet Snack's largest Internet promotions. While the division has a multibrand Web site at www.thinktreats.com, it established an exclusive site just for Purr-fections.
Located at www.pouncepurr-fections.com, the site is hosting a contest that will award five people a prize package that includes $1,000 in cash, 10 free visits from a pet sitter and a one-year supply of Pounce Purr-fections. Contestants can enter by submitting an entry form found at the Web site, along with a photo and 100-word essay describing how they treat their cat with "purr-fection." The promotion runs through July 15.The winning essay will be posted on the site.
Heinz will be looking to the Web for future promotions as well. Other companies that are considering doing the same don't have to look any further than their own Web site for help.
A new survey shows there's plenty of promotional opportunity on CPG Web sites. For example, about half of all consumers surveyed want free samples (55%) and coupons/special offers (48%) from the brand sites they visit. Meanwhile, just 22% and 19% of manufacturers, respectively, offer these features, according to "CPG Online: What's Not Clicking for Manufacturers, Retailers, and Consumers," developed by Information Resources' e.Ventures group.
CPG should redirect their on-line efforts to these areas, rather than focus on features consumers don't want. For instance, while most CPG manufacturers are handling the Web sites well by providing information consumers want -- product information and a company contact -- some are overspending on features that don't interest consumers. According to the survey, 38% of manufacturers' Web sites offer games and activities and 41% feature lifestyle information, when just 12% and 27% of on-line consumers, respectively, want such offerings.
One exception is in the baby care category, where consumers are slightly more inclined to want information beyond basics. This may be a result of information-hungry new parents who are looking for baby care advice in all types of ways.
Still, the findings are good news for the industry in that they validate CPG-brand Web sites, said Murphy. "It shows that there is a place on-line for marketing low-involvement products," he said.
Along with catering to consumers, promotions today must focus on the retailer. For many companies, this means offering a promotion that will not only boost sales for their brands, but also for the entire category and sometimes in the entire store. Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, often uses the summer season as an opportunity to tie in with products in other categories for a barbecue-themed event.
"We're constantly looking to create promotions that will drive consumers to different areas of the store," said Dan McHugh, director of retail sales promotion.
Like Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris is running several "party-themed" events. One is the "Marlboro Party at the Ranch," which is awarding a five-day, four-night trip to the American West. It is promoting the event via a direct mailer piece sent to adult smokers in the company's database. The mail invites adult smokers to Bar Night, an event hosted by Marlboro at area bars.
At each Bar Night, attendees must verify that they are 21 and a smoker. They fill out a form that automatically enters them in a drawing for the "Party at the Ranch" grand prize. In states where sweepstakes are legal, the drawing takes place at the end of the evening. Anywhere else the winners are notified by mail at a later date.
Hamming It Up
It's not all fun and games in the world of promotions, though. Many events have a strong charity tie-in. Take Hormel's Hams for the Holidays, a charity event that has been running for 11 years, with increasing numbers each year.
"You look for a program your retailers will embellish and support, and one that will cause your consumers to act," said Joe Swedberg, vice president of marketing at Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minn.
Retailers get points based on a certain number of cases they sell. The points translate into the number of Hormel Cure 81 Hams that the retailer then receives to donate to local food charities.
Sometimes, in-store promotions aren't enough, said Nick Meyer, product manager for Hormel's Spam brand. This summer Spam is launching a mobile marketing tour called the Spam Mobile, to let people get reacquainted with the 64-year-old product. The Spam Mobile will be driving all over the Southeast this summer, handing out mini-Spamburger hamburgers for people to try at supermarkets, and popular events in Texas, New Mexico, Virginia and Florida.
"Just the presence of the van attracts people," said Meyer said. The van is designed specifically to look like a large can of Spam with wheels.
The purpose of this program, said Meyer, is to get people to try Spam to show them how good the product can be and dispel any preconceptions they might have.