P&G Ramps Up Social Media Marketing

Here’s a bit of marketing trivia for you: “soap operas,” the term that describes those serials that kept daytime television viewers engaged for over 75 years, were so named because Procter & Gamble (P&G) used them to promote its soap and detergent brands. But now, P&G has announced it is abandoning those soap operas in favor of – you guessed it – social media.

This news should not be taken lightly. P&G not only sponsored soap operas, it produced them – twenty of them, in fact, for radio and television. “As The World Turns,” which led daytime soap operas for decades and was produced by P&G, first aired in 1956 and finally ended its run this past September.

P&G is arguably the most sophisticated brand marketing company in the world. With net annual sales in its 2010 fiscal year close to $80 billion, P&G owns and markets some of the best known brands around the globe, including Cheer, Dawn, Duracell, Gillette, Ivory, Joy, Olay, Old Spice, Oral-B, Pampers, Pantene, Puma, and Tide.

So when P&G does just about anything, its moves are sure to be scrutinized by virtually every other knowledgeable marketer of consumer goods. Why is this brand behemoth rushing to social media? It’s simple. That’s where consumers are – and P&G is excellent at listening to, watching, and following consumers.

Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer, said in an interview,

“The digital media has pretty much exploded. It’s become very integrated with how we operate, it’s become part of the way we do marketing. … It’s kind of the oldest form of marketing – word of mouth – with the newest form of technology.”

As I reported last January, it took a while for P&G to admit the inevitable and embrace social media, but once they were on board with Facebook, they realized its potential. In fact, P&G held its own digital marketing summit of sorts a while back, during which they had people from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other online companies visit their headquarters to talk about online marketing.

Last February, P&G started using Facebook and Twitter in combination with television ads running during the Winter Olympics. That was the beginning stages of what is now a full-fledged social media marketing strategy.

In the past few months, P&G has executed a number of digital programs as part of its big social media push, using primarily Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. A campaign for Pampers disposable diapers has appeared on Facebook. An iPhone app for Always feminine products gave women the ability to track their menstrual cycles.

But the campaign that has generated the most buzz is the “Smell Like a Man, Man” commercials for Old Spice that ran on YouTube. The Old Spice man (Isaiah Mustafa, a former football player) created a sensation with his quips and antics, resulting in over 140 million video views and garnering widespread publicity that led to national exposure on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

According to P&G, the Old Spice commercials generated 1.8 billion impressions; i.e., people who saw, read or heard about the commercials. The campaign also resulted in a 2,700 percent increase in Old Spice Twitter followers. P&G says sales of Old Spice are growing in the “double digits.”

While P&G is renowned for its branding acumen, it is just as well known for its hard and fast rule that everything it does needs to be measurable so sales can be tracked back to individual marketing campaigns. All of the company’s social media programs will undoubtedly include such accountability. So when someone in the business world says social media isn’t trackable – well, just ask P&G about that.

P&G is the country’s largest advertiser, spending over $8.5 billion in advertising this past year. When a marketer of this size and influence starts pouring its promotional dollars into social media, other marketers are sure to take notice and follow their lead. This is yet another reason why social media will be the marketing medium of choice for businesses next year.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

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