Focused On the Fundamentals Part 2

A continued discussion with Nestlé's Pete Blackshaw on why traditional brand-building approaches yield big results in the digital and social space
 Focused On the Fundamentals Part 2

By Ken Beaulieu, Director of Marketing and Communications for the ANA (Association of National Advertisers)


This is a continuation of Focused on the Fundamentals Part 1, which can be read online or in the newly released July 2012 issue of Food & Drink Digital magazine, featuring a discussion between Pete Blackshaw, global head of digital and social media at Nestlé and author of the book Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000 (Doubleday), and Ken Beaulieu of the Association of National Advertisers. Blackshaw, will be speaking at the ANA Digital & Social Media Conference, July 15-17, in Dana Point, CA.


KB: What are some of core fundamentals you lean on at Nestlé?

PB: Our first timeless fundamental is that all brand activities should be guided by a brand essence and communication framework that defines what we want the brand to stand for in the hearts, minds, and lives of consumers and other stakeholders, and how we want the brand to behave and express itself. Doesn’t that sound like a social media goal?

Consider our Skinny Cow brand. The brand character and spokesperson, Skinny, is highly engaging to consumers in social media. In one recent post, Skinny told consumers she was starting exercise classes in the morning, and she asked her fans whether they also exercise in the morning and, if so, how they get through it. The typical response to such a brand post on Facebook can often be passive or even cynical, but with Skinny Cow, her fans and followers join in happily, as if they’re interacting with a sassy girlfriend, which is precisely the brand personality that the marketing team defined.

That said, managing brand behavior in social media is challenging. The brand has to be at its best 24/7, not just during campaign windows. It needs to respond in a conversational tone to consumer comments, some of which are negative or even aggressive, and do so in public view. And it needs to compete for attention not only with other brands but with consumers’ real friends. This takes winning brand design and outstanding execution.

The second timeless fundamental is that brands must exist to positively impact consumers’ lives, in big ways or small, and that all brand activities and communications must contribute to that impact ambition. All our brands are designed with this in mind, whether it’s Kit Kat aiming to put a smile on people’s faces during breaks, Maggi promising to create good food moments, or Gerber providing solutions, services, and advice to moms. The good news is that getting this right opens up a world of possibility.

Our third fundamental is that all brand communication must be part of a higher level narrative that we call the “big idea.” Big ideas, well executed, drive earned media. Our Contrex bottled water brand in France is a great example of this. The brand produced an amazing piece of highly engaging video content in both short and long form. The earned media results for Contrex were staggering: 25 million online video views, 14 million on YouTube alone. It was the most frequently shared video on YouTube in France last September and the most frequently shared worldwide in October. Now we have a new two-minute piece of content for Perrier called “The Drop” that’s building on a similar principle. On the other side of the globe, Nescafe India does a brilliant job translating its big idea into one of our most popular Facebook pages. As a result, they have over 1.6 million fans generating earned media.


KB:  Where have you seen the most growth from the digital portion of your marketing budget? In what unique ways are you tapping into this growth area?

PB: I can’t get into specifics here, but just know that we’re pushing the envelope in all relevant areas. I can tell you that social media and mobile are becoming increasingly important in the mix. Inevitably, we have to follow the consumer. These two areas are transforming consumers’ lives in ways few of us would have anticipated years ago, especially in our emerging markets. I’ve traveled all over the world in my relatively brief time here at Nestlé — China, India, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and all over Europe — and the consumer shifts are just remarkable, and very exciting.

We’ve had real success with our smart phone applications, and I hope to build on that. For example, Maggi Apps help consumers shop for the right ingredients to prepare tasty and healthy family meals or to create new recipes even when they’re constrained by the ingredients they have in their kitchen. The Nestlé Dessert App, focused on chocolate dessert recipes, has been highly successful, with downloads equivalent to 10 percent of all iPhone users in France. The app suggests recipes based on the user’s specific dining occasion, and identifies which retailers nearby stock the relevant Nestlé Dessert product. Users can even scan a Nestlé Dessert’s bar code for recipe ideas appropriate for a particular product. iPads and other tablet computers also afford a certain mobility and are perfect for use in the kitchen while cooking. Nestlé Japan launched a Cookbook App for iPad that not only provides recipes and ingredients, but also allows users to navigate through the cookbook via voice commands.


KB:  Consumers are spending an increasing amount of time with media. The downside for marketers is a distracted audience. How do you turn this challenge into an opportunity?

PB: I think marketers always have to be sensitive about distraction, interruption, and congestion. We need to think about how we build our brands while adding value. Digital brings a wealth of new capabilities, solutions, and services, but we’ll have to work extra hard to get the content piece right. I’ve always believed that if we put the consumer in the center of the process, we’ll ultimately get to the right place. We need to recognize that there are real consequences for getting things wrong. Think about a world where consumers constantly leave public “debits” and “credits” related to our marketing initiatives.


KB:  On the organizational front, what’s the biggest innovation you’ve experienced since coming to Nestlé?

PB: We recently set up what we call a Digital Acceleration Team, or DAT, made up of marketing managers from around the world with high affinity and competence in this area. And we built a state-of-the-art digital “nerve center” at our headquarters in Switzerland where team members manage social communities for global brands, address fast turnaround projects focused on digital or social media, and learn via an intensive training program. The work area is surrounded by large screens in which real-time digital listening and social media data are streamed. We rotate Digital Acceleration Team members every eight months to maximize learning, and we send newly trained digital leaders back to the markets where they can train and inspire others.

We’ve also built a multi-media lab next to the actual work area, and we’re thinking hard about how we bottle up knowledge and learning and push it out to employees through our intranet, The Nest. Everyone can create a blog. You can friend people. You can tag your content to make it more easily searchable. You can follow a stream of what all your colleagues are doing. It’s quite similar to Facebook. 

I’m a big believer that the same efficiency of principles that applies to how we get a lot of things done in our personal life, vis-à-vis digital and social media, can be applied to companies. That’s something we’re certainly exploring quite aggressively here, and it’s a very exciting journey in my view.

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