Friday, 26 March 2010
Seeking to marry a ubiquitous device with a time-tested marketing technique in a sour economy, Unilever plans to begin a trial run Sunday of a new technology that lets consumers redeem digital coupons by having a supermarket cashier scan their cellphones.
The test, being conducted at a ShopRite store in Hillsborough, N.J., will include discount offers for some of the Anglo-Dutch packaged-goods company's most popular brands, including Breyers ice cream, Dove soap, Hellmann's mayonnaise and Lipton tea. Samplesaint, a Chicago mobile-technology firm, developed the system.
"This has been a Holy Grail thing that people have been trying to figure out," says Marc Shaw, director of integrated marketing at Unilever, the first major marketer to test such a service in the U.S. "I think this is on target for where consumers' heads are at right now."
To get the coupons, customers must visit the Web site Samplesaint.com, from which they can transmit the Unilever discount offers to an Internet-enabled cellphone. At checkout, the cashier scans the bar code on the phone's screen, redeeming the coupon and deleting it from the phone. The test will run for four weeks, and Mr. Shaw says he hopes to see it extended to other stores after that.
Mobile coupons have been an area of growing interest for marketers, though the growth of overall spending on mobile advertising has been slowing down. Research firm eMarketer expects U.S. mobile-ad spending to grow 17% this year, less than half of last year's 35% gain.
Supermarkets, packed with hundreds of brand names vying for attention, are an important venue for coupon providers. In an April study, Icom, a division of Epsilon Data Management, said 87% of survey respondents who had used coupons in the past month redeemed them at grocery stores, compared with 47% at restaurants and 41% at department stores. Earlier this month, Randalls Food Markets, a unit of grocery giant Safeway, announced a coupon initiative with technology providers Cellfire and Shortcuts.com that links discount offers to customers' loyalty cards.
But technological hurdles remain. Many coupons offered on the Web are printable but can't be transferred to a mobile device. And many cellphone-based coupons require the cashier to enter a code shown on-screen. Manual entry can slow down the checkout process, a big disadvantage in low-margin, high-volume retail businesses.
"We're still in an attempt-and-learn phase" in mobile couponing, says Andy Murray, chief executive of in-store-marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi X, part of Publicis Groupe. Mr. Murray is skeptical that shoppers will load coupons onto their phones before making grocery runs, and he says finding, presenting and redeeming the coupons could prove to be a hassle for some. "Shoppers have a time budget, a money budget and a frustration budget," he says.
The potential for entry errors and other glitches has kept some big companies from trying the format, says Landy Ung, founder of 8coupons, which provides online coupons for the New York market. Steven Boal, CEO of printable-coupon site Coupons.com, says checkout with a mobile coupon is "fraught with peril," ranging from incompatible devices to software bugs to phones that get dropped while being passed back and forth. In addition, many retail scanners can't penetrate a cellphone screen to read the coupon.
Lawrence Griffith, CEO of Samplesaint, says his company's technology has solved most of those problems, and is expected to greatly reduce coupon fraud, since coupons will vanish from the cellphone after redemption and can't be forwarded or emailed. "We have full control," he says.
Unilever's Mr. Shaw says putting marketing offers on a phone ties brands to a personal device that people tend to keep with them at all times. "The cellphone is the thing that when you leave it behind at home, you go back and get it. It's the organizer of our lives," he says.
American consumers have been heavy users of coupons amid the recession, and online-coupon providers have seen traffic and usage grow this year. Mr. Boal says Coupons.com is developing a mobile platform it will launch in the third quarter, while 8coupons, currently focused on the New York market, will add Washington this summer, followed by Boston, Chicago and San Francisco in coming months, Ms. Ung says.
Because consumers can select the online coupon they want, the offers have far higher redemption rates than those in newspaper inserts and other ads. Cellfire typically sees redemption rates in the mid-teen percentages, says CEO Brent Dusing. Icom and others in the industry estimate the average redemption rate for traditional coupons is less than 1%.
Unilever isn't abandoning traditional print coupons, or even other online partnerships, like one it has with Cellfire. "It's just another way to do this," Mr. Shaw says. "We want to be out there with as much variety as we can."
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Star Magazine has partnered with Unilever to launch their new iPhone App for free, beginning in early April. Delivering its news to readers in the simple, list format that works so well on the iPhone, Star will package their breaking celebrity scoops, exclusive photos and fun pop culture factoids into iPhone format.
For the launch, Unilever will be sponsoring three different sections of the App with three of its brands: Suave Body Care's Mango Mandarin Body Wash launch, Degree Ultra Clear anti-perspirant and deodorant, and I Can't Believe it's Not Butter spread. For the Suave promotion, users will be able to share what's making them feel "blissful," and their messages will be geofiltered to see who else is sharing in the area.
They can also vote on whether a celebrity photo is "blissful or not," and the chosen photos will receive a special pink wrapper to promote their status. Fans will also find beauty tips, along with fragrance information on the the new Mango Mandarin Body Wash, which has an eau that Suave says women prefer over Bath & Body Works' popular Mango Mandarin scent.Degree Ultra Clear will sponsor a section on red carpet looks, and A-List approved health tips will be the focus of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. The app will be available in early April.
To get it when it becomes available, visit the App Store on your iPhone and search for Star-Mobile, or text iStar to 99799.
Unilever has promoted Keith Weed, head of global homecare, oral care and water, to chief marketing and communications officer.
He takes up some of the responsibilities handled by Simon Clift, who revealed in February that he was leaving the company after 30 years to spend more time with his family.
Weed has been given the additional responsibility of overseeing communications and he will take a seat on the Unilever board. He will report directly to chief executive Paul Polman.
Polman says: “This is the first time Unilever has had a CMO at the top table and is a key step to having a sharper consumer focus in the company.”
A Unilever spokesperson adds that it made “strategic sense to put marketing and communications together” and “give both functions a voice on the executive board”.
Former Lever Brothers chairman Andrew Seth says Weed is well placed for the role because he knows the business well and turned around Unilever’s laundry business.
Seth, now chairman of consultancy Brand Intellect, says the appointment of a CMO from within the company is a mark of Unilever’s skill at training and developing marketers with a broad experience across the business.
However, Zaid Al-Zaidy, former Unilever innovation manager for Axe and now managing partner at digital agency Saint, says that while it is important to have a CMO, “marketing happens at such a personal level in the digital age, and how can a CMO deliver that from above?”
Unilever spent £5.3bn (£4.8bn) on advertising and promotions in 2009, up £250m (£225m) on the previous year, and has revealed plans to recruit 30 marketers to enhance its marketing capabilities.
Unilever has filled its top global marketing position with insider Keith Weed, and has expanded the role to include communications.
Weed (pictured), 48, also will take a seat on Unilever's executive board, which is made up of top management within the company. As a result, the board will expand from nine to 10 members, according to a company representative.
Previously, Weed was an executive vice president in charge of home care, oral care and water brands. Effective April 1, he becomes chief marketing and communications officer, reporting to worldwide CEO Paul Polman. Weed succeeds Simon Clift, who as CMO also reported to Polman but didn't sit on the executive board. (See also: "Shops Contemplate Life Without Simon.")"This is the first time Unilever has had a CMO at the top table and is a key step to having sharper consumer focus in the company," Polman said, in a statement.
Weed held his evp role for about three years. Unilever has identified his successor in that post but has yet to publicly name the executive.
As chief marketing and communications officer, Weed will oversee execs in charge of media services, consumer insights, research, agency relationships and Unilever's internal marketing academy.
Clift had been CMO since 2005, when he assumed the dual role of CMO and group vice president for personal care. He shed the personal care post in 2008. His exit marks the end of his 28-year career at the consumer packaged goods giant.
Unilever, whose global revenue totaled about $57 billion last year, is among the biggest advertising spenders worldwide. In the U.S alone last year, Unilever spent nearly $715 million in major measured media, up from $635 million in 2008, according to Nielsen. Those figures don't include online spending.
Monday, 22 March 2010
He takes up the responsibilites of Simon Clift, who is stepping down, and has added communications to the role.
Weed will take up his new role on 1 April 2010 and will be a member of the Unilever Executive, reporting to chief executive Paul Polman.