What’s social about your weekly shopping basket?


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Image courtesy of Webegirls

Let’s face it, some of the purchases we make are just not as exciting as others. There are some products we just have to buy each week and we don’t really think about them too much unless we run out. By virtue that they are so commonplace that in some cases they are true commodities.

So when it comes to these products, can social media be used as a differentiator? And if so how?

Take toilet paper as an example. Would anybody want to talk about toilet paper in social media? Well it turns out they would. Take Proctor & Gamble’s (P&G) toilet paper brand Charmin - a couple of years ago they sponsored an iPhone app called SitorSquat.

With the interesting strap line “Enjoy the Go”, the SitorSquat app allows you to find, rate, comment on or add in the location of a clean public toilet. First launched in the USA, the app is now available worldwide and over 100,000 toilets have been rated.

The app also allows users to filter the search by toilets with changing facilities, helping to target family-oriented shoppers that are often the key to success for everyday FMCG products.

What’s clever about this app is the way it encourages the spread of useful but otherwise mundane information through social media. Charmin has facilitated people to share with the primary intent of having a better bathroom experience (and with the secondary intent that you will recall Charmin toilet paper as you enter the toilet tissue aisle or order your weekly shopping online).

Charmin has also managed to integrate the online world with the offline world through their recent Christmas campaign Queen of the Charmin Go nation.

During the Christmas period Charmin rented out an office space to ensure that New Yorkers had clean, safe facilities to “enjoy the go”. They also hosted a competition, judged by Glee actress Jane Lynch, where the winner was crowned “Queen of the throne” and given a prize of $50,000.  Using a popular celebrity, offering a large prize and enabling the general public to avoid using the often horrendous public toilets in New York  is a great way of spreading positive word-of-mouth about a brand.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at some of the every day products we buy, and the brands behind them, in order to see how they are leveraging social media. Our feeling is that the number of brands regularly using social media, either as part of an integrated campaign or as an ongoing online engagement strategy will increase dramatically in 2011.


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  1. Tim:

    I guess the question on a lot of these is the value vs. novelty factor. This is a great example of a company breaking new ground - thinking ahead of the competition and making something useful that also adds value to their brand. The question becomes - who can continue to keep pushing those boundaries when everyone else catches up?

    Eventually, every brand will have a “social media strategy” and their mobile app to go along with it. Some will be good, some will be awful. The problem will be - I (as a consumer) only have a limited amount of attention/time and I can’t be bothered to download every app and try them to see if they are useful to me.

    I guess what I’m saying is - is social media effective at the moment because it truly does drive engagement? Or is it successful because only a few brands have embraced it effectively so far and once the “noise” comes from Every Man and His Dog plc. releasing their app too the noise-to-useless ratio becomes so high that everything levels out?

    Personally I hope this doesn’t happen. I love stuff like this - I love finding how brands are driving engagement with their customers. But just as there are a couple of really good TV ads a year among a jungle of garbage, I fear social media could end up going down the same path.

    I know I won’t be adding apps to my phone for everything in my shopping trolley, no matter how many side uses they have….

  2. eitan:

    Great post - and I completely agree. While reading it made me think about my prospects (home design and furniture retailers) - which I frequently approach with the blunt question: please tell me about your social media strategy. A few have a coherent answer.

    Most - mention their facebook page and a twitter account which they use to advertise promotions. Only a few really think what does it mean to be a retailer in an era in which the buying process and decision is becoming more and more social.

    I agree with the other post here - that there’s a lot of noise, and everyone is trying to publish an iPhone app. Only few manage to leverage the medium and form factor capabilities and thus drive engagement and emotional involvement (i.e. strengthening the brand).

    Being in the evangelical position is not always the easiest place to be (sigh).

  3. Footprints (10.02.11) : Chris Deary:

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