Tide Loads of Hope: P&G Digital Hack Night Executive Summary

12 03 2009


Here’s an executive summary and link roundup for the Procter & Gamble Digital Hack Night that happened last night.

Disclosure: I don’t work for P&G (I work for another CPG company, Combe). My interest istide-loads-of-hope purely in learning how other CPG companies are using social media. Also, it’s a good cause: I bought a couple of t-shirts to support it.

Click on the links above each quoted item to go to that person’s website.

Ad Age:

Procter & Gamble Co. paired 40 digital media and agency executives with 100 of its North American marketing directors in a contest to sell Tide T-shirts for charity last night as its much-awaited “Digital Hack Night” became a four-hour reality show aired largely in social media. (…) Fewer than 150 media and marketing people leaning heavily on their social-media friends and followers, resorting to big-name incentives and spending a total of about $4,000 on digital media can sell more than 2,000 T-shirts at $20 a pop for charity.”

Jory DesJardins:

“So despite what I do for a living–work with companies to share the benefits of social media–I haven’t ever been asked to pitch product, or prove via my own means that social media gets stuff done. Until today.”

Shar VanBoskirk:

“I’m admittedly the most cynical analyst about social media and its measurable value to marketers. BUT, participating in this event is making me a believer. In 60 minutes through networking, well targeted ads, SMS messaging, and viral videos we have generated 1200 hits for a site that didn’t even exist before 5pm tonight. We are tracking at about a 5-7% conversion rate…not bad. The other thing that is happening here is that we are adapting our marketing strategy based on feedback from people who are responding to our viral outreach. How often does that happen in a traditional marketing environment?”

Kevin Dugan:

“The teams that broke their groups down into smaller groups around specific strategies were able to test more ideas more easily and quickly, focus on the ones that did work and drop the ones that did not gain traction. (…) There was an amazing dashboard in every room that listed sales, site visits and conversion rate for each team with a Tide Twitter Feed running beneath this information.”

David Armano:

“As the doors opened to our War room, the first thing I did was crack open the laptop and continue prepping my network while I sized up the challenge. P&G employees were embeded with every team and watching everything we did. I first summized that there was not enough information on the page where we were asking for people to buy shirts and so I quickly started writing a blog post with the information of who the charity was, where you could buy the shirts along with some popular Q&As. The post was done in less than 20 minutes to the surprise of some of the P&Gers and I didn’t use the media they provided because the files needed reformatting. A big lesson learned was the power of speed in this space. 4 hours is not a lot of time.”


Peter Kim:

“At the end of the evening, P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard remarked that in the future, all employees should get involved in activating connections similar to what had just been witnessed.

The significance of that idea is staggeringly huge. This is a company with 138,000 employees starting to realize the value from having all of its constituents connected and activated. They’re also learning about new tools to change the process of engagement. Events like “Digital Night” help recalibrate the company’s mindset.

P&G is taking steps to make social business a reality.”

Speaking of Peter Kim, I should acknowledge that to create this executive summary I cribbed liberally from his list of links on his blog, here. Nobody does link roundups better than Peter.

Lisa Bradner of Forrester:

“Marketers looking to access people’s personal social networks must think long and hard about what they’re asking those networks to do and whether the influencers have social currency they can provide ( a great cause, a great deal, or insider knowledge). Without that your effort is likely to feel like shilling and get very little pick up.

Personal networks trump paid placements. (…) cultivating deep relationships with key influencers will reap greater rewards than spray and pray. Don’t simply put out a message hoping it will get pick up: identify the key players in your market place and the value your product or service brings to their readers.. (…) Can’t identify your value-add? You’re probably not going to get very far.

Social media is a full time commitment. (…) those of us for whom social isn’t our sole focus were left in the dust by those who do it for a living. (…) don’t think you’re going to make an impact asking your current digital marketing manager to add Twittering and blogging to their current job description. Figure out what your role should be in the social media space and staff with people knowledgeable and connected who thrive on contributing to and participating in that space.

Suspicion runs rampant. (…) Anyone who thinks corporate America is welcome at the social party hasn’t been paying a lot of attention. Corporate messages and their bearers are viewed with suspicion and in some cases, derision. Overcoming it takes patience, information and most importantly truly good intentions at the root of your efforts.

You can’t please all the people all the time. (…) Take time to plan for worst case scenarios: how could your intentions be misconstrued and how and when do you respond? Accept that you will never be welcomed by all but with a good faith effort, honesty, transparency and a long term commitment you can at least get a chance to tell your side of the story.”

Deborah Schultz of P&G

“Here are some of my quick learning take a ways:

  • Many of the P&G folks’ thought the first task was to figure out the messaging of the campaign, where as the external folks just dived right in in plain English.
  • The social web folks jumped on their networks first without necessary realizing the impact and focused on a long tail one-to-one approach figuring that network effects would take over.
  • The P&G folks understood the need to identify where to get the biggest bang for their buck.
  • The speed nature of the exercise brought out some incredible creativity. I had a sense that this freedom was very liberating for the P&G folks once they got into it. Some of my teammates quickly brainstormed a quick rap [yeah-it’s dorky, but they did it without planning or thinking about it too much. We even got the team at Pandora to write a catchy little ditty. [Thanks Tim. It arrived a bit late, but kudos to them for jumping in. Compare that to the month long planning cycles most companies go through.
  • The P&G folks were often very process oriented and the invitees where comfortable with more chaos – meeting somewhere in the middle brought out the best.
  • Even the “digerati” who understand the principles of the social web stepped over the line a bit in the exuberance of the moment – to me this is a cautionary tale about the future of “influencers” and everyone’s personal understanding of their relationships, networks and personal brand. Just as in the real world you are judged by your actions – so too are you judged online. Remember – Google is now the long tail of reputation.
  • The need for a different set of skills and expertise – teams needed a human connector to bring it all together and a catalyst to kick it off. I see this as a growing skill set in business as a result of the social web. Think Community Manager meets Senior Executive.”

Dave Knox of P&G

“The P&G Digital Event was an internal training exercise for 100 or so of our senior marketing leaders. We wanted to create a hands-on event for them to see first-hand what Social Media is all about (…) beyond buzzwords and shiny objects like Twitter, the Long Tail, or CGM.We hoped to see our leaders come away with several realizations but a couple I’ll mention relevant to my comments include:

  1. Social Media is mainstream. Facebook, Twitter, etc aren’t just for college kids or geeks. It is being used by the young and old, by the geeks and the Soccer Moms (or Mommy Bloggers) alike.
  2. But despite being mainstream, it’s not one size fits all and you need to build trust to have a conversation.
  3. And with all that said, the first step is listening in social media.

It is the last point I really want to speak to. As I’ve followed the conversation, it looks like some have thought we were “having a one night stand” with Social Media. That isn’t the case at all. There are many P&Gers that are active in Social Media – as well as many of our brands. We wanted the event to help support those that aren’t as active see first hand that you have to be wired differently than traditional marketing efforts to be successful in the space.

Every P&G marketer involved woke up the next morning having seen firsthand a world that is different than the world they know and that digital is having an impact on people’s lives in new ways.”

For a sense of what it was like while it was happening, check out this Twitter feed.

Dissenting Opinions

Brian Morrissey of Adweek:

“The problem is charities are being used to get people over the ickiness of marketing for gigantic corporations. (…) even as a marketing exercise, the lessons it is teaching the world’s largest advertiser is social media is a great place to broadcast stuff.”

Tom Foremski (Former FT Journalist)

“It’s like the hackers that create botnets of thousands of infected PCs and then use them to broadcast millions of spam messages. Can you create a human botnet army? Or a Twitnet army?”

While I generally think this was a great idea, I’ll add two dissenting questions of my own:

  1. If all these social media micro-celebrities combined were only able to sell about $4,000 worth of merchandise for a great cause from a huge brand, what does that say about the “power” of social media?
  2. If we define the Tide event as a marketing success (and not just a learning success), how can it be replicated and built on

Nick Paris echoed these questions in his comments on Brian Morrissey’s blog:

“150 determined salespeople sold 2000 shirts in four hours? That’s 13 each. I’ve seen better results from bake sales. (…) It’s great P&G wants to help employees understand. But, as a learning exercise, you put 40 invitees into crisis mode to sell T-shirts for four hours? Is frenzied Tweeting the behavior you want to impress on clients as how you work for them?”



5 responses

12 03 2009
Matt M.

One thing I learned: I’ve seen the “Loads of Hope” TV spot more than a couple of hand-fulls of times but never bothered. Seeing the links coming in from sources I trust on a channel that has immediate relevancy to me actually got me off of my ass to actually buy a shirt. Relevant, recommended, actionable, everyone-is-doing-it and probably cost less than that TV spot.

12 03 2009

Thanks, Matt. What you point out is a big difference between broadcast and social: in social, we know people and can participate. I partly bought the shirts to support a P&G acquaintance of mine on Twitter — I like what he has to say and I wanted his team to win.

18 03 2009
David Y.

Awesome re-cap. Thanks a zill for this. Even after the “Twitter-thon” I went to Tide’s site, and I almost bought a shirt. If they’d been a bit cooler I might have. Ah, I still might. … in all, it seems like this was a very public P&G classroom session, with some disappointing results for charity. The clean clothes for charity I get. The “Tide Feeding America” part seems like an odd coupling to me. Anyway, thanks again for the best summary I’ve found. Cheers!

18 03 2009

Glad you found the re-cap useful, David. I just got my green T shirt delivered today, and it’s sitting here on my desk.

It’s not the garden variety crappy corporate t-shirt I was expecting. The fabric is surprisingly good and soft and the logo on it is a bit distressed and aged in a neat way. I’m not shilling for P&G here: if it was lousy I’d be the first one to say so.

17 08 2009
What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part Two) « i C P G

[…] think companies like P&G are doing a good job of immersing their execs in digital culture and testing the […]

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