ANALYSIS: Weekly Web Watch - Internet companies choosing to align with packaged goods

These days an Internet company seeking to extend its reach or strengthen its hold among consumers is as likely to partner with a packaged goods brand as it is to blow the media budget on broadcast, print, outdoor advertising, or even straightforward PR.

These days an Internet company seeking to extend its reach or strengthen its hold among consumers is as likely to partner with a packaged goods brand as it is to blow the media budget on broadcast, print, outdoor advertising, or even straightforward PR.

These days an Internet company seeking to extend its reach or strengthen its hold among consumers is as likely to partner with a packaged goods brand as it is to blow the media budget on broadcast, print, outdoor advertising, or even straightforward PR.

There have been several recent examples of this, including one between Sprite and Internet firm RocketCash. RocketCash provides a way for kids and teens without credit cards to shop online by letting them set up accounts that parents can then pre-pay with their offspring's allowances. RocketCash has the same problem as any new business has - it is difficult to explain in a few words.

RocketCash has made an agreement with the drinks company to put codes under the caps of a billion bottles of Sprite. Each one is worth between 20 cents and a dollar that kids can spend online.

For Sprite the deal represents a way of getting people to think about the brand in an online context, and it offers a much better connection than even the biggest Web sites filled with games and trivia. Not only that; it also pulls more than 100 RocketCash online retail partners into the deal, including Borders.com and Emusic. It was launched amid great pizzazz at a New York party that included rap artists Nelly and Ja Rule.

Of course, this is just the Coca-Cola-owned company playing catch-up to Pepsi, whose deal with Yahoo! earlier this year goes even further, tying the Internet company in as a key element of the Pepsi Stuff program and giving Yahoo! more than 1.5 billion 'impressions' on containers of soda. And don't expect that to be the end of such deals. Kellogg's is casting around for appropriate partners for its new Eet and Ern online loyalty program.

The most powerful brands now have such reach and such a hold over consumers that they can afford to be vehicles for other brands. There is, of course, nothing new about cross marketing and co-promotions. But they are now going much further, and it is the Internet that is giving these arrangements legs. Brands are the real new media. And they represent an increasing challenge to the media players who traditionally have seen themselves as the all-controlling gateways to audiences.

It crosses over with what Yahoo! calls fusion marketing and Forrester Research calls cohort management. If Forrester is right, marketers will increasingly have to learn to span brands and even categories, rather than focusing resolutely on the brand alone as they used to in the past. Brand management will be reduced to mere execution of programs and the measurement of their performance. The real creative thinking will take place in this new crossover space. The key skills will be determining which brands provide the most appropriate fit, and then developing the mechanisms that will make the alliance compelling to consumers.

Such partnerships open up a lot of PR opportunities for enhancing awareness and brand positioning. They are, after all, just the sort of material that makes for great PR, and professionals who are adept at coming up with the right creative alliances have the opportunity to take center stage, not just on individual promotions but at the core of a company's marketing strategy.

Partnerships also present PR practitioners with new challenges. They have to worry about the reputations of their own companies and brands and also those of their close partners. They will need to be closely involved in the discussions where potential alliances are considered.



- Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at stovin.hayter@revolution-magazine.com.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.