Female audiences are particular about where they get their information from, so, along with the message, companies must think hard about where they communicate it.
Procter & Gamble's communications team constantly has women on its mind. "It's always been really important for us to know what [a woman] needs, what she wants in a product, what attributes she would like," says Ross Holthouse, external relations manager for home and fabric care at P&G.
But it's increasingly becoming just as important to identify which sources of information and messages are most influential. So when P&G was looking to ramp up promotion of its Febreze Allergen Reducer (FAR) product, it first had to determine what sources of information were most influential to its target customer. While FAR has been on the market for a few years and was a top-seller, awareness for the product's allergen-reducing functionality was still quite low.
"We had never reached into this health arena," says Amanda Glasgow, SVP and director of word-of-mouth marketing at MS&L. "We didn't have as complete an understanding of what was going to be influential to this mom when it specifically came to allergens."
P&G decided to conduct an omnibus survey of more than 1,000 women from its existing consumer database, as well as Febreze loyalists, to determine where they got their health-related information and who influenced their buying decisions. The survey included online and phone surveys.
Some of the information was surprising, says Holthouse, including that consumers viewed pharmacists as important influencers. The research identified other primary influencers as primary care physicians, medical Web sites, friends, family, and local TV news.
That research was used to create a joint campaign involving Febreze's and Swiffer's allergen-reducing products. The team crafted a plan to not only reach the consumer through the media and other influencers, but also target the influencers directly. Partnering with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the team created an influencer kit to send to physicians that included information about reducing allergens in the home. An AAFA member and physician were also used as third-party spokespeople in an SMT and ANR. This year's program will focus even more on outreach to pharmacists, Holthouse says.
"Part of the reason the campaign worked so well is because of who we got to deliver the message," says Glenn Williams, P&G external relations manager for North American home care. "Having a medical authority deliver the message was far more powerful than building a traditional release."
Research also played an important part in P&G's work with Cohn & Wolfe this past summer when it launched Cheer True Fit, which boasts the ability to retain the original fit of clothes. P&G conducted an online survey of 2,000 women on their feelings about shopping and the relationship they have with their clothes. The goal, says Barbara Cohen, SVP in C&W's consumer practice, was to use the results to validate Cheer's place in a fashion discussion. For example, the research found that the majority of women do not enjoy shopping, meaning that once they find clothes that fit, they want them to stay that way.
"This was to lend credibility to our voice to talk to these issues," Cohen says. "We're usually talking in the laundry room, and now [we were] talking... in the fitting room."
The research was presented to an influencer panel comprising people in the fashion industry and was introduced by campaign spokeswoman Finola Hughes, host of Style Network's How Do I Look?
Using research to establish messaging was the goal when Georgia-Pacific's Dixie brand wanted to revamp its brand strategy. While the company knew a lot of information about its target customer - female, age 25 to 54, with two or more children - it used a consumer segmentation study to get more details to break down the consumer base further and assess attitudes about Dixie products, says Erik Sjogren, senior brand manager for Dixie. The research helped the company identify five different consumer groups: Proud providers, time-crunch convenience seekers, on-the-go consumers, traditionalists, and price-driven shoppers. The company determined that the proud providers and time-crunch convenience seekers represented 50% of the category spending, so it focused on those groups.
The research not only included online surveys, but also a series of focus groups to find what drives purchase of Dixie's products.
"Our category has traditionally been driven by special occasions," Sjogren says. "People use them for barbecues and birthday parties and holiday parties, but our greatest opportunity is to drive everyday-usage occasions."
The research was the basis for the 2006 "Make it a Dixie Day" campaign, which encouraged moms to make Dixie products part of their day, from morning to night.
When Dixie began working with Porter Novelli that same year, it shared this research with the agency as it tasked the firm with finding a new, relevant marketing vehicle.
"Their research helped us tremendously," says Karen Weidenaar, SVP in PN's corporate/consumer practice. "We realized that across both of those groups, word of mouth is the biggest difference maker to them."
So, PN suggested a Dixie sponsorship of Mommycast, a podcasting show hosted by and targeted to moms. The venture has allowed Dixie to become a "mom's advocate," says Weidenaar, while maintaining a sense of authenticity.
"From a gut perspective, when they presented it to me, it just made a ton of sense," Sjogren says.
As word-of-mouth marketing has increased in use by marketers, 5.4% of moms have emerged as "netfluencer" moms. Some characteristics include:
Have at least 75 friends with whom they keep in touch
Give their friends advice about what to buy, where to shop, places to visit, or restaurants to try almost every day
94% describe themselves as family-oriented
Spend nine hours per week on the Internet for personal use
77% are employed outside the home
20% participate in online chats and discussion
Source: Porter Novelli's Styles database