Building a personality of a CPG brand

on Nov 17 in Blogroll, Digital Strategy by

What you are about to read here goes pretty much for any brand, but consumer packaged goods present a special challenge in social media. Most common question digital strategists face in this arena is – Why would anyone want to be a friend with baby powder (or toothpaste, or dippers –insert your favorite CPG product here) on Facebook? Quick answer is that you need to find your CPG brands higher calling, but there is more to it. What we need to understand is the motivation – why people and brands even engage on social media platforms and also what are the rules of the road for companies in general on this very different advertising channel. Let’s just step back for a moment and first examine what’s so different in a one-to-brand relationship. To do this we need to answer a few simple questions and understand what is everyone’s interest in being in social media.


 What’s in it for me?

This is the key question. For companies it is a simple answer – marketing. Brands have realized that the one-way (outbound) messaging isn’t enough any more and that they have to start forging a more direct and meaningful relationships through social media outlets. The bottom line however remains profit and reach for the brand. Never the less, very few social media directors can directly link their social activity with the P&L statement and this has been the biggest hurdle since the first brands dipped their toes in social media. If you think about it – it should not be much harder to prove the effectiveness of social media campaign than it is to prove effectiveness of a TV spot or a newspaper ad, but there needs to be a whole new math in place and the attribution models are yet to change. 


Your average user on the other hand checks his Facebook for a number of different reasons – to find out who among his peers has traveled and where, who finished school, who decided to grow mustache and so on. Natural curiosity about happenings in your social circles is the main driver of this behavior. What your user is not going to actively seek are the advertisements of different brands, these he may actually find annoying and has every right and ability to filter this content out. So what’s a brand to do to get closer to its audience when they have become so impervious to interruption messaging? Tough question. 

 You’re a guest here so you better behave

The budgets are still way smaller compared to other channels, but the trend is that social media “buying” is soaring. Mindset is changing and social media is slowly gaining importance compared to TV and print, which is good. What we should not forget though is that social media is inherently different. Feedback is instantaneous, messaging is two-way and it requires a fundamentally different approach, but most importantly – a brand can never own it! It is owned by users. The sooner you realize this, the better off you will be.  You as a brand are a guest and you better behave.

 I like to compare brand-on-social-media presence to being a guest on radio talk show. You need to earn your opportunity to “plug” your product by being genuinely interesting and interested in what others have to say. If you keep pounding on your message without listening to comments and feedback people will tune-out. If your whole purpose is to sell that product – you will become irrelevant really quickly and loose your audience. 

 How to find your brands higher calling

Back to my point of finding a “higher calling” for your brand, in CPG world this is a huge challenge.  There is usually a large variety from different manufacturers in the product category you are representing, so competition is fierce and product is sometimes pretty mundane. Very rarely will you get a sexy brand that stands out and has distinctively better characteristics. My all-time favorite example for this in traditional marketing is Coke. Technically just one of many sodas on the shelf, it is an ultimate soda brand today because it was able to build a very strong brand. Coke is not selling you sugary water with bubbles; they are selling you lifestyle, fun on the beach, sense of accomplishment and good vibrations.

 So where do you start looking? You will probably already have some ideas on how to capture the emotion that you may want to ride, but there is nothing better than information straight from the source. And it has never been easier to do this kind of research then today with all of the tools to sort opinions on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other networks. Even a simple search on Twitter or Google for your brand or related topics and keywords will give you a pretty good idea about what the conversation around your brand is. Listen in on the conversation and find out what your audience is interested in and what the situations are when they use your product. Now you need to pick a topic and take your social strategy to the next level. Are you merely selling toothpaste or providing a comprehensive platform for teeth and mouth health? 

What to do

It is important to have a consistent voice as a brand online so don’t skip building the Social Media Playbook. This document will be crucial in defining your “brand personality”. It is also great for onboarding new team members and community managers.

Have a real role model for your brand voice. Since you can’t predict the conversations that may occur, give people who manage your brand a real life behavior model they can relate to. “What would so-and-so say to this?” kind of thing.

Keep the level of engagement high. Run multiple promotions at the same time on social media platforms and give people ample ways to share how they interacted with you. Remember to stay relevant to the ongoing conversation and give people reason to interact with you just like you would in real life.

Don’t talk about yourself all the time – try to keep branded conversations to a minimum. A good rule of thumb is a 70-30 rule where 70% of the time the original content that you push out does not mention the brand at all.

Stay human and personal – remember that this is a one on one relationship after all and people like to see your human side. Don’t sound like a guy from a TV commercial.

Integrate social media with the rest of your marketing efforts; don’t silo these efforts because they seem unconventional and not compatible with your other promotions.

 And finally always keep the score. You will have to provide results to prove profitable so have your goals set and make sure you meet them.

 Best practices 

Give free stuff - One good thing about representing CPG’s in social media is that brand teams often have swag on hand that you can leverage to get attention and good will. Whether it is product samples, cozies or promo t-shirts – you’d be surprised what amount of attention you can get by giving it away in exchange for a “most liked photo caption” or similar competition with low barrier to entry.

Take free stuff – keep your ear to the ground and you may discover amazing gems in terms of content that users generate on social media. Let that be your guide. I have found ideas this way that are as good as from a top-notch creative agency.

Have multiple points of entertainment - Always have multiple different apps running concurrently on Facebook and cross-promote them. It is better to give an impression that you have a lot going on on you Facebook page than to have it look like a one-trick pony. This is a #1 best practice that WildFire published in their recent study involving 10,000 brand pages.    

Spread out – Don’t hesitate to increase your reach by spreading out to other niche networks if you see the potential. If you find out that your users are posting a lot of photos give them a branded platform to do it on Pinterest.


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