Monday, January 12, 2015

Retailers Remain Key Part of Kimberly-Clark’s Brand-Building Programs

Kimberly-Clark has continued to get kudos for its shopper-marketing efforts and campaigns. The company has made it clear from the very top that this activity is a priority for the giant maker of CPG paper products ranging from Kleenex to Huggies.

The company established a shopper-marketing organization just five years ago. Earlier in 2014, for example, it tied Unilever for No. 1 in shopper marketing in The Hub magazine’s Hub Top 20 an annual survey of excellence in shopper marketing. At the same time, top Kimberly-Clark executive Anthony Palmer, president of global brands and innovation, has been saying that shopper marketing is one of the key components of his plan to build ten $1-billion-dollar brands in the company’s top three consumer categories.

“It’s about being able to marry what brands are looking for with what [retailer] customers are looking for and to find that sweet spot at retail and for the brand,” Anne Jones, vice president of shopper marketing for Kimberly-Clark, told CPGmatters. “It also reflects how we integrate back into our brand-planning process. Organizationally, shopper marketing is very integrated into brand planning, and that shows through in the work that we do.”

She said keeping the effectiveness of its shopper marketing at such a high level is a function mainly of three factors: 
  • Providing consistency 
  • Maintaining a platform that provides real insights 
  • Measuring what they do and adapting constantly.

Kimberly-Clark tries to ensure that “everything we do from our process to our organizational structure” involves an effort to find out what works for both retail customers and the brand team, Jones said. The company also tries to bring a valuable cargo of shopper insights to retailer customers that can create synergies for the brand’s own in-store marketing efforts. It also is constantly figuring out new and more effective ways of measuring its activities and to apply that data on a day-to-day basis.

And, Jones said, constant adaptation is required “to improve the model as the environment changes. Shopper marketing is such a dynamic area of the business, impacted heavily by the digital revolution and the growth of e-commerce. We constantly have to be looking at how do we take it to the next level and better meet the needs that those trends are requiring.”

There also can be changes – even big ones – in the competitive sets for Kimberly-Clark’s products and brands even though it mainly competes in very mature CPG categories. For example, in 2014 Procter & Gamble – which already clashed heavily with Kimberly-Clark in the disposable-baby-diaper category – announced its entry into the adult-diaper business that long has been dominated by Kimberly-Clark’s Depends brand.

“Our focus has been on finding the growth within the category regardless of whether it’s 10-percent penetrated or 98 percent,” Jones explained. “That focus didn’t change once we knew that P&G was coming in. We kept focused on how to grow the category, how to bring the best and most innovative products to market, how to understand what the consumer and shopper are looking for and for the best products to meet those needs.

“And on a macro basis in this category,” she continued, “we’ve been trying to normalize the experience and reduce the stigma associated with products for bladder leakage. That has stayed our focus throughout P&G’s launch and afterward as well.”

Of course, not just defending its turf, Kimberly-Clark is continually using in-store marketing initiatives to attempt to expand shares and markets as well. One of Jones’ favorite recent efforts was in the first half of 2014 when it attempted to build its Kotex brand among Millennial shoppers at Walmart. “They’re really experiential and also they like things they can easily share,” Jones said of Generation Y shoppers.

So Kimberly-Clark and Walmart launched four different types of bonuses that were available to Kotex customers in the store and promoted the offers heavily, using a combination of digital tactics (e-mail blasts,, social media) and analog ones (on-pack stickers, print advertising and end-cap displays throughout the store). They included, for instance, the making of a donation by the brand to the United Way with a purchase, and “designer” purse packages of Kleenex.

“These were some of our strongest [in-store marketing] events of the year, with double-digit-percentage lift in sales compared with before the promotions,” Jones said. The key learning? “Getting displays out there that are tied in with marketing communications behind them as well as product features – when you get all the marketing elements working together, you can strengthen sales with Millennial consumers.”

Kimberly-Clark was one of the pioneers in using virtual-reality experimentation to learn how shoppers would behave in a store and act toward merchandising and marketing decisions executed in the grocery aisles. It also has tried to stay on the cutting edge of new types of digital executions such as “augmented reality” in which information streamed online, usually via a mobile phone, gives the shopper more information in the aisle of the store, entertainment value, or both.

For example, Kimberly-Clark has used augmented reality for its Pull-Ups brand, which helps parents potty-train their young children. If a shopper scans an augmented-reality marker on a package of Pull-Ups, he or she is treated to a “celebration” by Disney characters of toilet-training achievement that, of course, can be shared on the spot with the child.

But even amid such extensive experimentation with new digital elements, there’s another tenet of Kimberly-Clark shopper marketing that Jones emphasizes: “We don’t do ‘digital marketing.’ We do marketing in a digital world.”

Explained Jones: “We don’t believe you’ve got digital-marketing experts and it’s something that only someone with that title, and a small group of people, does. The world we live in is digital, and everyone goes back and forth between analog and digital in the real world all the time. So we have to deliver that same kind of seamless brand experience. That means if you’re watching a TV commercial at home or online or on an iPad or on your mobile phone, you’re getting a seamless consumer or brand experience no matter how you’re interacting.”


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