July 14, 2003
How To

How to Get Word-of-Mouth Buzz Among Teens -- Tips from Procter & Gamble

SUMMARY: We contacted Procter & Gamble's Erika Brown after we heard she was one of the most popular speakers at AD:TECH. If you missed her speech, here are the highlights:

a. \"Influencers\" are different from \"trendsetters\"

b. Why you can't reuse your mass market campaign messaging

c. Examples: Two sample campaign histories

Includes samples of two banners that P&G uses to recruit influential teens to their marketing program.
Most word-of-mouth marketing programs have two innate problems.

First, they are often not scaleable; many firms have “street teams” for hire, but they’re useful strictly on a local basis. Second, they’re not predictive. (Think Blair Witch Project -—wildly successful -— versus Blair Witch 2.)

So, Procter & Gamble set out to bring real science and scale to the word of mouth marketing field. Enter Tremor, one of the company’s first business service offerings, that touts itself as “providing access to influential teenagers.”

We asked Erika Brown, Tremor's Teen Experience Director, to reveal what they've learned about attracting and marketing through influential teens:

Lesson 1) "Influencers" are different from "trendsetters"

Influential teens, or "connectors", have a number of things in common: they are inquisitive, persuasive, have broad social networks, and a natural inclination to talk about new things.

Tremor’s first efforts at finding these teens failed, Brown says, because they were trying to find trend setters. But trend setters, motivated to be different from their peers, don’t spread the word about products.

Once P&G refocused to target “trend spreaders,” the program's measured success rate increased drastically.

Lesson 2) Online is the best media to reach influential teens

P&G tested a number of channels to recruit teens for Tremor, from chasing teens down in malls with flip charts (time draining and expensive) to direct postal mail using existing Procter & Gamble lists, to telephone calls.

The Internet won out, which makes sense: trend spreaders are media hounds and love to acquire info from all sources, and the Net is the least costly channel to reach them.

So, Tremor launched a number of email and banner ad campaigns designed to appeal to the spreader demographic.

One typical banner features a hip-yet-serious looking young man wearing a plain white t-shirt. The headline reads, "Don't get branded." The banner's day-glo lime green background helps it stand out on all sites.

By offering teens two things -— exclusive access to companies’ information, products, and services along with the power to influence consumerism -— P&G found the “right people.”

Lesson 3) You can't reuse your mass market campaign messaging

For something to spread via word of mouth, the message must be unique -- it can’t be the same as what’s being plugged in a mass marketed campaign.

“What gets teens fired up is getting their hands on something that’s different,” Brown says. “There has to be some social currency.”

The Tremor team takes a number of steps to ensure that a program will be successful. They collaborate with the client and creative partners to develop ideas against three proven platforms:

a) Get it first -- Offer a “sneak peek” to teens before anyone else.

b) Inside scoop -- Give them something exclusive, proprietary, and unavailable to everyone else.

c) Influence power -- Enable kids to have an impact; make them brand owners. Let them help pick the music for the next Pringles commercial or the model for the next Pantene print ad.

Examples) Two sample campaign histories

So far Tremor has run almost two-dozen campaigns for consumer products. Brown shared two case stories with us to illustrate what they've learned about what works:

Campaign one: Improving a TV show's ratings

Brown's goal was to provoke a spike in ratings for a popular teen TV show. Rather than sending a typical poster or sticker of the star, her team developed the idea of sending out pieces of the show’s season finale script.

Ten days before the show aired, they sent parts of script -- with the juiciest scenes blacked out -- to Tremor teens. “It wasn’t fancy. It was a very simple concept, but we bet that kids would talk about it.”

Results -- ratings increased by 171% (no, that’s not a typo).

Campaign two: Raising brick and mortar retail traffic

A clothing retailer wanted to turbo-charge a new store opening. Brown's team sent a carefully chosen group of teens copies of the store layout, pictures of attractive models, information on the clothes, and a gift certificate.

Results -- sales at the new store location increased by 30% over control stores. Each teen told almost nine friends and brought on average five friends to the store.

Link to samples of banner ads Tremor uses to recruit influential teens:

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