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Time and Tide

April 22, 2013

By Lynn Santa Lucia

Here’s something marketers need to take a moment to think about: building a brand in real-time.

Let’s face it, we don’t own the brand message anymore. We have the ability to control what we say about the brand, but as far as the ongoing conversation about it goes, marketers have no control.

Then how can we better participate in the conversation?

Sundar Raman, marketing director of Procter & Gamble’s North American fabric-care division, says we need to be spontaneous. We need to be topical, personal, worth engaging with. Most important, we need to be always on— like a news desk.

“The most meaningful marketing is relevant, but the ‘when’ portion is all too often missing,” Raman says. This used to be the case at P&G, he notes, where “processes were built for developing big ideas that delight the hearts and minds of consumers, but not for real-time marketing.”

Enter the Tide Newsdesk, a social media listening post and rapid response center created as a way to discover the buzz about P&G’s familiar laundry detergent brand and amplify those conversations. In February 2012, thanks to the newly launched newsdesk, the brand was able to spring into action following an event in which Tide unexpectedly took the spotlight. On primetime TV, Tide helped out at NASCAR’s biggest event, the Daytona 500, when a crew used boxes of the powder detergent to clean up a fuel spill on the speedway after a crash. The newsdesk released a 15-second ad featuring news coverage of the cleanup, generated buzz, and kept the conversation going strong for days.

“Because of the newsdesk setup we could respond right away,” Raman says. “Marketing was fun again.” This is what P&G means when the company talks about “everyday marketing”— engaging with the consumer moment to moment, and in the process building your brand.

Lessons from the newsdesk approach, according to Raman:

  1. Be prepared.
  2. Use what you have. (You don’t have to create something new every day.)
  3. Do. Learn. Do it better. (The cost of failure is very low, because every day brings a new opportunity — this creates a much different risk mindset.)
  4. Investing in organization and infrastructure will result in greater collaboration.
  5. The ability to respond comes from having a one-brand team — the days of divvying up digital to one agency, TV to another are gone.

So think about it. But act fast.

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