Gatorade’s refreshing approach to Social Media
Social Media is still a topic that many brands are trying to get their heads around. Some avoid it altogether, others dip their toe in the water, while a few brave pioneers embrace it as a major weapon in their armoury.
One such brand is Gatorade, who have set up a Social Media Mission Control room slap bang in the middle of their marketing department.
Located in Chicago, the impressive-looking room was launched back in April and features six large screens running a number of dashboards and data visualizations which can also be accessed on employee desktops.
The Pepsi-Co owned brand developed the system in conjunction with partners including IBM and Radian6 and has developed a set of proprietary protocols that aggregate and rank opinions in real-time. This ensures that comments by loyal fans, people with a lot of followers, or people whose opinions are picked up, get prioritised.
Consequently whenever someone mentions Gatorade on Twitter, Facebook or in other social media, it pops up on a screen in Mission Control. For example last Saturday, when some someone incorrectly stated on Facebook that Gatorade has a high-fructose corn syrup, staff were able to swiftly jump in to clarify the confusion.
This might seem a trivial example but lengthily-titled Senior Marketing Director, Consumer & Shopper Engagement Carla Hassan says their aim is to “take the largest sports brand in the world and turn it into largest participatory brand in the world.”
To achieve this in a mutually efficient relationship, the brand not only takes information by monitoring its presence across social media, but also uses social media to give its fans increased access to its athletes and scientists.
Gatorade also claim that Mission Control is improving their marketing and business in other ways.
As Mission Control also allows in-depth monitoring of consumer online behaviour, the team can create reports showing how long consumers who click on banner ads stay on Gatorade’s website, how often someone who searches for “protein drink” clicks on a link for Gatorade Recover and how the new products fare with influential groups.
For example, after running a new TV ad, Mission Control picked up a number of conversations commenting favourably about the soundtrack. Within 24 hours they’d worked with rapper David Banner to produce a full length version and distribute it to fans on Twitter and Facebook.
Mission Control also identified a number of complaints regarding drinks being out-of-stock meaning they were able to react quickly and increase production to remedy the problem.
This radical high-tech approach is aimed at turning around a three year sales slump that has seen Gatorade sales fall while rival Powerade, who rely on more traditional techniques like handing out samples at athletics events goes from strength to strength.
As with any bold new move, Gatorade will need to write the rules as they go along and carefully choose which conversations to participate in to avoid a backlash and accusations of being Big Brother.
As we well know, it’s no good having the knowledge if you don’t use it effectively though the two examples cited above show the benefits the system can bring to the business as a whole. Only time will tell quite whether this is just a style over substance gimmick or a truly fantastic way to engage with and respond to consumers when they are still interested in hearing from you.
Zeitgeist will be following this story over the next eighteen months or so to see just how this pioneering strategy affects sales performance and peoples attitudes to the brand.
Pepsi-Co have already said that they’ll consider implementing the approach for their other brands if it does prove successful and no doubt many other brands will be watching with interest keen to launch their own versions.
Perhaps in the near future, if we want to engage with a brand we won’t have to ring a call centre and sit on hold for half an hour, we’ll just need to tweet our question and let them call us.
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