Some of what I’ve seen from mainstream marketing is mostly “monkey see, monkey do” when it comes to social media. “What’s your social media strategy?” is the question they get from each other and outside consultants. I’m amazed at how many companies remain as clueless today as they did five years ago (that’s approximately 20 years in Internet time). I disagree: it is not a “strategy.” Social media is another tactic in a well-planned, integrated marketing communications plan.
Mr. Clift acknowledged that in social media, Unilever — past digital accolades or no — has fallen back at times on the same one-way-communications mind-set it’s long applied to traditional media, only to learn that one-way communications are impossible. “We may be ahead of some of our competitors,” Mr. Clift said. “But we’re most definitely behind consumers.”
Case in point was the hijacking of “Onslaught,” Dove’s follow-up to the massively viral “Evolution” video, by Greenpeace, which produced a parody, “Onslaught(er),” that skewered Dove and Unilever for their role in razing Indonesian rainforests through their purchases of palm oil. Mr. Clift became aware of the issue when he saw Greenpeace protesters in orangutan suits scaling the walls of the company’s Lever House headquarters in London last summer. Ultimately the parody got 705,000 views to the original’s 405,000 — and helped lead Unilever to talk with Greenpeace and adopt new targets for sustainable palm-oil sourcing.
“The speed of change really has far outpaced our ability to accompany it,” Mr. Clift said. “I, for one, am in awe of the new challenges that the media revolution poses. But … I believe it can force greater change on the conventional marketing model than most people in consumer package goods actually believe.”
Today’s Forbes interview with Mr. Clift touched on social media:
How is Unilever using social media?
We’re extending a toe into social networking. We realize that it’s not up to us to determine the conversations. The consumers will determine the conversations, and the best we can do is be transparent. We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance to certify that Lipton Tea is environmentally responsible. So we invited some American and Canadian journalists to come pick tea at our farm in Kenya. The trip got lots of good coverage. But we found one blogger who was really skeptical and took issue with the fact that Lipton paid for the trip. So the Lipton brand manager logged on as herself and responded to him. It was a bit scary. And consumers were surprised that a real person joined the conversation.
Here’s the Greepeace hijacking:
And here’s the Dove video that went viral last year…
…and one of many parodies…