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Direct Response Marketing

Wake Up!

1 Jun, 2013 By: Thomas Haire Response

Blake Hawley says DR has worked wonders for Meda Consumer Healthcare's Vivarin brand and hopes for simliar results for Geritol.


“Response marketing changed the model for both large and small traditional consumer package goods (CPG) brands,” says Blake Hawley, brand marketing director for Marietta, Ga.-based Meda Consumer Healthcare, the U.S. over-the-counter division of Stockholm-based Meda AB, a top-50 global specialty pharmaceutical company. “It’s created brands like Swiffer, worked for well-known brands like Scrubbing Bubbles — and now is helping to resuscitate brands here like Vivarin and Geritol. Consumers are bombarded with information and response marketing is a venue that targets and focuses those consumers.”

Hawley, who joined Meda in September 2010, has nearly two decades of experience marketing major consumer and pharmaceutical/supplement brands — utilizing all manners and methods. But when she joined the company, she was faced with one of the most challenging tasks in her marketing career: reviving brands that consumers assumed had disappeared.

That’s because Meda’s growth strategy in the U.S. has been based on acquiring brands from other marketers in the space — brands that either may have been dormant or that simply had no marketing spend put behind them for years.

“That challenge required our marketing to have a laser-beam focus to reach consumers with a message that stepped away from the traditional brand model,” Hawley says. “Consumers haven’t engaged with these brands for years, and direct response provides us a venue to speak with them in a straightforward, informative manner.”

Hawley’s new response-based model was tested by Meda for the first time in 2012, with the reintroduction of the Vivarin® brand of caffeine alertness supplements. The effort was so successful that Meda is about to roll out a similar campaign for the Geritol® brand of multivitamin/multi-mineral dietary supplements.

Acquiring Expertise

Hawley’s career in marketing dates back to her graduation from Wake Forest University with an M.B.A. in marketing. “I started with SC Johnson right out of business school,” she recalls. “Obviously, it was classic CPG marketing, and I worked with household cleaners like Windex, Shout and Scrubbing Bubbles. I also spent the last several years I was there in the innovation group.”

Hawley says she was “very fortunate” to join an organization as sizeable as SC Johnson early on. “These are classic, iconic brands,” she adds. “It allowed me to learn the fundamentals of CPG marketing, understanding consumer needs to drive strategy and brand positioning. I learned about line extensions and true innovation.”

But after six years with the company in Wisconsin, Hawley and her husband Keith had decided that they wanted to move back to the south (Hawley is originally from Georgia and her husband from North Carolina). She was able to join the Zyman Group, founded by Sergio Zyman, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, as a marketing consultant.

“He didn’t recruit consultants, but rather marketing practitioners,” Hawley says. “We learned how to be consultants. With my background, I could sit across from the clients and empathize with them. I understood the issues and opportunities they dealt with.”

During her time there, Hawley worked with clients like ConAgra Foods, Miller Brewing Co., and more. “I learned a lot about brand architecture at work during my time at Zyman. What is the essence of a brand? And where can brands go — and not go — in the minds of consumers?” she says.

After four years, Hawley again moved on, this time to Novartis business unit CIBA VISION®, a leader in the contact lens and eye health space. “This was truly a global marketing role,” Hawley says. “The fascinating thing about a global product is just how much knowledge brands can have by positioning the product across so many markets. Using local nuances to refine and customize campaigns, you begin to learn that you can transcend markets and cultures.”

At the same time, the role had a B2B marketing aspect, in that CIBA VISION needed to market its products to doctors and eye care practitioners, as well. “It was great to begin to understand how to start the campaign around the needs of the consumer, but then translate those needs into the terms that doctors would understand and respond to,” she says.

After just more than two years there, Hawley was lured by the challenge presented by Meda and its brands. “I handle all brand marketing for our six retail brands — Vivarin, Geritol, Feosol®, Balneol®, Contac® and MidNite®,” she says. “That means I have a wide range of roles, from the overarching business strategy to portfolio planning to marketing strategy and programs. I have a team of four brand managers.”

Meda’s household brands form the core of its retail product offerings and can be found on the shelves of all major food, drug and mass merchant stores nationwide. Vivarin, Contac and MidNite are also found in convenience and dollar stores, as well as hotel gift shops and airport stores.

The company also brings a unique competency in Internet marketing from its E-commerce-based DrNatura.com, a leading brand of all-natural herbal and dietary supplements.

Much of Meda’s brand line was built through acquisition. In 2006, Balneol non-medicated lotion was acquired from Solvay; in 2008 DrNatura was acquired from its founder; and in January 2011, the company acquired four brands from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK): the Contac brand of cold and flu remedies; the Feosol brand of iron supplements; the Geritol brand of multi-vitamin/multi-mineral dietary supplements; and the Vivarin brand of caffeine alertness aid.

Could DR Work?

But many of these brands had also been out of the marketing limelight for a number of years. The challenge for Hawley and her team: how to drive awareness, reinvigorate brand identity and bring consumers back to these brands. One possible answer, it became apparent, was direct response marketing.

Hawley had some experience with DR from her SC Johnson days. “My last project at SC Johnson was working on an automatic shower cleaner line extension for Scrubbing Bubbles,” she recalls. “Our agency at the time, FCB, supplemented traditional spots with DRTV — one- and two-minute spots.”

Hawley says the product, which attached to a showerhead, was “technically complex” and that there were “multiple messages” the marketing needed to get across.

“People needed to understand how to use the product — positioning it, keeping it clean, how the device and the formula worked together. There were tons of different messages,” says Hawley.

She worked on creating the DRTV spot, before another marketing executive took over upon her departure. “From a strategic angle, for a straightforward CPG product like this, DR provided a great forum to communicate multiple benefits,” Hawley says. “And DRTV was being picked up at that time by many of our competitors. It’s been exciting to see how DR has evolved, and how powerful a well-done call-to-action (CTA) can be.”

But how could Hawley call on that experience and the growth of direct response marketing when tasked with reintroducing the Vivarin brand to consumers in 2012?

Truly Revived

“People thought Vivarin had gone away,” Hawley says simply of Meda’s biggest challenge. “But the product had never gone anywhere. It had just fallen off the radar. It had become a trade brand that was supported by shelf programs at retail, but there was no consumer marketing at all. When a brand is dormant for so long, it acquires a lot of private-label competition. So our outreach in reintroducing the brand had to be cost efficient and almost immediately effective.”

General mass marketing was a non-starter for Hawley and her team — “We didn’t have the budget,” she says — so they had to get creative and opportunistic to make a TV campaign work. Stop one: re-engaging consumers with the brand.

“We took Vivarin out to a series of grass roots events, directly engaging consumers and talking with them,” Hawley says. “We filmed the footage, mainly — we thought — for internal use and perhaps for the website or for YouTube. But once we started looking at it, we really began to think, ‘This could be a TV ad!’”

So the team began to move toward creating a DRTV campaign for Vivarin. “DRTV was a tremendous opportunity for Vivarin,” she says. “Once our creative was in shape, we focused heavily on cable networks for our media plan, honing in on core consumer targets. This made our CTA especially important — it drove people to the Web to learn more about Vivarin and engage by requesting samples and downloading coupons to shop at retail.”

Hawley says that all marketing depends on “striking up a conversation with consumers,” and that DR is especially effective at doing this. “The CTA for Vivarin asks consumers simply to ‘learn more,’” she adds. “When they visit you, they learn more about the product and spend time with it — and hopefully take you up on that coupon.”

How did it go? “We tracked the campaign throughout and for 10-16 weeks after,” Hawley says. “We saw a 10-to-15-percent consumption lift — a very significant lift for the brand, on top of Vivarin already performing well in periods just prior. We also had some good trade activity with a major competitor leaving the market.”

Brands Like New!

The success was so significant that not only is Meda doubling down on DR with Vivarin, it’s also taking a similar tact in reintroducing Geritol to the marketplace. And Hawley is thrilled with the help the Meda team has gotten from its agency and vendors.

“We’ve worked exclusively with E&M in New York. They’ve done a lot of wonderful work, guiding our choice of stations and programs,” Hawley says. “They know how to target consumers with the right vehicles and the right daypart mix.”

She credits the agency with dealing with Meda’s “limited budget,” saying that its team has been “laser focused.” “They’ve created a strong mix,” she adds. “They challenged some of our thoughts going in, pushed our thinking and helped us expand.”

Hawley also says that E&M has brought in a talented producer to help create its new spots for both Vivarin and Geritol. “Because of how the campaign grew organically last year, we had just used a videographer to shoot footage. They did a great job, but E&M’s brought us a wonderful producer who formerly worked with Saatchi.”

Still, the Meda team doesn’t want to get too far away from a plan that worked so well a year ago — they just want to expand and improve upon it. “The success last summer wasn’t just about numbers,” Hawley says. “The TV campaign worked well hand-in-hand with sampling programs and enthusiasm from the grass roots.”

The expansion of the Vivarin campaign includes new events at which Meda is looking to engage consumers. “We are expanding the DR campaign for Vivarin by filming at new events. Last year, it was at motorsports events. But this year, we’re looking to engage younger consumers, at events like the PAX Penny Arcade Expo.”

Hawley says the “first wave of DRTV” (a blend of 15-second and 30-second spots) for Vivarin in 2013 will hit the airwaves in late June. “We plan on running for six-to-eight weeks, with a follow-up wave planned for September, “ she adds. “This is an increase over last year, as we’re planning on running 12 weeks total after running just six weeks last year.”

Hawley is also excited about the prospects for the company’s DR campaign for Geritol. “We are relaunching the brand with new positioning, new packaging and new messaging,” she says. “Geritol has been around for generations, but its name is synonymous with an older demo. We’re looking to down-age the brand.”

Much like with Vivarin, the Meda team is going grass roots for Geritol as well. “Geritol is participating the American Heart Association’s Heartwalk in Denver,” Hawley says. “We’re planning on putting this campaign on-air in September as well, with a six-week run.” ■


About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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