Unilever's Vivemejor, launched in May 2007 as a website and magazine for Latinos, has since expanded its presence to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. In an email interview, Russel Lilly, Unilever multicultural marketing director, discussed the consumer packaged goods brand's approach to connecting with a community.
ClickZ: How is engaging with a community online today different from three or five years ago?
Russel Lilly: The Hispanic community is attributed with higher levels of engagement on social media sites and is continuously outpacing its non-Hispanic counterparts. This is more evident today than it was five years ago by the continuous findings indicating this behavior. For example, we have experienced a high level of engagement with Hispanics online through the Vivemejor Facebook fan page, which launched in November 2010 and currently has more than 150,000 fans. It is currently one of the largest Spanish language communities on Facebook catering to U.S. Hispanics. Additionally, it is the largest Spanish language Facebook community by a Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) company reaching U.S. Hispanics.
The creation of the Vivemejor platform in 2007 has helped us find ways to connect with Latinas from both a beauty and food perspective, in a multi-platform program that includes online engagement through social media networks like Facebook.com/vivemejor, Twitter, and YouTube, among other touch points.
ClickZ: What are three to four key best practices for connecting a brand with a community, so that a brand is relevant? Explain three of them.
Lilly: Unilever's success in Hispanic marketing is driven by consumer insights. Our Multicultural Consumer Marketing Insights (CMI) team includes bilingual and bicultural professionals who know and understand Hispanic consumer trends. As such, the CMI team provides research on consumer purchasing motivations, behaviors for product development and counsel on the communications strategy. The insights provided by our CMI team, allows us to develop Unilever brand campaigns that are relevant and resonate with the realities of our target audiences.
To connect our brands with the Hispanic community online, we apply several best practices through all elements of the Vivemejor platform as they can help ensure the success of our program activations. Best practice examples include participating actively in the online conversation, creating exclusive content, and socializing our information both online and offline.
ClickZ: What special considerations, if any, do marketers need to weigh when working with a Latino community compared to communities that draw up more diverse demographics?
Lilly: At Unilever, we work to customize programs that are aligned and based on specific consumer insights we gather from our CMI team. We use these insights to create programs that will resonate with the selected audience. For example, we know that Latinas love sharing practical tips for beauty and meals with friends and family. This insight was one of the core reasons for the launch of the Vivemejor platform in 2007, which is the first and only online destination and multi-platform program by a CPG company that offers Latinas a one-stop beauty and food resource.
ClickZ: What is the background of community managers? Marketing? PR? Other?
Lilly: At Unilever, our multicultural marketing team works with internal stakeholders including our CMI team, media, and our brand teams to ensure we are aligned in our efforts. Additionally, our agency partners with specializations in the fields of public relations, advertising, social media and shopper marketing, among other areas, create programs that are relevant to the Hispanic consumer. In the case of managing the online communities of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the Vivemejor platform, our digital agency Captura Group leads the online social media consumer engagement, complemented by the support of the Edelman public relations team.
ClickZ: What role, if any, does advertising play in these communities? Is Unilever working with advertising or another agency in guiding this community? If so, who?
Lilly: A cross-functional model is essential to ensure we are aligning our campaigns for maximum reach. As mentioned previously, the Unilever multicultural marketing team works with our agency partners across different areas of expertise to identify strategy and execution. Specifically to the Vivemejor platform, we work with our digital agency the Captura Group for social media, Edelman for public relations, Mindshare for media buying, and Integrated Marketing Services for shopper marketing.
ClickZ: How does Unilever measure the success of this program? How many fans, likes, followers, page views, etc. does each have?
Lilly: Success for the Vivemejor platform is based on key indicators and benchmarks across each of the touch points of Vivemejor. We continuously analyze the size and growth of our audience and the engagement frequency. Currently, Vivemejor has one of the largest Hispanic brand communities online with more than 150,000 friends on Facebook; 14,000 Twitter followers; and more than 121,000 video views on YouTube.
ClickZ: How does this compare to two or five years ago?
Lilly: The Vivemejor platform has evolved along with the Hispanics market. The platform initially launched in 2007 and has succeeded in leveraging digital and social media to engage with Latinas. Over time, the platform has tripled the number of participating brands and has become the only multi-platform program by a CPG company that offers Latinas a one-stop beauty and food resource for living better.
Since the launch of our Vivemejor Facebook page in November 2010, our fan base has grown to 150,000 likes, which is nearly an 800 percent increase, making it one of the largest Spanish language communities on Facebook catering to U.S. Hispanics. It is also the largest Spanish language Facebook community by a CPG company reaching U.S. Hispanics. I would also like to point out that our Vivemejor YouTube page, which launched in December 2011, has more than 121,000 video views.
ClickZ: Besides the number of Facebook fans, etc., are there other success metrics that Unilever tracks?
Lilly: There are additional success metrics we track asides from the number of Facebook fans to determine the success of the multi-touch-point Vivemejor platform, and referencing these helps us measure the complete success of the program. The Vivemejor platform is in its fifth year, and that speaks to the success and the positive returns we have experienced since its launch in 2007. We are able to measure ROI through proprietary metrics and see efficiencies and effectiveness in reaching our Latina consumer through our digital efforts. To provide an example, we track the performance and vibrancy of our Facebook community through a careful analysis of our engagement which includes comments, likes, clicks and shares, in addition to the quality of traffic that originates from Facebook.
ClickZ: And can Unilever attribute an increase in sales to its social media initiatives?
Lilly: As mentioned previously, the Vivemejor platform has multiple touch points that allow consumers to interact with brands and content via elements like mass media, digital, social media, and in-store events. Many times, these elements work together to support specific platform efforts, as is the case when in-store events are held across the U.S.
For example, we rely on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to provide consumers with in-store event locations, times and dates to help drive customers to our retail events. We also have implemented an event locator on our Facebook fan page that allows our Facebook community to search for a Vivemejor event located near them. Additionally, our engaged audience on Twitter interact with our @Vivemejor handle that provides real-time updates when we are at retailer events. Through these efforts we are able to measure incremental sales as a result of added digital elements.
ClickZ: What portion of the Vivemejor marketing budget goes toward digital versus "offline" marketing?
Lilly: I am unable to provide dollar or percentage amounts, but I can say that our digital investment has increased during the past few years to stay competitive in this space. Additionally, we have seen positive results internally, which has enabled us to continue to increase our investment in digital elements of the Vivemejor program.
ClickZ: What are Unilever's plans for this community in the coming year?
Lilly: Unilever understands the importance of the Hispanic consumer segment as a growing and powerful consumer group, and will continue to reach this demographic in 2012 through the Vivemejor platform and other programs by solo Unilever brands. We will continue to build on the Vivemejor platform elements that work, such as our social media presence and in-store events, while looking to add additional elements that will enhance the consumer's experience via multiple touch points.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.