Here’s news that hasn’t hit the wires: Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Scott, Cottonelle, Huggies, Viva and other brands, no longer thinks of television as its primary marketing tool. What’s that mean in real terms? That the firm is now channel-neutral — more willing to consider promotional vehicles like events and sampling. And it has accelerated the process by retaining Naked Communications, an agency specializing in brand strategy. Promo spoke with Hedy Lukas, Kimberly-Clark’s vice president of integrated marketing communications, who is overseeing the change.
PROMO: Kimberly-Clark has changed its planning process and now has a neutral view of channels. Why?
LUKAS: It’s the right decision, and it’s never been more important. We feel confident that it’s getting us to the right place.
P: How has this shift affected your marketing strategy?
L: JWT [our lead agency] was getting more involved in our work with retail customers. But we tended to lead with advertising for the rest of our customer touch points, then bolt on other ways of reaching the marketplace. We knew that was dysfunctional. We realized we didn’t need TV to be the central focus.
P: What played into this decision?
L: These are huge brands. They have tremendous awareness levels, and we realized that we don’t need to invest in vehicles that generate awareness — like broadcast TV. Instead, we’re using channels that enable consumers to engage directly with our brands.
P: Does that mean no more TV?
L: We’re not walking away from TV or print — we still need to have a reminder out there. But we don’t need to over-invest.
P: How will the agencies work together?
L: We’re all around the table together, equal partners. There’s no predetermination that there will be TV, print or FSIs. We try to pick the channels that will work best and be open to all manner of communication based on the challenges we’re facing in the marketplace.
P: Which channels are you using?
L: We’re trying to think beyond traditional channels. We now think of sampling, experiential, third-party endorsements, even packaging.
P: What role will promotion play?
L: Promotion plays a key role in engaging consumers and changing their behavior. The channels that are most important to us here are experiential, sampling and retail because they allow us to begin to develop a personal connection.
P: When will see your new creative work?
L: We’re now forming our 2009 marketing communication plans.
P: What can we expect?
L: Let’s look at Huggies. New consumers come to that brand every day as babies are born and they leave as babies grow older. It becomes even more important to [get people to try it].
P: What will you do differently?
L: In the past, our promotional approach for Huggies would have been to find a way to get incentives into the hands of moms. What we now want to do is stay connected with the mom through her motherhood journey: from buying maternity clothes through prenatal classes and at the hospital to provide samples. We want to connect with those moms every three months or so with very specific messages that are relative to the specific baby’s development. In the past, we sent the same direct mail piece to all moms regardless of how old their babies were.
P: How does channel-neutral planning affect your marketing budget?
L: We’re starting with zero-based budgeting, then figuring out the channels that will get us there.
P: Prices for some of your popular brands are going up Feb. 3 by 4% to 7%. Will this affect sales?
L: We’re feeling relatively comfortable that it’s not just our brand. It’s an industry phenomenon because of increases in the cost of pulp and energy. It’s not like we’re leading something that our competitors aren’t engaging in. However, we mustcontinue to be able to effectively convey the value of our brand.
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