Editor's Comment: Unilever learns P&G viral lesson

Noelle McElhatton
Noelle McElhatton

When the chief marketing officer at Unilever (the world's second-biggest advertiser) speaks, we are obliged to listen. Keith Weed doesn't disappoint in our inaugural CMO Strategy interview, as he makes a startling admission.

I'm not talking about his revelation that measuring social media's ROI is 'a big issue' for Unilever, or that he took a delegation of Unilever marketers on a Silicon Valley fact-finding mission.

I am, instead, referring to Weed's statement that he is 'inspired' by Old Spice's 'The man your man could smell like' campaign, from arch-rival Procter & Gamble. Now we know we have reached a new level in the battle for compelling content.

Yet what exactly does 'content' mean? The ASA is grappling with this issue as it seeks to police marketing claims on websites (see page 15). Meanwhile, Yahoo! believes its content, from football highlights to user-friendly financial updates, is now its USP (see page 22).

For the lazy marketer, content could mean plonking TV ads on YouTube, hoping for the free-media viral effect. However, if content is treated in this way, as a cheap alternative to conventional advertising, it will remain passive and dull.

The Old Spice ads were a big viral hit, but what made them so is not just that they were human, but also distinctive, memorable and, above all, funny - content you want to share. If it captures our imagination in this way, content has the power of PR, fame and, therefore, fortune.

Awards deadline imminent

The Marketing Society Awards for Excellence, in association with Marketing, have set a truly high standard of marketing excellence in the UK for the past 26 years. The entry deadline for the 2011 awards is Friday 11 February, so time is running out to participate. See page 7 for details.

Noelle.McElhatton@haymarket.com.

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