Relevant Bots for Legacy Consumers

How long can a legacy brand maintain brand awareness without  making efforts to stay relevant?

Marketers on the Quaker Oats team don’t want to have to find out the answer to this question.

Instead, their mission is to make themselves available to consumers in an increasingly personalized manner, using channels that meet customers where they are.

Elena Parlatore, senior director PepsiCo consumer relations, explained to me that Quaker Oats has been a leading brand in the pantry for 140 years. It would be easy to sit back on their enduring recognition, but in recent years they’ve expanded in emerging subcategories with Organic and Gluten-Free lines.

But PepsiCo understands that communications channels are how a brand gets the word out about products, new and old, and those channels need to be similarly current and relevant. For this reason, they drafted marketing tech solutions provider Reve Marketing to develop a chatbot for Quaker Oats fans.

A bot for Quaker Oats fans

“Before the bot was implemented,” Parlatore said, “our teams were answering consumer questions through Facebook messenger during business hours, and based on the volume of engagements we knew there would be consumer interest in a solution like this. With the bot, we found an easy way to consistently engage with consumers around the clock. In the two years we’ve had the bot live, we’ve increased conversations by 13 percent with no dedicated support or marketing activity outside of the brand website.”

She added, “The bot is one element of a full consumer relations experience ecosystem, that also includes Alexa and Google Assistant, that provides information and utility to our consumers. From a self-service web contact experience to voice-enabled technologies, we’re meeting the consumers where they are to deliver new and unique ways to incorporate our products into their everyday routines.”

The individuals and families who buy Quaker Oats and seek out information about them online “value the versatility of the oat and are always looking for new ways to enjoy this super grain,” Parlatore stated.

Automated recipes

Reve Marketing was tasked with this project based on marketing technologies that deliver customer acquisition, engagement and loyalty for big brands, especially in consumer packaged goods (CPG). In addition to AI-driven conversational capabilities, the Reve team synced up an automated recipe database with the Quaker bot to power it with the latest recipes. The automated AI experience is agile enough to allow the Quaker team to provide their own human support as needed, for a seamless experience to the consumer.

Reve Marketing’s co-founder and VP of products, Vivek Lakshman, told me: “Quaker’s support team has been very cooperative and hands-on in the bot process. We have, by experience, seen big challenges in how customer support teams see AI encroaching on their role or dis-empowering them. Actually, the opposite is true since they get to do more complex cases and not spend time on the small stuff which machines can address. Not only did the Support team help train the bot, we have a seamless transfer to a human agent when the chatbot feels it should escalate. Plus, if the user wants to talk to an agent, the chatbot will simply pass over control.”

According to Parlatore, inquiries from customers convey “specific dietary interests, general curiosity and an interest in exploring new flavors and tastes.” She said, “We’ve recently introduced some new features that we’re testing within the Recipe Discovery feature that allow consumers to search recipes by food emojis and set reminders to make ‘overnight oats’ at specific times the night before. We’re excited to see how consumers like these new features.”

CPG brand awareness revolves around product use

Based on Lakshman’s experience (Reve Marketing has been in marketing tech for over a decade), brand awareness for CPG brands “revolves around product use i.e. recipes, product awareness i.e. nutrition information, helping consumers find products, including promoting direct to consumer purchases, digital campaigns and, in general, providing a great experience through a conversation.”

He stated, “Brands are using paid media to drive consumers to use the chatbot on their page and engage with it. One of our customers has been very successful in helping shoppers pick the right product by launching a chatbot from an in-store signage.”

One surprise for Lakshman, having executed this Quaker Oats chatbot, was the amount of non-support-related requests brought to the bot from its audience.

“A good portion of the users are using the bot to find avenues to buy specific Quaker products,” Lakshman said. “Most users want to buy products in-store [rather] than online.”

Shopping preferences, at least for the audience of a legacy brand like Quaker Oats, appear to maintain their own blend of new and traditional tastes in channels.

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