Uncovering Hidden Media Channels


At a recent global strategy meeting, one of our executives reminded us that our responsibility as marketers is to “reach the largest number of, uniquely, the right people at the right moment at exactly the right location and drive costs towards zero.”

As I reflected over the many brands I have been fortunate to manage, in so many different locations and cultures around the world, I was reminded that the principles and practices of marketing remain constant, regardless of where you live. However, what does evolve over time are the channels of communication available to us.

This is where the “fun” begins: knowing exactly which media channels to use and why. I have found that the right media channels often turn out to be the less obvious ones.

Here’s one example: As brand manager at Johnson & Johnson, Middle East, based in Dubai, I managed Neutrogena and RoC brands. Our two main channels of marketing communication and distribution were primarily pharmacies and dermatologists. This helped build and maintain the important medical credibility for a brand like Neutrogena, which was still new to the region.

At the same time, we also knew that brands like Neutrogena and RoC had a large range of skincare and cosmetic products. In Saudi Arabia, specifically, we started noticing that cosmetic products kept selling out very quickly from pharmacies. They were usually sold to drivers, who arrived at the pharmacies with shopping lists in their hands.

After asking many questions, we discovered these drivers were buying products for an enormous informal beauty salon network across the country, which was run by expatriate women from other Arab countries. Because of the unique social restrictions placed on women in Saudi Arabia, expatriate wives have little option but to spend vast amounts of time at home. To fill their time, many of these women set up home-based beauty salons.

After testing this market by selling Neutrogena and RoC products directly to several of these beauty salons, we realized the extent of its potential. These informal beauty salons soon became a new marketing and distribution channel that led us to double our sales. Our curiosity about pharmacy sales paid off and led to an innovative new way of reaching and marketing to an elusive target audience.

Whether you’re marketing skin care brands to women in Saudi Arabia or reaching out to millennials in the USA, your responsibility as a marketer does not really change that much. Ultimately, you need to make sure that you reach the right target audience with the right message at the right location.

However, the variable that constantly keeps changing is the number and types of media channels at your disposal.

In my current role, my mandate is to share and spread our many and varied sustainability stories around the world. For the first time at The Coca-Cola Company, we used paid social media as a dedicated media channel to do just that. In close partnership with our Public Affairs and Communication Team (PAC), we prepared and ran 13 paid social media campaigns throughout 2014 targeting millennials. The stories were based on a variety of topics ranging from plant bottle packaging to our Global Women’s Empowerment Program, #5by20.

This social media campaign proved to be a highly successful initiative. Results continue to show improvements in perceptions and attitude towards The Coca-Cola Company. By using paid social media, we’ve been able to target unique content to very specific groups of people, who are genuinely interested in particular topics. All this was done extremely cost effectively. We discovered that the more relevant the content, the more willing people were to share and spread it. This, in turn, helped drive up our engagement rates.

As marketers, it’s important for us to know who we’re trying to reach. However, it’s as important to identify those less obvious communication channels to reach our target audiences. As our executive pointed out, our responsibility as marketers is to “reach the largest number of, uniquely, the right people at the right moment at exactly the right location while driving our costs towards zero.” Sometimes, it’s the less obvious media channels that hold the key.

About the author:

Tim Goudie is the director of social media sustainability marketing at The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta. Prior to joining the Coca-Cola Company, Tim managed high-profile brands for Fortune 500 companies in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Canada. In addition to Coca-Cola, other notable brands in his portfolio include Cadbury’s Chocolates, Pillsbury, Neutrogena and RoC Skincare with Johnson and Johnson, and Irvin and Johnson Frozen Foods.

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