"Let me entertain you" may be the new catchphrase of consumer goods marketers searching for ways to engage consumers with a brand-specific message.
It's Hollywood by way of Silicon Valley, as manufacturer websites turn into entertainment hubs for free DVDs, music downloads and amusing online vignettes.
The goal, in many cases, is to create a personal experience with a brand by allowing a consumer to mix music, personalize a ringtone, or email an ad to friends.
Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, has greatly enhanced its website (www.mycoke.com) to be a multi-subject resource for consumer entertainment. The site was created in 2002 as www.cokemusic.com, and it now is "multi-passion enabled," according to the soft drink giant. The average visitor spends 37-45 minutes each time they visit the site.
Visitors to mycoke.com encounter seven areas of specific interest. Among them is "Blogs," where visitors can sound off on a topic of their choosing or post personal photos; "Sports Challenge," where they can engage in a multi-player sports trivia game; and "Film Festival," where they can make a film and submit it to the next "Coke Film Festival."
"We believe that allowing our users to provide the content is the ideal form of entertainment that connects our brand with our consumers," said Doug Rollins, senior interactive brand manager for Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola continually studies the consumer's use of its website to improve and tailor its content.
"We look at aggregated information on our site to ensure that we provide the most relevant content for consumers visiting mycoke.com," Rollins said. "We continue to streamline the overall consumer experience."
Mobile phones are an area of future focus, and Coke has begun testing this medium by offering three mobile games for site visitors.
PROGRESSO SOUPS IT UP
Minneapolis-based General Mills is promoting Progresso Microwavable Bowls through what it calls a "Soup Opera."
This series of amusing video vignettes is titled "Home Sweet Cube," and is viewed online at www.homesweetcube.com.
Home Sweet Cube, which launched in February, reflects a quirky and contemporary sensibility toward working situations (the "cube" stands for "cubicle") such as office romance, uptight coworkers and feuding cubicle neighbors.
Progresso brands are not shown during the vignettes. There is, however, a prominent on-screen link that encourages consumers to click through to learn more about the product. The product also is shown at the end of each presentation.
Progresso emphasizes the interactive nature of the soup opera. Not only can the series be viewed, but viewers can explore clues and move in several directions through them. Viewers are encouraged to download the video to a PC or to a video iPod - or to email them to friends and family members.
The basis for this entertainment series is market research by Mintel International Group showing that 46% of employees with computer access surf the Internet while eating lunch. Progresso Microwavable Bowls retail for $2.49 in a 15-ounce bowl. Ready-to-eat soup comprises a $1.4 billion category, according to General Mills research.
ANHEUSER-BUSCH EXPANDS AD REACH
Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, which sells roughly half of all beer consumed in the country, views consumers as part of an entertainment continuum. Ads for Budweiser and Bud Lite, its leading brands, can be viewed on television, and also downloaded from numerous websites and emailed around to friends.
Budweiser's and Bud Lite's legendary Super Bowl commercials are at the leading edge of this new push to hook up with consumers through entertainment. Following this year's Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch beer ads were viewed online a whopping 21 million times - up 277% over post-game viewing in 2005. In addition, these commercials were downloaded 300,000 times.
Anheuser-Busch bumped up the viewership by not limiting itself to its own websites, budweiser.com and budlite.com, as in the past. The commercials now are viewable and downloadable on a host of broadband sites: aol.com, usatoday.com, film.com, video.google.com, msn.com and espn.com.
Also, the spots come in HD-quality, full-screen broadband video, and are compatible with video-enabled iPod and PC downloads. The ads were posted immediately after the Super Bowl game itself.
"We're continually looking for new and different ways to reach techno-savvy, contemporary adult beer drinkers," said Tim Murphy, senior director, creative development for Anheuser-Busch.
Reaching those consumers, he added, "includes understanding where they want to be reached and having the technology to meet those needs."
This high level of interaction with consumers is industry-leading. With an "interaction rate" of 21%, Anheuser-Busch commercials ranked No. 1 on msn.com and No. 2 on aol.com, where the interaction rate was 16%. This puts the company several touchdowns ahead of the national interaction average of 3.4%.
The most popular downloads on the sites are "Super Fan" for Budweiser, followed by "Secret Fridge" and "Touch Football," which promote Michelob Ultra Amber.
KELLOGG'S BLOGS AND PODCASTS
The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., the giant in breakfast foods, hopes to be a giant in entertainment as well. The expanded capacity of the Web to accommodate new formats like blogs and podcasts allows the company to participate in "global conversations" with consumers, said Jill Saletta, director of communications.
"Kellogg is looking for ways to use these tools to open up new lines of communication with our consumers, allowing them to reach out to us directly," Saletta said. "By sharing and listening, we hope to continue to build on the loyalty and trust consumers have placed in our company for 100 years."
Consumers can visit the Kellogg's Movie Lovers Collection on the company website (www.kelloggs.com), to learn about receiving any of 24 free movie DVDs, including "Honeymoon in Vegas," "Baby Boom" and "Dr. Doolittle." Each DVD requires five certificates from back panels of cereal boxes but otherwise is free. In a section called "Box Office Hits," boxes of the brands - Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, Soft Batch and Wheatables - are pictured with details.
In a "Star Wars" section of the website, fans of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" can send in back panels for "Galactic Gadgets" like a "Light-Up Saber Spoon" or a "Darth Vader Helmet Cookie Jar." Such products require back panels from Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, fruit snacks, cereals or cookies.
For the company's 100th anniversary, a special website (www.kellogg100.com) offers free downloads of ringtones ("snap, crackle, pop!"), screensavers ("Ernie the Elf") and cell phone wallpaper (Tony the Tiger). The celebration also provides recipes and offers consumers a chance to share their Kellogg's stories, such as growing up eating Fruit Loops or baking Rice Krispies Treats.
The Kellogg's website features videos with Tony the Tiger, the Frosted Flakes mascot. In "Earn Your Stripes," Tony rocks out with Olympic snowboarders, skiers and speedskaters (Kellogg's is an Olympic sponsor). The program calls for visitors to sign up for a "playbook" and "start earning your stripes."
P&G MAKES IT SIMPLE
Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, is cultivating consumers for its multitude of home products through an entertaining website called Home Made Simple (www.homemadesimple.com). The site is an online lifestyle magazine with brief articles about decorating, organizing and enjoying your home.
One area of the site is called Julie's Jukebox. Here, visitors are offered music downloads for 99 cents a song. Songs are organized to complement a particular article in sections like "Organized Life" and "Celebrate Living." A section on creating a new home decor, for example, features Eric Clapton singing "Change the World."
The Simple Life
CINCINNATI - Procter & Gamble here just announced that it's bringing the Home Made Simple brand and website to life as a new television series.
Premiering June 4 on The Learing Channel (TLC), the 13-episode series is based on the simple home-style principles featured on the www.homemadesimple.com.
Home Made Simple staffers surprise families and show them how to organize their home, create simple meals and celebrate living.
Since it created Home Made Simple in 2000, Procter & Gamble's perception of online vehicles as a tool for connecting with consumers has changed dramatically, said Anna Burdick, external relations manager for Home Made Simple.
"Home Made Simple really got our people to believe in and to understand the power of the Internet," Burdick explained. "The website champions our brands - but it's really about the solutions that our brands provide for your life."
Burdick cites the example of Febreze. "It's known as a fabric softener, but it's really a family of products with more uses than people realize," she said. "Home Made Simple communicates those uses without really dwelling on it."
Five internal employees work with five others at an outside content agency called Barefoot, also here, to create Home Made Simple.