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Case Study: How a New-Product Launch via Facebook Resulted in Immediate Sales, Ongoing Consumer Relationships

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Company: 3M Canada Company
Contact: Brian Stephens, eMarketing for Consumer and Office Division
Location: London, Ontario, Canada
Industry: Office supply
Annual revenue: $25,000,000,000
Number of employees: 1800

Quick Read

When 3M Canada wanted to rejuvenate its Scotch Tape brand, it came up with a product that, at least for its mostly female target market, put Milton's red Swingline stapler to shame: The Scotch Shoe, a tape dispenser fashioned to resemble a heeled mary jane shoe and destined to turn heads in the drab office landscape.

Budget constraints, however, forced the company to get even more creative in promoting the new product, thereby leading to 3M's first product launch via the social network Facebook.

Although skeptics within the global 3M organization questioned this approach, 3M Canada viewed Facebook as a highly cost-effective means for directly reaching those who were most likely to become passionate about the product, and most likely to share that passion with family and friends.


Smart thinking. At a fraction of the cost of traditional media, this campaign has not only generated immediate sales and new excitement around the Scotch brand but also enabled the company to better understand its target market and forge relationships that will play to its favor well beyond this initial campaign.

Challenge

Since introducing the first marketable transparent tape in the early 1950s, 3M has enjoyed a boon that few brands experience: a brand name (i.e., Scotch Tape) that has become synonymous with the product category it represents.

Yet, Scotch Tape has become such a basic part of our everyday that it almost becomes as invisible as the effect it was invented to create. And for this reason, 3M Canada sought to revitalize the brand in 2008.

"We have the sales and market share, but with a product like 'tape' it is difficult to get your consumers passionate about your product," said Brian Stephens, who handles e-marketing for 3M Canada's consumer and office division. "It was really important for us to come out with a new product to grow our core business. We wanted a unique way to get tape back on the desk in the office and expand usage outside the gift-wrapping season."

Targeting its largely female market, the company came up with a new red tape dispenser dubbed the Scotch Shoe, which resembles a heeled mary jane (a women's style of footwear). And major retailers across Canada agreed to stock it.

But coming out with a new and exciting product was merely step one; next, 3M Canada had to generate awareness and buzz, and on a tight budget that put traditional media out of reach.

Campaign

Although a small amount of advertising was done in stores and on the company Web site, the bulk of 3M Canada's promotional efforts surrounding this new product launch went into a comprehensive Facebook campaign.

Facebook was identified for several reasons. First, it's low-cost. It is also considered Canada's top social-networking platform, with over 7.5 billion impressions per month and over 8.63 million active Canadian users, more than half of whom are female.

Furthermore, because the network offers access to detailed user demographic and interests data, the company considered it the best channel for directly targeting the people most likely to advocate or talk about its product.

The campaign, which launched in October 2008, included the following components:

1. A Facebook Page, which enabled the company to...

  • Create a targeted destination: Though it didn't have the proper budget to overhaul its product Web page, 3M Canada was able to quickly launch a dedicated page—designed to appeal to "shoe-aholics"—on Facebook, for free.
  • Deliver product information in a relevant manner: Product images and videos were used to generate interest, and a list of stores where the product was available gave users the information they needed to take that next step.
  • Develop an interactive dialogue and relationship: Using surveys and discussion-board posts, 3M Canada was able to generate feedback from its target market and initiate conversations that it hopes will continue to foster consumer passion and loyalty toward its product and brand.

2. Contests, which helped the company to...

  • Drive traffic to the page: Users were provided incentive to visit the page and become fans through two contests: one offering a $100 Town Shoes gift card, and the other offering a chance to obtain the new shoe tape dispenser without purchase—both of which played off the interests of the target market.
  • Stimulate engagement and interaction on the page: To become eligible for the Scotch Shoe contest, users had to not only become fans of the page but also post "wall" comments, good or bad, about the shoe. (The Town Shoes contest required users to complete a brief survey, which allowed 3M Canada to also collect email addresses and other contact information.)
  • Spur increased awareness through user-generated content: There was little cost associated with running the contests; yet, this tactic of requiring fans to post comments to the wall increased exposure exponentially.

"Once they place that comment on our wall, their friends can see it," said Stephens. "They become advocates for the Scotch Tape brand, with organic content seeded throughout Facebook."

3. Engagement ads, which allowed for...

  • Highly targeted promotion: Using fixed-CPM ads posted directly on users' homepages, 3M Canada began advertising the product launch in October and November with two ads targeting female Canadians only. One introduced the new tape dispenser product, and the other lured users with the opportunity to win the Town Shoes shopping spree.

    Then, in December, a third ad was launched alongside the other two, this time targeting both male and female Canadians and promoting the red shoe dispenser as the "perfect stocking stuffer."
  • Real-time campaign management and results: With up-to-the-minute access to results data, the company was able to determine how its ads were performing in real time and adjust the rotation accordingly.
  • Influence from friends: All three ads also displayed which of the users' friends had already become Scotch Shoe fans, thereby enabling the company to leverage the influence of friends.

Results

The Facebook page created for this campaign has generated over 2,000 fans and close to 200 wall comments posted by fans.

The engagement ads also delivered over 1.5 million impressions and 300,000 clicks.

And the Scotch Shoe product sold out in stores almost immediately.

Stephens is confident that both the product and this promotion are helping to bring new life to the Scotch Tape brand.

Lessons Learned

This campaign, for which 3M Canada won an internal Marketing Excellence Award, has shown the company that...

  • Facebook provides a viable, low-cost platform both for launching a new product and for initiating relationships with consumers.
  • High-dollar prizes aren't required to generate interest and results in online giveaways.
  • A company doesn't need to be a major player in this space, nor an exciting mainstream brand, to run a successful Facebook campaign.

In fact, Stephens feels there's a certain advantage that comes with having a low-key brand: The fans it does acquire are choosing to engage, rather than demonstrate their brand loyalties to friends. Accordingly, they are more likely to share feedback and welcome the relationships the company is striving to build.

Facebook also provides unique access to consumer data and interests—such as favorite movies and books—which will help the company to refine those relationships in the future. For example, the company may be able to use that insight to determine attractive prizes for its next round of contests, initiate new topics of discussion on its page, or locate a theme for its next product innovation.

What's the best way you've found to get a new product or message to stick? Email your story to CaseStudies@MarketingProfs.com.

Related Links

NOTE: Annual revenue and employee numbers are for 3M as a whole, not 3M Canada.

Looking for additional guidance on using Facebook and other social media in your marketing mix? Check out Facebook Success Stories and The Obama Playbook: How Digital Marketing and Social Media Won the Election.

Premium Plus Members may also enjoy viewing Bam! A Recipe to Add Social Media to Your Marketing Mix a seminar from IBM's Sandy Carter.

All of these resources provide great tips on using social media to further your marketing efforts.


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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via kims@marketingprofs.com.

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