Nehemiah Blends Purpose, Competition

Company Built on P&G Orphans Makes Biggest Media Bet Yet on Boogie Wipes

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Nehemiah Manufacturing launched six years ago selling products orphaned by Procter & Gamble Co., such as Downy Wrinkle Releaser and Kandoo wipes. Now with new VP-Marketing Eric Wellinghoff, a well-respected P&G veteran, the company is putting its first major paid advertising push behind its one non-orphan brand, Boogie Wipes.

The patented wipes, with saline solution to keep children from rubbing their noses raw when they have colds, were developed by two moms from Oregon and acquired three years ago by Nehemiah. After years of relying mainly on organic social media reach, Boogie Wipes are getting a paid digital campaign from Molio, a Salt Lake City agency, which aims to use the same focus on media and creative efficiency that its founder, Jeff Davis, used to launch Orabrush years ago.

Less than a month into the campaign, the lead video has nearly 3 million views on YouTube and strong scores across all attributes in rapid copy testing from Millward Brown's eStatic tool on ZappiStore.com. That's one of the lower-cost tools Mr. Wellinghoff is using in an effort to combine P&G-style analytical rigor with a small company's agility and bootstrap budget.

He's got the speed part down. After arriving at Nehemiah Aug. 17, Mr. Wellinghoff had the campaign on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in less than two months. It's a pace considerably faster than he was used to at P&G, where he was senior manager-global digital brand building strategy in consumer and market knowledge (aka market research).

P&G long ago stopped leaning heavily on organic digital reach in favor of paid impressions, he said. "I've had to eat a little crow coming in learning about how a company that's small has to be agile and leverage organic," he said.

Bloggers and other brand ambassadors gave Boogie Wipes weekly organic reach of almost 50% of its loyal fan base, Mr. Wellinghoff said. And he used Survey Monkey to find the brand already had 70% awareness among the 5 million U.S. households with kids under 5. Yet that awareness wasn't getting enough people to try products, Mr. Wellinghoff added. And he knew from the five-star review average for Boogie Wipes' best-selling product on Amazon that just getting people to try creates loyal users.

"We are obsessed with how to efficiently buy media," Mr. Wellinghoff said, noting that he talks with the media buyer at Molio daily. "We also look at drop-off rates on YouTube TrueView ads to squeeze more juice out of what we're doing."

So the YouTube ads have prominent branding in the first five seconds (after which they can be skipped) and finish the main selling message just before the 30-second mark, after which Nehemiah has to pay for the impressions. For Facebook, Molio crafted gif-like ads with subtitles to deal with the fact that 90% are viewed without sound and for less than 10 seconds.

Mr. Wellinghoff wanted the best of both worlds with his latest job, beyond getting to combine big CPG analytics with small CPG agility. Some P&G colleagues were surprised he wasn't going to Google or Facebook, digital giants he'd been working with. Instead, he sought the sense of purpose that some former colleagues had found working for nonprofits combined with the competitiveness he found at P&G.

Nehemiah fit that bill. Founded in part to bring jobs to Cincinnati's inner city, about half of its 100 employees have done time on felony convictions or are recovering from drug and alcohol problems. Nehemiah employs a social worker rather than a human-resources director, aims to pay permanent hires at least $12 an hour, backstops low-interest credit-union loans for some employees and provides low-cost housing for others.

Employees grateful for second chances reward Nehemiah with loyalty, said CEO Daniel Meyer, citing a 10% to 15% annual turnover rate, about a quarter the rate of similar companies.

"We're not soft," Mr. Meyer said. "We're all about winning in the marketplace," which was one reason he recruited Mr. Wellinghoff. "But you can do it in a loving, caring way."

Nehemiah's social mission hasn't made it into marketing much yet. "That's absolutely in our glide path," Mr. Wellinghoff said, but added "these products are so good" that for now the focus is on them.

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