For Facebook Success, Reckitt Takes Lessons From Walmart

Seeking Sales From Social, Company Looks for Common Objectives With Retailers

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Reckitt Benckiser, like other packaged-goods players, has long done business planning with major retailers such as Walmart and Target , where it maps out long-term promotional products and marketing programs. Now, RB is applying the concept to Facebook.

The move is an outgrowth of comments Laurent Faracci, general manager-U.S. marketing, kept hearing from RB marketers -- that while Facebook has many measures, such as Lysol's 1.1 million brand fans -- none of those answers the big question: Does it have an impact on sales?

So Mr. Faracci enlisted help from heads of the company's Walmart and Target teams to figure out how to go about joint-business planning and what makes such a plan effective. "It's all about having a common, agreed objective," he said.

U.K.-based RB, usually an underdog compared with larger brands from the U.S., has never made bones about its focus on its media frugality -- something that has generated criticism as it made big investments in online video in recent years. But Mr. Faracci said the company is increasingly focused on the effectiveness of its media, not just lowest cost.

He declined to define exactly what its "common" objective with Facebook is , but said, "It could be to try innovative new platforms that would [deliver] the effectiveness/efficiency ratio at a better cost and that they can leverage with other clients. Because we are more of a challenger, more daring and bold, use us on your most advanced commercial innovations."

Again speaking hypothetically, he said it might distill down to "three new-to-the-world projects for the CPG area" where RB would have an exclusive at an advantageous price in year one, then would be available to other Facebook clients in year two, along with some case studies to use.

RB is trying the joint-business-planning approach with Facebook in the U.S. before considering moving it to other countries and media outlets, Mr. Faracci said. As part of a second phase, he said the company is doing projects "with stepped-up investment" on two brands -- Finish and Air Wick -- and evaluating the impact using "a full econometric model." His goal, he said, is to find where Facebook best fits for RB, "not to do fake social."

Mr. Faracci said the retailer is fine-tuning efforts to take better advantage of online video and digital media, where it's generally been happy with its investments. Increasingly, it is advertising on e-tail sites such as Amazon and Walmart.com. That works particularly well for niche brands where national TV makes little sense, such as septic-tank treatment Rid-X, he said.

Another example comes in the intersection of e-tailing and Facebook, he said. Earlier this year, RB determined that people tend to use Easy-Off Barbecue Grill Cleaner on the first warm day of the year, so it used the My Local Walmart Facebook program to target stores in areas experiencing their first warm days after winter. The effort garnered successful ROI.

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