The Secret to Secret's Success? BPA

Thanks to Social Media P&G Deodorant Brand Looks to 'Blow People Away' With Random Acts of Kindness

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NEW YORK ( -- The secret for Procter & Gamble Co. was Brussels sprouts.

Kevin Hochman
Kevin Hochman

When inspiration struck, the packaged-goods marketer's team on Secret deodorant was at an offsite meeting at Boca, an Italian restaurant in Cincinnati with a philosophy known as BPA -- or "blowing people away" by providing service or extras well beyond what customers expect. For example, if a busboy overhears someone expressing regret about not having ordered the Brussels sprouts (believe it or not, a well-loved specialty here) he'll tell the chef and return to the table with a sample without being directly asked -- or charging for it.

That got Kevin Hochman, marketing director for Secret (as well as Olay and Venus) thinking about how he could apply the BPA approach. In turn, that's generated a series of random acts of kindness, often powered by social media but also by P&G's toll-free consumer support lines.

The wall of Secret's Facebook fan page from IMC2, Dallas, now with more than 600,000 fans, has been instrumental here, Mr. Hochman said.

One example came when a woman wrote on the wall that she could no longer get her favorite scent of Secret since moving to Spain. Customs regulations prevented P&G from just mailing it from the U.S. But an agency executive traveling to Italy anyway volunteered to take some along and mail it to her from there. "Part of what makes this special," Mr. Hochman said, "is that it's unexpected in a way that really delights."

Secret Valentine's Day card

Secret Valentine's Day card

Some of Secret's BPA program is about reaching out to individuals, but some is about bigger groups. That was the case when the brand used posts to its Facebook page to collect photos of fans saluting soldiers, then used them to create an American flag montage for a postcard people could send soldiers on Veteran's Day.

Part of the impetus behind BPA is that with social media, each satisfied customer can reach out to hundreds of others, Mr. Hochman said. But part is also just to stay in touch with consumers and their needs in ways outside the usual research channels. Consumers pay it back when, for example, Facebook fans recently picked the name of a new scent -- Mystic Melon.

Sometimes BPA is also about reacting to complaints, such as when an assistant brand manager spent an hour on the phone with a woman who complained on the Facebook wall about the lack of diversity in models for a Secret promotion. The manager agreed to change the mix of models in the promotion, sent her other ads with non-Caucasian models -- and sent a case of Secret for her to give to disadvantaged youths whom she coaches on applying for jobs. 

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