P&G inks deal with PlanetFeedback for Pampers and Tide

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Hoping to make good on Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley's "the consumer is boss" mantra, Procter & Gamble Co.'s two biggest brands, Tide and Pampers, have signed with Cincinnati-based Intelliseek's PlanetFeedback to use the Internet to hear what "the boss" is saying.

PlanetFeedback has developed for P&G a program it calls "Feedback 360," which combines access to consumer input to the PlanetFeedback.com consumer site with a system to help P&G analyze comments consumers make to its own Web sites, consumer hot lines and e-mail boxes. The service also scans other online sources, including Usenet newsgroups and online message boards to track what consumers are saying about the brands.

P&G's move comes as consumer-products companies increasingly look to link consumer-affairs departments and data with marketing efforts. P&G rival Unilever in April placed its North American consumer contact center and database under what had been its Interactive Brand Center, redubbed the Relationship Marketing Innovation Center.

ability to understand

"We have the ability to understand our most valuable consumers across all of our operating companies, as well as the contact history we have with them," said Mark Olney, VP of the Unilever unit. "That's important when we start to deliver programs against those consumers."

"Consumers are listening to advertising less, yet they're more apt to ask for help," said Bob Gilbreath, assistant brand manager for Tide, in a recent presentation in Cincinnati. But he said one problem in trying to develop relationships with the brand's most avid, vocal consumers is that P&G's current feedback system isn't designed to move data to the brands. Feedback, largely verbatims of consumer comments, comes to brand managers as difficult-to-analyze monthly data dumps that encompass hundreds of contacts.

Though Tide, like other P&G brands, spends heavily on other forms of market research, Mr. Gilbreath said PlanetFeedback's Web offerings can help Tide recruit hard-to-find consumers for research and marketing on niche products.

He cites Tide HE, a specialty detergent for frontloading washers. Such machines are in only 4% of U.S. households today, yet are growing fast. Many consumers get poor results from the washers because they only use half the recommended detergent dose-a problem P&G is working to overcome.

Mr. Gilbreath said he's seeing P&G consumer affairs and marketing people working closer, with consumer affairs people offering such ideas as asking consumers who call in with questions if they'd like to send coupons to friends.

Pete Blackshaw, PlanetFeedback co-chair and chief marketing officer, likened the Internet to "a hearing aid on steroids" for marketers, adding: "It's not that they weren't listening before, but the tools were more expensive and there were a lot of barriers."

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