Racking up six- and seven-figure fan counts on Facebook is remarkably commonplace (with more than 100 brands now at a million or more fans and more than 500 with 100,000 so far). Getting fans to ever engage with a brand page again after falling in like with it is much less common.
But Procter & Gamble Co.'s Secret deodorant appears to be having unusual success generating engagement around a "Mean Stinks" program that combats bullying -- one that also appears to be helping brand sales.
Since launching the "Mean Stinks" program, which has also included a publicity tie-in with "Glee's" Amber Riley and an iAd campaign launched last month, Secret's already strong sales growth kicked up a notch. The brand had momentum anyway, with a current streak of 17 consecutive quarters of share growth, according to P&G. Sales are up 8% to around $250 million in channels tracked by SymphonyIRI for the 52 weeks ended July 10, but they're up an even faster 9% for the 26 weeks ended June 26, a period affected by the "Mean Stinks" campaign that launched in January on Facebook. Secret, already the leading U.S. deodorant, saw its share rise 0.6 points for the past 52 weeks and 0.7 points for the first half of 2011.
Secret doesn't garner the media attention of male brands in deodorant, namely P&G sibling Old Spice or its Unilever nemesis Axe. And at less than 1.3 million fans, its presence on Facebook falls below that of Old Spice (1.6 million) or Axe (1.7 million for the main fan page and 1.8 million for the Axe Angels Club).
But having added more than 50,000 fans over the 15 days ended Aug. 10, according to DBM/Scan's Facebook Fan Tracker, Secret's fan base is growing faster than either of those brands, despite competing in only deodorants, not body wash (like Old Spice and Axe) or hair care (like Axe).
That's during a period when Axe didn't have a new program in the field but Secret did, with marketing and publicity around the Amber Riley partnership. During the same period, Old Spice had just launched a new series of TV, digital and viral ads around its "Old Spice Guy" controversy pitting incumbent Isaiah Mustafa against pretender Fabio.
The Mean Stinks page alone (Facebook.com/meanstinks) has 222,000 fans, who've collectively used a "Good Graffiti" app to pass along 32,000 positive messages to friends since launch. At launch, Mean Stinks increased fan engagement on the Secret main fan page 24 times prior levels, according to P&G, which claims 50% of the smaller Mean Stinks cause group engage in the community on a regular basis -- meaning they've either viewed the page or its wall posts or commented on or liked something from the page at least monthly.
That's a level that appears above norms for brand pages, though Jeff Widman, principal and co-founder of Facebook fan page analytics and optimization firm PageLever didn't immediately have data for a monthly benchmark. He did find earlier this year, based on PageLever's database of brand pages with collectively more than 400 million fans, that on average only 3% to 7.5% of a brand's Facebook fans see a given wall post, only about 6% among fan pages the size of Mean Stinks.
Mean Stinks also got unusually high engagement levels with an iAd launch last month, according to P&G. In the first 10 days on iAd, 23,000 women engaged with the Secret ad, generating tap-through rates 50% ahead of average for iAd, according to P&G.
During the same period, Mean Stinks also induced 10,000 women to trigger $1 donations to Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center by requesting coupons online (including at the Facebook page) or downloading iAd wallpapers.
The Mean Stinks Facebook page also includes a referral page for counseling centers, some positive video shoutouts from Ms. Riley, a section where women can upload video apologies or complaints about past acts of meanness, and a store that sells T-shirts with anti-bullying messages (along with links promoting F-commerce sales of other Secret and other P&G products).
"We're more than just products and brands, but we're actually doing something meaningful for our consumers," said P&G spokeswoman Laura Brinker.
In that vein, Mean Stinks follows along with programs like Tide's Loads of Hope program that sends trucks with washing machines to disaster sites, or Dawn dish detergent's program to clean birds greased by oil spills. Unlike those examples, the connection between deodorant and a campaign against bullying is a little less obvious, but Ms. Brinker explains it this way: "Secret as a brand inspires women to be more fearless. ... Bullying is one area that we know is of great concern to our target consumer (both young women and mothers), so understanding how to identify these behaviors and stand up for yourself and your friends is one way to express your fearlessness. On a more simple articulation, Secret stands against things that stink, whether it's body odor or mean behavior like girl-to-girl bullying."
P&G isn't commenting on exactly how much of its sales lift it attributes to Mean Stinks or Facebook, but a look at the sales data and its numbers provides a clue on what's possible, anyway.
Based on SymphonyIRI data and what that generally represents of the total packaged-goods market, Secret sells around 100 million units of deodorant annually. A typical woman, according to P&G, buys four sticks of deodorant annually. If Secret could get each of its Facebook fans to buy an additional stick, or influence one friend to do so, each year, that would bump total sales by about a percentage point.