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Here's how Unilever leverages programmatic buying for all-inclusive mobile push

Unilever is the first brand to leverage a new mobile marketing platform that moves beyond simply leveraging programmatic for buying mobile media to making the tactic an integrated approach for a global strategy.

The new marketing tool from BrandTone called Konnect lets the marketer run mobile campaigns on the fly by segmenting users based on their buying habits and demographic. The program is particularly aimed at helping the CPG giant roll out campaigns in emerging markets.

?Our feeling is that the engagement from the senior leadership within Unilever was excellent ? they see the significance, they believe that this is part of the future of marketing and mobile marketing in particular and we really believe that they are going to use this tool as a central part of their mobile marketing strategy, particularly in developing and emerging markets where it?s really important to undertake mobile marketing in a very effective way as the primary channel for engagement,? said Donald Fitzmaurice, CEO of BrandTone, Dublin.

Unilever did not respond to press inquiries.

Tracking instant campaigns
Unilever will leverage Konnect to specifically target groups of consumers who enter the codes found in packs of its products.

Consumers can enter the codes in a number of different ways including SMS, social media, voice recognition or through a USSD when a pre-paid phone?s data is topped up.

Once a code has been received, a phone call is automatically placed to consumers to ask them more about their buying habits and other information needed to fill out a profile.

These questions include if they are a loyal buyer of a product and what other brands they buy. They are also asked to opt-in to offers.

The idea is to create profiles of consumers so that Unilever brand managers can log-in to the platform and quickly find the right group of consumers to target for an offer.

For example, South Africa?s database consists of nine million consumers. Brandtone claims that this represents one-third of the country?s consumers.

Unilever can also target consumers who buy a competitor?s product with offers or mobile media by using multiple mobile tactics.

The CPG brand has run a handful of campaigns already with the platform.

Yesterday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Unilever unveiled its involvement with Brandtone by setting up a campaign for Sunlight detergent.

The campaign targeted consumers who live in urban areas in India?s West Bengal. These consumers had bought products from a competitor within the past six weeks.

The target group was further whittled down to consumers who typically bought 500-gram products, representing 160,000 consumers.

Unilever then sent the consumers an offer to buy a 500-gram Sunlight product within 48 hours. The CPG brand can track the offer to see how many consumers redeem an offer.

Additionally, Unilever?s Knorr brand is using Facebook to target consumers in South Africa, per Mr. Fitzmaurice. 

The idea is that Unilever is moving from setting up campaigns over a series of months to running efforts in real-time, which is a particularly bold move for CPG brands that are often accused of being a slow-moving vertical in mobile and digital.

Additionally, the deal shows how CPG brands are leveraging mobile and digital to gain a competitive advantage in targeting consumers who have bought competitors? brands.

"The Unilever Konnect announcement represents another loud and enthusiastic move to mobile for marquee brands, and more specifically a clear signal that programmatic will be a core trading method,? said Victor Milligan, chief marketing officer at Nexage, Boston. 

"CPG has been a long-standing leader in mobile,? he said. ?The announcement puts a sharp point on how brands will embrace mobile.?

Growing programmatic role
Up until now, the majority of the discussion around programmatic has been around mobile display advertising.

Instead, Unilever?s deal also includes multiple mobile tactics including SMS, social, voice-based and in-application targeting to create a more comprehensive program.

?Unilever?s announcement is a significant sign of support for both programmatic and mobile advertising in general,? said Michael Hayes, chief revenue and marketing officer of UberMedia, Pasadena, CA.

?The large CPG companies have really started to embrace programmatic solutions, and, in some cases, are bringing them in house,? he said. ?The reasons for their programmatic approach are similar to the rest of the industry: Efficiency, real-time insights and performance.?

However, there will also likely be a few challenges in programmatic for other CPG brands looking to leverage the same types of campaigns, particularly around tracking the redemption process.

?While we?ve seen CPG brands using programmatic buying for mobile, the lack of a single reliable standard for targeting and the complexity of managing mobile campaigns, especially when using past purchase data for targeting as many of ours do, makes a managed service environment more practical for the time being,? said Tim Jenkins, CEO of 4Info, San Mateo, CA.

?Furthermore, doing end-to-end measurement of sales both online and offline requires a certain amount of expertise and effort that isn?t practical for programmatic,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York