Digital & Social Media

Need Kleenex? Flu’s Coming

Need Kleenex? Flu’s Coming

Campaign: Wondering where winter flu will strike next? There’s a website for that, thanks to tissue brand Kleenex in the U.S.

At website, people can enter their zip code to get a prediction of how likely it is for the flu to reach their neighborhood in the next three weeks. The prediction tool is proprietary and compiled using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

In a smart media and promotion play, the brand also will be using data and algorithm to plot a route for a promotion and publicity tour in cities across the U.S. The tour, called Kleenex Checkpoints, will start in Chicago, the worst hit city for winter sniffles last year.

Supported by TV commercials from New York-based JWT that show unhygienic, germ-spreading behavior of people with colds, the brand is also using the data to target digital out-of-home media buys in cities likely to be hit by the flu.

Contagious, FleishmanHillard’s Armato Weigh In

Contagious: More ink has been spilled over big data than perhaps any other subject recently, but few brands use it in creative, useful ways.

At its best, data can drive digital services that are a new competitive advantage for fast-moving consumer goods brands. Kleenex here is doing exactly that by being, it claims, the only brand to predict where colds will strike, giving it an advantage over competitors. It’s part of a bigger trend Contagious has written about, our Pre-Emptive Planners, where brands move from being passive to active in helping every part of our lives.

In behavioral economics terms, people have shown themselves to be poor performers when it comes to judging as yet-unrealized and ill-defined future risks. By being specific about a timeframe and location for this impending threat, Kleenex makes it more concrete, pushing people towards purchase.

Beyond the immediate usefulness of the service and brand affinity which comes from that, implicit within is the added competitive advantage of being able to predict the future now: you can put the brand front of mind weeks before people are ill and buying tissues, and drive brand preference towards Kleenex.

Beyond the service, however, the geo-targeted billboards and tour show how powerful a data tool can be in pinpointing the right people, at the right time and in the right place –a great example of data-driven media buying. One quibble though: Why not better target the TV buy to reflect those trends, too?

This is a natural extension from the Kleenex pollen map on Facebook for hayfever sufferers, launched in 2011, and the brand’s flu predictor, launched in May this year, which used National Health Service and Google Flu Trends data to target media buys to cities likely to be hit by influenza.

John Armato:  At the highest level, “smart” is indistinguishable from “creative”—and Kleenex is operating at a pretty high level here. Indeed, it would appear it is putting the brand in the minds of consumers in a larger context, with a longer lead-time, and with greater import than one would normally expect –I mean, c’mon, it’s just a tissue. But now Kleenex is making it a tissue attached to an issue, and I agree with Contagious: MyAchoo helps move the Kleenex brand from commodity to something more like clairvoyant and certainly caring. Predicting your odds of getting sick? That’s not a bad value-add from a brand that normally just sits quietly on your bathroom counter.

While Contagious couches the campaign as an exemplar of Big Data-Meets-Big Idea – which it is – I think that’s only half the story. The more fundamental takeaway for me is far older than big data: Brands that make an actual difference beat brands that just shout messages. In a point of view FH developed a few years ago on what marketers must do to succeed in today’s environment, we listed among the five Marketplace Mandates the idea that brands must “Do Something Real:”

Consumers just want what they want. And that doesn’t include having relationships with brands just because brands want them to. You must be a relentless advocate for saying, showing, giving, or doing something that matters to them, that brings them value, that makes a difference in their lives. That doesn’t mean it has to be serious, because consumers are serious about having fun, too. What they won’t take seriously, though, are obvious attempts to get their attention without a real investment in their needs. “Made you look” is not the same thing as “made you care.” You have to give something of real value to consumers while they’re getting your messages, because you can’t fight clutter with clutter. You can fight clutter only with relevance.

Kleenex has upped the ante on relevance for what is literally a throwaway product. It is giving consumers a reason to care. And it is doing it in a way that is just plain smart—and just plain creative.


About the author

This article was syndicated from Contagious Feed, an indispensable resource to the marketing communications industry focusing on competitive intelligence, best practices, new technology and consumer behavior. In addition to the flagship quarterly publication, app and Feed, Contagious has developed a consultancy and a series of world-class conferences, including its annual Most Contagious event.

John Armato sits in FleishmanHillard's Sacramento office, providing clients from a wide range of industries, from consumer goods to food, tourism to healthcare. With 20 years in communications, and a lifetime of creative pursuits as a musician, graphic designer, and freelance writer, he brings an eclectic perspective to his work. He also is author of the blog "Think Inside the Box."