While CPG led the way on TV advertising, they trail dramatically on Social Media

From the 1950s to the 1990s, CPG brand marketing teams had perfected the 30 second TV commercial.  Advertising was all about awareness and creating purchase intent by taking what you do better than your competitor and shouting it at consumers over and over again until you could gain market share.   Now in this new world of social media, the CPG brands seem to be struggling the most.   The CPG brands were starting to master that 30 second TV ad, with positioning work, a creative brief, animatic copy testing, full-scale production and then a steady media plan of GRPs.  

But, with digital media and social media, the CPG brands are the brands that are struggling the most.  

I grew up in the CPG space, working for J&J, Coke and General Mills, and I love CPG marketing because in that space the brands aren’t all that exciting so it always took marketing genius to make the most of them and bring a bit of magic to them.  

But as the media mix has dramatically changed over the last decade, CPG Brand Leaders have to recognize the change in the marketing model. For generations, they talked AT the consumer, but now they have to talk WITH the consumer.  In the old school marketing, CPG Brand Leaders were trained to try to INTERRUPT the consumer in a busy part of their day and then YELL at them over and over again.  It was all about AWARENESS-PURCHASE-LOYALTY where Awareness leads to conversion to Purchase which then the brand experience leads to Loyalty.  The new school of marketing is all about LOYALTY-AWARENESS-PURCHASE where the most loyal users will be the ones driving Awareness and the influence of the conversion to purchase.  It’s no longer about yelling at strangers on TV.  Instead, you have to engage your most loyal consumers, and they become the medium for reaching new users as they WHISPER advice to their friends.

But that’s where the problem lays:  how do you get consumers to talk about brands that have very little talk value?  Yes, doing social media for Apple, Whole Foods or Mercedes relies on the fact that consumers are already talking about these brands at the lunch table.  

Types of Brands

But the reason why CPG brands used the type of interruptive style marketing style is because it suited the type of brand it is:  low involvement and low importance.   Looking at the chart below, I call this a COMMODITY type brand.  The other three types of brands are:  Essentials which are lower on involvement but high on importance like banking, pharma or insurance. Indulgence brands, like beer, chocolate or bubble gum, are the opposite of essentials as they have high involvement but really little importance.  And finally, there are high-profile brands, which are high on importance and involvement.  These brands are your favorite part of you every day life such as your iPhone, your latte from Starbucks, the restaurant you want to go or the latest movie coming this weekend.  These brands are the opposite of CPG, they are talked about at lunch constantly and they find it easy to work social media with a huge following and constant news.


With CPG brands, the tendency is to put the effort into the brand messaging more than the effort into the creative/media.  However, if you think about it, maybe it should be the opposite.  Yes, messaging is always safer and more predictive, but if you need to counter the lack of involvement by making it a higher involvement brand, then it might have to come from the creative.  

Take the Dove brand for example.  For years, they did a good job behind the litmus test and talking about not being a soap.  They were a good brand, still relatively lost in sea of crowded soaps and hand creams.  Dove’s “real beauty” campaign took the brand to a new level far beyond what anyone could expect and is no longer just a soap but a brand that stands for the modern woman.   The real beauty TV campaign is one of the biggest viral ads in history.  And they have been able to get consumers to keep talking about the brand, through social media vehicles mainly through Facebook with 19 million consumers following the Dove brand.   Ten years later Dove is a legendary CPG brand.   While it’s still just a soap, that didn’t prevent the marketers at Dove from creating an idea for the brand.  

What is your Brand IDEA?

I define a Beloved Brand as “an idea worth loving”.  It’s no longer about a product, but an idea you can convey into the marketplace.  If you can’t get anyone talking about you, maybe the problem is It’s all too easy to sit there with your brand and say “who would ever want to talk about us?”.  That’s a cop-out if you ask me.  The challenge for CPG Brand Leaders is to re-think your brand.  Can you create an idea, a brand purpose and find ways to drive up involvement and importance for what your brand stands for.  Here are three challenges for you:

  • How do you stop trying to make a big deal out of your little points of difference and try to create a Brand Idea for your brand that connects with consumers?   Start with the consumer and find real benefits, both rational and emotional that you can stand behind, rather than just shouting out your product features through the TV.  
  • How do you drive up involvement and importance for what you stand for so that your get talked about at the lunch room table?    You have to understand who are your most influential consumers, the respected mavens within their circle of friends, and allow them to project your brand to their following.  
  • Can you build a Brand Purpose so that you can leverage that purpose as an idea to elevate your brand?   Purpose driven brands (The why) are a growing phenomena and a perfect fit for connecting with consumers through social media.  

While your product might not generate talk value at the lunch table, maybe your idea can be big enough that it will. And when it’s no longer about just your product, maybe your own idea will inspire you in the social media space. 

Maybe the issue isn’t just media.  But have you created an IDEA for your brand to stand behind?  


To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans



email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1


At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to help you improve your brand or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

5 thoughts on “While CPG led the way on TV advertising, they trail dramatically on Social Media

  1. Another great post.

    Congratulations, Graham.

    This can go a long way in helping Consumer Product Goods brands responding to any marketing challenge with a 30 second TVC.

    The initiative can still look like a TVCommercial, but does not have to be in 30 seconds.

    It need to champion a cause.

    Brands need to realise that the real business they are in is to meet an emotional need.

    Thus, Dove, now is no longer just a soap.

    Anything that will help a woman discover their ‘real beauty’ can be a brand extension.

  2. GPG products are of low consumer interest so will never have the currency to command social media interest and “pull” among consumers. Who ever is going to search tolilet paper and post recommnedations on TP? CPGs need to continue to “push” their products with effective advertising. Efective TV advertising along with product innovation created most iconic houshold CPG brands, even entire CPG comapnies such as General Foods and P&G.

  3. Good points Graham. I hope you have FMCG clients listening and thinking about what you’re saying. The strategies of finding something more important to talk about or finding a purpose make sense. The thing is many – if not most – CPG brands will struggle to do this (as per David’s toilet paper reference). As the hype settles down the chances are CPG brands will be doing things online more like traditional advertising but using new digital capabilities. People will probably continue to not want to think too much about their CPG products or have conversations with them or about them, but will share and talk about what entertains, makes them feel good, etc.

    • Glenn, I’m continuing to push them. I remember the early days of the internet when P&G first announced they were putting 1% of their advertising to the internet and everyone was in shock they would put THAT much. But now I say 20% feels right and growing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s