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Alice.com: Would You Like a Cause With Your Toilet Paper?

| Thursday June 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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This week, the blogosphere was a buzz with the launch of Alice.com, a direct-to-consumer start-up committed to helping you never run out of toilet paper again. And a whole bunch of other consumer packaged good items that are always a hassle to run out to the store for. From Tech Crunch to Mashable to Venture Beat, and just about every other blog in my Google Reader, the new Alice.com brand was splattered all over the news.
But I had the advantage of knowing (read: being a complete and total fan of) Rebecca Thorman, a brilliant writer, observer and Gen Y entrepreneur who just happens to be the in-house marketing superhero at Alice.com. And yes, a Gen Xer can be a fan of a Gen Yer.
About a month ago, she got my attention (yet again). But this time, not for her no-holds-barred insights on social media or masterfully poignant posts; it was for a cause marketing campaign she was running as part of the pre-launch efforts for Alice.com. So, rather than tout all of the benefits of the service that the tech set have already duplicated ten times over covered, I decided to chat with Rebecca about the cause marketing initiative and Alice.com’s plans to bake social good and consciousness into their ongoing plans. Hey, I write a cause marketing series – what did you expect?


Please tell our readers a little more about Alice.com.
Alice.com is a new online platform for consumer packaged goods companies to sell direct to the consumer. We’re excited to be offering a unique combination of always free shipping and competitive pricing in a Netflix-like online system that makes sure you’ll never run out of toilet paper or other household essentials again.
What unmet market need did you identify that you thought Alice could fill?
A direct-to-consumer platform is completely new for the CPG market, and the company believes the combination of low prices, free shipping, and convenient category management will finally allow the mainstream consumer to buy goods like toilet paper, toothpaste and trash bags online.
How is the beta going? What has been the response so far?
We launched Monday! The initial response has been overwhelming and so exciting.
How are you leveraging partnerships to deliver big box savings via web and free shipping? (btw-you had me at free shipping)
In contrast to a traditional retailer, Alice.com is providing an open platform for branded manufacturers to sell directly to consumers. By eliminating the traditional retail layer, Alice allows CPG brands to offer competitive pricing and always free shipping in a Netflix-esque service that makes it easy to manage this entire CPG category without running out to the store.
Manufacturers have embraced the Alice.com platform as an exciting new way to establish a direct relationship with their end consumer. This relationship allows them to transform traditional advertising spending on couponing, sampling, and loyalty programs into added customer value, and counteract the growing challenge from private label “store brands.”
Last month, you partnered with Network for Good to give away $25 good cards to user-selected charities for spreading the word about Alice on Twitter, of which I was one of the lucky winners! Please give our readers a quick overview of the initiative.
We host a weekly blog giveaway and in the spirit of Earth Day, we decided to do something to give back in April because we’re working hard at Alice.com to make less of an impact on our Earth’s resources. We also wanted to engage and increase our Twitter community with a creative and fun initiative that would spread virally. We asked people to follow us on Twitter, help spread the word about the giveaway and reply to us with their favorite charity.
Was this the first cause marketing campaign you’ve implemented? Are you planning run other types of giving back programs in the future?
This campaign was pre-launch and was our first cause marketing campaign. We wanted to test the waters and because it was so successful, we’re looking forward to hosting a similar giveaway in the future.
How many gift cards did you end up giving away?
We gave away ten $25 gift cards towards the winner’s choice of charity.
What key learnings can you share from the campaign?
We accomplished our goals to give back on Earth Day, increase and engage our Twitter following, and increase awareness of our brand pre-launch. It was such a fun way to build a relationship with our future customers. If we were to do something differently, we would have provided a list of charities and ideas for people to peruse. I think many people wanted to give back, but weren’t sure what cause they should choose.
Why do you think it’s important for a for-profit company to give back and engage in philanthropic activities?
At Alice.com, we talked about giving back from the beginning so it’s part of our culture. We want to build long-term relationships with our customers and we’re customers, too. These are issues that are important to all of us.
Do you have ongoing plans to donate portions of your profit to charity or other socially motivated efforts?
At this time, our initiatives are not geared towards donating a portion of our profits, but focused on empowering our customers to get involved and helping to give them tools to lead the way.
As one of the foremost authorities on Gen Y, are you seeing any trends with cause marketing and your generation?
Gen Yers promote cause marketing campaigns attached to organizations and businesses because they are friends with the VP or someone who works there. For Gen Yers, it’s all about spreading and supporting messages from friends. That’s the opportunity for brands to get their cause and message to spread virally by people who are close to it and will champion it through their various networks
It has been said that “millennials are the most socially conscious consumers to date” Do you think that Gen-Yers are more socially aware and cause/environmentally-minded? How is that exemplified?
Gen Yers are more socially aware and environmentally minded simply because the products and opportunities are finally widely available. Given the choice, we’ll choose to be socially responsible.
Is there any person or company in the space whom you admire or think is a good example of sustainable business done well?
I’m seeing a lot of new companies come into the space with innovative offerings and a lot of passion for the community. A personal favorite is Better Life (cleanhappens.com), and I’ve always been a fan of Seventh Generation who continues to impress with their forward-thinking.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?
Our CEO recently said during a staff meeting, “If you’re awake, you’re working.” This is how I live. I’m not literally always in front of a computer, but I have been known to interrupt my boyfriend so I could write an idea down. Working at a start-up is a lifestyle. Plan accordingly.


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