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Brazilian Detergent Follows Consumers Home Thanks to GPS

Leon Kaye | Friday August 6th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Companies are having a harder time getting their message out to consumers.  The Internet and social media have give every consumer a chance to be a critic, meanwhile DVRs allow consumers to speed through commercials, an action that severs that link between companies and customers.

More companies are wising up:  the Old Spice campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa is transforming a brand once relegated to your grandfather’s medicine cabinet into 20-something coolness.  Isaiah Mustafa may spend the rest of his career with only a towel around his waist, but he has quite the following on Twitter and YouTube, and Old Spice’s sales have increased.  Method long realized that pitching to “green” consumers would never give their home cleaning products traction, so it emphasizes coolness and performance, and also does a fine job leveraging social media—which is why its sales are in the 9-figure range.

But moving that product from store shelf to a house is still a challenge.  So Omo, the leading detergent brand in Brazil, decided to simply follow consumers home.  Promoting a new stain-fighting detergent line, the Unilever brand, which is already in 80% of Brazilian households, will implant GPS devices in 50 boxes that the company will distribute randomly across the enormous country.  Teams in 35 cities will be ready to show up at consumers’ door steps once a carton of new stain-fighting Omo moves off the shelf, setting the GPS device off.  Omo crews will track the boxes’ movements home, with eager camera crews ready to film the lucky winners’ reactions, making Publishers’ Clearinghouse TV commercials here in the US quaint by comparison.

More than a few Brazilians from Porto Alegre to Recife may wonder if all the fuss is worth the prize:  a video camera. A visit and live performance from Daniela Mercury may do a better job compensating for the intrusion.  Or Yoko Ono could promote Omo, but that would just be too confusing.

The campaign is certainly innovative and imaginative.  It is also risky.  Winners may not want strangers barging onto their property—though the site of a camera craw trying to break into a gated estate or giant apartment building could be fun for some of us to watch.  Others may just not care, and will do their laundry, oblivious to the commotion.  Some may want the camera, but not have their videos documenting the moment available online for all to see. Still the possibility exists that someone will say he or she only bought the product because it was the cheapest.  Or perhaps that environmental scientist will ask of Omo is full of phosphates and will kill sea turtles.

The advertising agency leading this promotion, Bullet, has a solid history boosting product sales:  two years ago, it disguised iPod Shuffles as frozen popsicles, spiking another Unilever product’s revenues.  But last I checked, those Shuffles had no hidden camera or GPS functionality.

The Omo campaign brings up a lot of questions, privacy issues one of them.  I’m not disputing the brilliance of the campaign.  But as the media becomes more complicated and yet more democratic, I wonder if we are beginning to see another chapter detailing the lengths marketers will take in convincing consumers to buy products that they may, or may not, really need.

How would you answer if the Omo posse showed up at your door?  I would probably say, “Omo?  Oh-nooo!” . . . but I have a feeling others out there have more witty responses.


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