Rahul Asthana
Feb 22, 2017

Listening to mothers

Social listening is giving Kimberly-Clark a better understanding of the rewards and anxieties of motherhood, explains Rahul Asthana.

Rahul Asthana
Rahul Asthana

More of the world’s babies are born in APAC than any other region in the world. That makes it a highly competitive place for baby and childcare brands such as Huggies.

To succeed, we need to be distinct and even a little bit polarising if we are to appeal to an audience of mums who are mostly millennials and very digitally savvy.

While traditional research tools such as home visits or going on shopping trips with mothers and women are helpful for our marketing teams, social listening is providing a new route into the deep challenges of motherhood.

These rich insights are not only helping us understand mums better but also providing the authentic ingredients we need to craft messages.

One campaign that was successful, the ‘Huggies MomentCam’ in South Korea, was developed around the core insight that while motherhood is something positive on the whole, not each and every moment is a positive experience. There are ‘downs’, but they're often glossed over.

We used South Korea’s connected infrastructure to create tiny cameras that recorded the reactions of mums and babies when they were together. We were then—with permission—able to create personalised films of those special moments.

This allowed us to authentically communicate the challenges of motherhood and differentiate ourselves from the bulk of the advertising in the category, which shows every moment to be a happy and joyous one. There’s no mention of the sleeplessness, anxiety or irritation.

Social listening told us that mums were experiencing all of these, but in a focus group, no mum would admit that kind of thing. Our campaign, designed to remind consumers of the positive and not-so-positive moments that are part of motherhood, thus resonated well with mums.

In other markets, we’ve promoted our principle of 'extending a mother’s hug' by focusing on the moment when mums have to go back to work. However much they might trust their baby’s carer, it’s a hugely gut-wrenching experience for every mum. There is real separation anxiety as mum and baby stop being “we” and become “I” and “she/he”.

Our work in Thailand, Singapore and now the Philippines has focused on using Huggies to help mums feel assured that they're leaving their hugs with their babies. 

Local lessons for e-commerce success

This new emphasis on social listening as a means of understanding mums has been matched by a journey to become more digitally savvy when it comes to the tools that we use to connect with our consumers.

As the lead for Kimberly-Clark’s digital journey in APAC, I’ve helped us develop our core priorities for the last three years. We’ve identified 'big bets' around e-commerce, CRM, programmatic, analytics, content and search, and these are starting to pay dividends.

Ecommerce is particularly critical because nappies are bulky products and are easier to order online instead of buying them from the supermarket. Our efforts to take advantage of this fast-growing channel have seen us build strong teams in the most forward-looking markets in Asia, such as South Korea and China.

We moved fast, developing a competitive advantage thanks to our expertise in areas such as account management and relationships as well as our ecommerce marketing knowledge, investment in better digital shelf modelling, high-quality imagery and buy-now capability.

A significant portion of our net sales now comes from ecommerce, and we have leading positions in South Korea, Australia, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore. In a number of markets, we are doing better in ecommerce than in overall retail.

Our data systems—whether CRM or DMP—have also allowed us to build a property that is helping deepen relationships with retailers. Retailers have traditionally been shy about sharing data, but we now have something to offer them and have been able to talk about building deeper relationships.

Although we guide these efforts regionally, it’s our strong belief that local is the way to go. Ecommerce is about being hyperlocal, so we even tailor content for people in different parts of Singapore, for example.

This is important because a lot of the global playbooks don’t really work in Asia. They are designed for an ecosystem that is built around the likes of Amazon. In Asia, where different players exist in each market, you need to think Flipkart in India and Alibaba in China.

Digital is changing our marketing dramatically as we explore not just these new retail channels but also new ways to understand our consumers better, such as social listening. Both are vital for our competitive position in APAC.

Smart e-tail without great insight and purposeful campaigns will be far less effective just as great insight will not deliver the bottom line success if we can’t get ecommerce right.

Rahul Asthana is regional marketing director for baby and child care, digital and ecommerce at Kimberly-Clark Asia-Pacific. 

WFA Project Reconnect: This article is part of a series by leading marketers on how marketing and brands can be a force for good. The series is contributed by the WFA in the framework of Project Reconnect, an initiative it leads which aims to improve perceptions of the marketing industry. Follow Project Reconnect @WFAReconnect and www.project-reconnect.com.

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