Emily Tan
Jul 15, 2014

How goofy videos helped Frutips double brand loyalty and raise sales

HONG KONG - After nearly 30 years in Hong Kong, Nestlé’s Frutips was relying on nostalgia and promotions to sell its chewy fruity candy, but increased competition and a target audience with no connections to the brand led it to launch its first branding campaign on YouTube in May 2013.

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“Our brand is older than our target audience and they had absolutely no loyalty to it,” said Nestlé Hong Kong’s head of marketing communications, Tin-Tin Siapno, speaking at YouTube Pulse on July 10. 

So to figure out how it could speak to Hong Kong teens, Siapno and her team started to watch everything their target audience watched. “Google now thinks my brand manager is a HK teenager,” laughed Siapno during an exclusive interview . “But this is important for all brand builders out there. Listen to your target audience, what they’re interested in, their habits and what they like doing.”

More than learning what teenagers liked (music, humour and friends), Siapno’s team absorbed the language of the generation. “I disagree that heavy branding is a mistake when developing content for YouTube. Heavy promotion works if you get the language right,” she observed. “Even the communications brief we gave to our agencies had emoticons. We’re not trying to be them but we are trying to understand what they’re saying.”

Siapno has a point. While brands are generally advised to avoid the hard sell in developing content for online, Old Spice and the Dollar Shave Club managed to both sell the product and be extremely popular online because the language and humour used were spot on, honest and direct. “They (teenagers) know if you’re faking, if you’re trying to be cool. So what we did was we asked a young band to show to their peers what our brand was all about.”

When brands try to ‘fake it’ results can be like the now-notorious Singapore Tourism Board commercial that was targeted at the Philippines. To avoid videos like this, “Speak real and be real,” advised Lee Hunter, head of creative partnerships, Google APAC during his session at YouTube Pulse.

Eventually, Frutips chose to work with young up-and-coming acappella boyband CAllStars known for their lovely harmonies and their nostalgic songs about Hong Kong’s past. In their first video, the brand wanted the boys to film a music video featuring the product but at the last minute three of the band members decided to prank the fourth. Nestlé decided to just roll with it.

“The band ran the prank idea past us, but not in a very formal way. They were shooting a behind-the-scenes and they just talked about it. The poor guy they were punking had absolutely no idea what was going on,” said Siapno.

The video was reposted by fans and was very well received. “As a brand you have to give content creators freedom – something you can only do if you believe in your product. We gave the boys Frutips and asked them to feature it in their shows. ‘But what if they say something bad? Or do something bad?’ Well… let’s take a risk because we want them to be effective.”

The prank video led to the brand and CAllStar’s real breakthrough, a vintage-themed music ad spoofing a popular song by 1970s Hong Kong girl music group, Four Golden Flowers, which has since drawn more than 400 thousand views. “It was irreverent having the boys do this and quite fun. We asked them if they wanted to do it and they were very keen and came up with some hilarious ideas of their own. We didn’t have to direct it and it came out more authentic and more real.”

The band then went on a music tour promoting Juicy Berries and drawing fans all across Hong Kong to their performances, building up momentum to their latest collaboration. An ad advertising Frutip’s latest product, Randoms, has drawn more than 470 thousand views, the highest on the brand’s channel.

“The funny thing is that we were worried management wouldn’t approve of the cheeky lyrics – at one point, ‘Condoms’ are mentioned – but the scene Lam Yim (GM of Nestlé Hong Kong) wound up objecting to was one where the comedienne, Lu Fen, was eating the berries really fast. He pointed out that it went against our policy of encouraging responsible consumption,” said Siapno.

And that’s the key, says Siapno, to getting the brand message right. Understanding what your audience appreciates but also knowing what your brand represents and where to draw the line.

Finally, Nestlé also invested in distribution. “I hate the word ‘viral’ if you say it to me I’ll ignore you in the street! You can’t make a video viral but you can pay for it to reach your target audience,” said Siapno.

The results after a year of working with content creators has been encouraging, she shares. Overall, the content developed for Frutips has drawn more than 1.5 million views, 93 per cent likes and 80 per cent reach. In the case of newly launched product Randoms, the brand reports a sales uplift of 258 per cent. However, as the product was newly launched this is likely off a low base.

For YouTube, brand and content creator partnerships like that of Frutips and CAllStars form an important part of its revenue ecosystem. From 2012 to 2013, partner revenue has increased by 60 per cent  while partner revenue from  mobile ad sales have tripled in the same period

“The more we help our partners generate revenue from their content, the more great content they can make, which helps them build a larger audience, and brings more people online to watch video, especially on YouTube,” explained Google Asia-Pacific CMO, Simon Kahn.

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