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Got Milk?

Wyeth Nutrition Hong Kong wants to build an emotional bridge with consumers and act as their “parenting partner”. Joyce Yip talks to the brains behind the brand.

It was late at night at Café on the 1st at The Excelsior in March 2012. Brucemond Chan and Alexandra Lo’s eyes were swollen from crying because their idea for the Wyeth Learning Surprise Video Library’s promotional video was “just too touching”.

“In Hong Kong, it seems that a kid will only be appreciated if they’re geniuses, but that’s not always the case. Being a parent is appreciating every special moment along the way: if they can walk, that’s very meaningful,” says Lo, digital manager of Wyeth Nutrition Hong Kong, as she dabs her imaginary tears like she did a year and a half ago.

“We’re really emotional people,” says Chan, marketing manager and mother of two. “We cried at the storyboard stage. When we were editing it, we had to make sure the final product brought us to tears; and now, when we watch it, we still cry. We’ve used up a lot of tissues for this campaign.”

This need for building an emotional bridge with consumers and acting as their “parenting partner” is perhaps the key driver for having an elaborate digital platform and an in-house digital team for a sector that has predominantly relied on traditional media.

Realising parents’ desperateness to be vocal online and their thirst for information, Wyeth Nutrition Hong Kong became one of the forerunners in the industry to create an online community in almost every one of its campaigns, whether it be a branding effort or a reputation-boosting push.

Currently, its biggest competitors include Friso HK, which boasts online videos, a Facebook account, free sample registration, an online delivery service, and most recently, a micro-movie that follows model Lisa S.’s pregnancy; Cow&Gate, which has an e-newsletter, an e-store, an online Q&A platform and a Facebook page; as well as Mead Johnson Nutrition, which offers a computer programme and a mobile app that gives tips, an appointment calendar, suggested shopping lists, and a log for the newborn’s specifics such as weight and number of kicks in the uterus.

We’re marketing through recommendation and reputation
Kelvin Cheng, associate director of marketing

Although Wyeth Nutrition Hong Kong doesn’t have everything on its competitors’ check-list (a prominent difference is the lack of a Facebook account and a permanent discussion forum for parents, which are decisions the marketers said stemmed from “internal company regulations with social media”), it is the only brand in the industry with a digital video-sharing hub.

“Most people, including parents, closely connect their daily life with digital and mobile devices,” says general manager Clarence Chung. “Being the parent’s best partner in nurturing children is our core goal: parents’
needs are our first priority.”

Kelvin Cheng, associate director of marketing and father of a one-year-old, chimed in agreement: “The model for traditional marketing is simple – it used to be about awareness and consideration through the persuasion model, but now we’re marketing through recommendation and reputation.”

Debuting in mid-2012, the Wyeth Learning Surprise Video Library encourages parents to share their children’s little successes via a categorised by age and gender and also offers video tips from its ambassadors, nutritionists and paediatricians. Currently, fan-submitted videos tally up to more than 500.

“When we think digital, we think sustainable,” Lo says. “So not only is this a good way for parents to show off what their kids are capable of doing, it’s also a reference tool for them to benchmark from other children of
similar age and gender.”

The milk formula’s first digital milestone started in 2010 when it launched the first flashcard-making mobile app for popular subline Wyeth Gold, which allows parents to make a voice-embedded image and tack a text label on top.

Although the marketers admit the app, whose second generation was unveiled earlier this year and evolved to one that takes users to foreign landmarks such as The Eiffel Tower and Mount Fuji via Google Street View, doesn’t have a direct benefi t to revenue, they said the app’s “sustainable user-friendliness” will ensure a top-of-mind that’s essential to FMCG.

“Imagine this: a mother gets home, and out of all the brands she can choose from, she’s using this app that helps her teach her kids how to recognise objects at home or virtually visit Paris,” Lo says. “At least they will always remember our brand and can recall us really quickly.

“It’s about selling ‘quality parenting time’ by crafting an educational environment that elicits topics of interests that both the parent and the child can share.”

Despite its efforts, the brand was still behind Friso HK because of rumours that Wyeth Gold was a constipation-causing formula: so two years after the launch of the app, it took a plunge by literally daring customers to try its product with a 14-day challenge. The resulting TVC-driven “Truth or Dare” campaign was complemented by a trial offer.

It’s about selling ‘quality parenting time’ by crafting an educational environment that elicits topics of interests that both the parent and the child can share.
Alexandra Lo, Wyeth Hong Kong digital manager

The two-week experience was monitored through SMS, and customers with negative feedback would receive a call from its team of registered nurses, while experimenters with positive results were encouraged to share their experience on its then-available micro-site.

After the campaign, Wyeth Nutrition Hong Kong claimed it saw the strongest growth since 2010 as well as improvements in brand share, brand consideration and purchase intent.

Despite its eagerness to spread the good word, the company still refuses to give out free samples or employ bloggers: even during its “Truth or Dare” campaign, Wyeth Nutrition Hong Kong only gave out special trial prices.

Although the marketers didn’t go past the explanation of “the company has internal restrictions with free products”, Cheng adds parents would only take the trial seriously if they paid for the merchandise themselves.
As the digital road map cruises into its fourth year, the team switched gears in May from crown sub-line Wyeth Gold to pre-natal line Materna with a 10-minute micro movie that told the story of a couple who had been trying to become parents from the perspectives of both the mother and father-to-be.

The campaign is complemented by a microsite that prompts couples to share photos and information on how their lives have changed to prepare for a child and relays tips from its staff of registered nurses.

The development of Materna is on the table, adds Chan, as is a Facebook account, a permanent-sharing platform as well as the expansion of premium baby milk formula Illuma (which only has a TVC currently).

“We can’t do everything at once, but we’re getting there and our campaign objectives never lose sight of innovation and sustainability,” Chan says.

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