Del Monte Gets Social

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2008-07-30 Print this article Print

Del Monte is hoping to capitalize on social networking as a marketing tool, to help the company get closer to its customers and create the kind of products consumers want.

title=Exploring the Possibilities}

Exploring the Possibilities

When Del Monte executives decided to pursue social networking as a marketing tool, they recognized that the company didn’t have the creative knowledge or IT expertise in that arena to assure success. So they turned to MarketTools, which developed—and hosts—the sites, perfected the data collection and analysis methods, and set up the technology required to make everything work.

This approach opens up possibilities that lie beyond the scope of Del Monte’s IT department. For example, when MarketTools began working on the “I Love My Dog” initiative, it gathered data from roughly 50 million blogs, forums and message boards over a period of months, Waite says, in order to do deep contextual processing and identify key themes in the marketplace. Teaming with a partner, Umbria, MarketTools conducted detailed analyses of social media, built a data warehouse, and developed key algorithms that led to themes and discussion points for the then soon-to-be-developed community.

MarketTools uses the same type of contextual analysis technology to build intelligence from discussions and blogs relating to moms on the Web. Once every quarter, the media marketing company embarks on a research initiative and then uses the data to revise the site and its approach.

Online facilitators who manage the two sites ultimately combine grass-roots information from the community with more general data from the Web.

“They gain a deep understanding of the marketplace and the consumers we’re attracting,” Wdowiak explains. “We gain insights that would never be possible to get through traditional market research.”

Not surprisingly, Del Monte plans to expand the use of social networking. Presently, the company is unveiling the “I Love My Cat” network to support marketing of its Meow Mix brand.

One characteristic that makes the MarketTools platform so compelling, Wdowiak says, is the ability to use it as a template for quick rollouts without incurring additional development costs. As Waite explains, “Once our platform is in place, it’s relatively easy to expand it and create new sites.”

The communities have also brought unintended benefits beyond the scope of specific products and market segments. For instance, when the tomato salmonella scare hit earlier this year, Del Monte was able to quickly gauge consumer attitudes about its products. It also tapped into the community to glean essential information during earlier pet food recalls involving tainted wheat gluten. Done right, these online communities can create an almost one-to-one interaction and raise marketing intelligence to new levels.

“Social networking adds an entirely new dimension to marketing,” Wdowiak says. “The technology isn’t cutting edge. We’re simply applying it creatively and finding new ways to analyze and interpret data. That’s where the true value lies.”

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.

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