As I write this column, some 450,000 housewives around the country
may be holding in their hands the future of consumer goods marketing:
only they don’t know it. And what is it exactly that they’re grasping?
Well, it’s a magazine produced by a group of three companies (Unilever,
Kimberly-Clark and Cadbury’s), formerly known as the Consumer Needs
Consortium but now called Jigsaw. A customer magazine? Is that all?
Well, yes, but this magazine could signal a new era for fmcg
But let’s stop the clock for a minute to consider why, and how, we’ve
got to this point. At its simplest, Jigsaw is the inevitable reaction to
the three most significant forces currently driving marketing: one, the
power of the retailer and the growth of the retailer brand; two, the
rise of data management techniques; and three, the rising cost and
ongoing fragmentation of media.
The first two are effectively marginalising the manufacturer - with the
result that the ownership of the relationship with the consumer rests
with the retailer. The last makes the traditional line of defence
against the first two trends - a simple increase in advertising weight -
at best expensive and inefficient and at worst pointless.
Which is how we get to a customer magazine and why, in order to build a
large enough mailing list to make such an exercise worthwhile, Unilever
has jumped into bed with non-competing but similarly focused companies
like Kimberly-Clark and Cadbury’s.
So far, it is impossible to fault the consortium’s logic - and, in any
case, they should be given the credit for at least trying to do
something different. But first a small observation. The original name -
Consumer Needs Consortium - suggested the group saw itself as meeting
some as-yet unfulfilled or unarticulated need on the part of consumers
for a bit of direct communication with the likes of Persil or Kotex
This is self-delusion of the highest order - and especially difficult to
dislodge once it takes hold in the marketing department.
In the end, however, this exercise will stand or fall on the response
levels the magazine generates - and the mailing lists that the members
therefore build up. And that, in turn, is a function of either the
editorial or the number of ’bribes’ (competitions, special offers,
giveaways, prizes, coupons and so on) on offer. Judging by the range of
bribes in my issue, I’d say they weren’t very confident about the
editorial’s ability to draw response. And I’m not surprised.
The contract publisher, BLA, has done a sterling job under the
circumstances, but when your raw material is chocolate, Kleenex/Kotex
and Domestos, Persil and Birds Eye, the opportunity to produce a
magazine that readers will give time to is, well, limited. Wouldn’t it
therefore be simpler just to give consumers the money-off coupons? Now
there’s a marketing revolution.