Cracking the Online Code

December 1, 2007
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Cracking the Online Code
Sarah Theodore

This month, Beverage Industry asked a number of industry experts to share their ideas for trends to watch in 2008. Among the many great predictions was one from Information Resources Inc.’s Bump Williams, who said “cracking the Internet audience,” was one of his top trends. It’s a topic that has even the experts scratching their heads as they figure out how to make social networks such as Facebook, virtual worlds like Second Life, and even the search engines we all use, work to their advantage.
Facebook unveiled a new ad system last month that promised a new way for marketers to reach consumers, but quickly raised the ire of privacy advocates. The set-up let advertisers create their own profile pages for their brands, similar to the personal profiles of Facebook’s users, and users could then communicate with the brands just as they communicate with other users. Advertisers would be able to target users based on the personal information they share on Facebook, and according to reports, the service also can link online purchases with Facebook users, in effect, creating an endorsement by letting other users know what that person purchased — thus the privacy concerns.
During the announcement of the new ad system, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the concept makes advertisers “part of the conversation.”
Cracking the secrets of internet advertising is important for reaching even those consumers who are outside the typical demographic of social networking sites. DoubleClick Performics Inc., in conjunction with Microsoft and ROI Research, released the results of a study that examined search engines and how they are used by moms. By tying search engine use to specific CPG product purchasers, the study determined that mothers who buy soft drinks are heavy Internet users. In fact, 98 percent go online at least once a day.
Seventy-eight percent of the moms surveyed use search engines to gather information about at least one type of CPG product, and 79 percent use them to learn about a product or service after seeing an advertisement in another medium. As one would expect, big-ticket items such as travel and electronics are the most-searched items. But the study also indicated moms are heavy Internet users for entertainment-related searches, news and current events, sites that help kids with homework and financial planning information.
“Everyone I talk to is trying to crack the code on the Internet, and capitalizing on the reach of the Internet to get their consumers the right message,” Williams told me. While beverage companies are tackling the challenge right now, this trend, like many of the others in the piece on page 10, will extend far beyond the coming year.
Bottler of the year — Swire Coca-Cola USA
Category Focus — Juice & juice drinks Beverage R&D — 2008 New Product Development survey
Packaging — Caps and closures
Channel Strategies — Vending
Cover Story — Manhattan Beer Distributors
Category Focus — Wine & spirits
Special Report — Health & wellness
Beverage R&D — Product safety
Packaging — Shrink and stretch labels

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