Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Bunco Squad: Head's up marketing at P&G

Yesterday's Inside the Cubicle picked up on an article in the Wall Street Journal that detailed the efforts that P&G uses to get to know their customers better. In this case, the product is Prilosec, and the prospective customers are women who play the dice game, Bunco.

Before I even get into the thoroughness of P&G's approach to its target market, there's the sheer, rip-roaring fun of the very word Bunco. Frankly, until I read this post I didn't even know what Bunco was - other than my belief that, given its association with the Bunco Squad, it had something to do with illegal gambling - but it's a game that's kind of like Yahtzee, which I am very familiar with. Basically, you toss a bunch of dice and try to pull together different combinations (three of a kind, etc.), and get points for the combos. (With Yahtzee, you toss dice to make pokerish-hands.) Although at one point it was illegal - thus the Bunco squad - it is now apparently quite the rage among "affluent suburban women" who (according to our friends at Wikipedia) have Bunco parties.

On to P&G: someone there, in trying to get into the mind of their target customer, figured out that it might be worth looking at the Bunco ladies. She put out an alert asking for someone who knew any Bunco players, and hit pay dirt in identifying a strong market - and a group that was somewhat underserved in terms of having been acknowledged as a viable, discrete market. It turns out the Bunco players are a pair of sevens when it comes to potential Prilosec users. Now, Bunco is one of their main marketing efforts, and P&G even sponsors the 2007 Bunco World Championship. (Who knew?) For the other side of the house, they also sponsor car racing. All bets covered. Brilliant marketing. (And let's wait and see if the little purple pill people are on to something. If you haven't noticed, the election season is already upon us. Will the Bunco players replace the soccer moms in the electoral and polling imagination?)

In any case, good and fun marketing from the folks at P&G - and a lesson to us all as marketers.

While this type of marketing is obviously extremely applicable to consumer products, there's also a powerful lesson for B2B (and T2T/E2E/G2G - techie/engineer/geek) marketers in terms of being thorough in understanding not only the broad outlines of their target market, but also in terms of understanding demographic specifics that can help shape messaging, build successful programs, and develop products that not only meet a customer need - but become delighters with strong emotional appeal, and - dare we utter the words in this day and age of fickle consumers - build customer loyalty.

Other than the obvious - techies watch Star Trek, therefore I will embed at least one reference to Dr. Spock, errrr, Mr. Spock in my presentation to the engineers; techies tend to like lots of information, so make sure they get the details; etc. - I've done little of this type of demographic investigation. And no doubt you can do more of it - and it makes more sense - when there are zillions of potential product users, rather than a mere hundreds or thousands. But it's certainly worth thinking about, is it not?

One thing that I did do fairly regularly when I was directly involved (as product manager and/or marketer) with software development was to sit down with customers and watch how they used the product. With one mainframe decision support system (ancient history!) I managed, I spent an overnight session with some customers when they went through their monthly reporting cycle.  As long as I was able to keep my eyes open, it was a real eye opener to watch all the hoops that our users had to go through during their process. It not only helped us place our product in the right context, it also helped us figure out what we needed to add (or delete) from the system to make it more useful and usable.

In any case, the Bunco story gives us something to think about as marketers that's a no-bunk approach to getting to know and understand our customers.

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