He put the idea into action during the first week of the Ram truck campaign, when the predictions looked dire. “We weren’t getting the numbers,” Harper says. “Truck sales weren’t going to be where we needed them.” He suggested that Chrysler simply change its TV commercials to increase the amount of time that the website address was displayed on screen. It worked: “They were able to increase that call to action, and we started tracking to our goals within a couple of weeks.”
In early 2010, Chrysler completed a previously planned switch to a different agency, ending Harper’s work for the client. But he was already running his experiments using an even richer set of social-media data from an entirely different client. Kimberly-Clark, the Dallas-based maker of personal-care products, was launching a major campaign for U by Kotex, a new product line meant to bring feminine hygiene into the social-media age. The goal of the campaign was to get five million young women to request tampon samples.
The TV commercials used humor both to provoke people into talking about periods and tampons in a more honest way and to poke fun at the absurd way that Kotex itself had advertised its products in the past. An edgy series of video vignettes on its site and on YouTube went even further. One Candid Camera-style video in a drugstore featured a clueless guy asking a series of random shoppers for advice on which product he should get for his girlfriend. Product placements on the TV shows of Tyra Banks, Chelsea Handler, and the Kardashian sisters reinforced this more open way of talking about previously taboo subjects. As some of these video segments went viral, Twitter posts and brand-page sign-ups on Facebook soared.
The numerous “hot zones” of social data resulting from all these media events were put into immediate effect to forecast future sales. “Organic’s Velocity and Acceleration model helped us project the plateau level of tweets following the U by Kotex launch,” says Aida Flick, the Kotex brand director at Kimberly-Clark. “From there, we were able to tie in the relationship between the tweets and the sample requests.”
The model helped Kimberly-Clark optimize its media spending, product placement, and website features in real time, in an effort to reach its ambitious goal. It also helped guide on-the-fly changes to the creative content. Experimentation revealed, for instance, that a green-and-black color scheme for Web pages drove the most sample requests. So did a stronger call to action for visitors to locate the nearest store.
These efforts yielded sales forecasts that turned out to be correct. “Thanks to the model,” says Flick, “we knew within weeks that we were on track to exceed our sales goals and deliver a 10 percent incremental market-share gain to the Kotex brand.”
In this case, Harper admits, the results were never in doubt. The creative for the Kotex campaign was so strong that “we were forecasting ahead of target right at launch.” Now Organic’s VP of marketing intelligence, Harper has moved on to apply his model to the launch of a line of prepared meals for a global packaged foods company. He hopes the campaign will provoke enough social-network conversation to keep his model well fed.