“Unilever in-store promotion ROI is 50% higher than social media”

For the last couple of years it feels like I've been trying to make myself heard at a Justin Bieber concert full of fans screaming "SOCIAL MEDIA, WE LOVE YOU!" I have pleaded for a rational, business focused look at the limitations of social media, but the media-fuelled hysteria has been hard to compete with.

Well, now Unilever has added its much louder voice to help amplify the voice of reason. "Unilever marketing teams are questioning the logic of shifting big budgets to social media, when the equivalent spent on in-store promotions can deliver an ROI up to 50% higher", according to this article in Marketing. The article goes on to say "Unilever is likely to skew marketing spend toward in-store promotions on brands such as Timotei, Radox and Marmite at the expense of social-media campaigns."

Why is this the case?

1. Be close to the point of purchase.

First, in-store activation works better than social media for most brands because it happens close to the point of purchase. You can raise awareness for your brand, and people who see it can by it straight away. In contrast, social media is much more in-direct. It's different if you're an online brand, such as Expedia. Here, you can read a post on Facebook, for example, and click to buy straight away.

Now the trick here is create activation ideas that increase presence and also build the brand, as I posted on here, not just do price promotions.

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2. Attract light and non-users

Boosting in-store presence can make your brand visible to the light and non-buyers that are key to driving penetration. In contrast, our social media research showed that 80%+ brand likers on a Facebook page were already using the brand before they hit "Like". In other words, you are preaching to the converted. And no, this won't help make them more loyal, as loyalty rates are flat across brands in a given category.

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3. Fit with the brand

 According to the article, "Unilever will continue to back brands with social activity where it is a 'good fit', such as grooming-product brand Lynx/Axe." Back last year I proposed a simple checklist to help you asses the how much of your budget to allocate to social media: see below. The three key questions to help assess the fit for your brand are:

i) How social is your brand: is it one people would talk about down the pub?

ii) How online is your brand: is online a key sales channel

iii) How young is your brand: younger users are much heavier users of social media

In conclusion, I recommend following Unilever's lead and taking a long, hard look at how much of your time and money is allocated to social media by brand. But first, buy some earplugs so you can't hear the social media fans screaming hysterically.