Case Study: Hippo uses Twitter to take stock

18 Oct,2011

Title of the campaign:  Plan T. Hippo tracks inventory through Twitter.

Company:  Parle Agro

Aims and Objectives:   In 2010, Hippo Baked Munchies was successfully launched into the Indian snack market. With its simple yet insightful philosophy of ‘Hunger is the root of all evil. So, don’t go hungry.’ Hippo became a runaway success. However, its nascent sales and distribution network found it challenging to keep track of stock, identify and re-stock empty shelves across 400,000 stores nationwide. In India, 92% of the snack market is unorganized and inventory tracking is usually a logistical nightmare. To solve this, Hippo turned to its followers on Twitter and asked them to tweet whenever they couldn’t find the snack in store.

To connect with the consumers better, Hippo entered social media. The brand’s chirpy and talkative personality instantly gave it an edge over the rest.

The Background: Hippo’s lovable anthropomorphic character distinguished it from the rest. Hippo could talk like a person, like a friend, rather than a brand talking to its consumers. And just like a person, Hippo also had a humorous opinion about almost everything, endearing him to everyone he communicated with.

Hippo signed up on Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot and even created a fun, friendly website: In the market Hippo exceeded everyone’s expectations and the packs sold like hotcakes, leaving the shelves across 200,000 stores empty.

Challenges and impediments

Having been recently launched, Hippo had a nascent distribution system, which was unable to identify empty stores and restock packs.

Worry: Hippo couldn’t afford to lose the momentum gained through communication. It was also feared that people might wrongly consider the empty shelves as an indication that the brand has failed after a short-lived launch phase.

In Action:

Traditional Route: Where taking stock meant appointing sales officers to visit store by store in areas allotted to them and waiting for three days (the usual time that this process takes) Hippo did not want this to work in favour of the competition.

Creative Execution: As a snack brand, Hippo encouraged a simple philosophy based on a simple insight , ‘Hunger is the root of all evil. So, don’t go hungry.’ Hippo struck the right chord with his audience as they bought into this simple human truth. Since Hippo stood for a cause, rather than merely selling a product, people willingly participated in his ‘Hunger-Fighting’ campaign. Hippo enjoyed a great response as his ‘hunger-fighters’ were tracking inventory, while having a larger cause at the back of their minds.

Hippo had a simple yet powerful philosophy- ‘Hunger is the root of all evil. So, don’t go hungry.’ Hippo used this simple human insight to connect better with his consumers even on Twitter. Hippo spoke to them as a hunger fighter. As more people bought into this philosophy, Hippo launched Plan-T and urged them to help him identify empty shelves and inform him via a tweet whenever they found empty shelves in their neighbourhoods. Tweets poured in from more than 50 cities. People were tweeting from their cellphones from supermarkets, hypermarkets and local grocery stores. Hippo collected this information, analysed and sent it to the local distributors of respective areas, who eventually restocked the packs.

Solution: Since it was Hippo’s popularity that created a huge demand for itself, Hippo used the same to fix its supply. Instead of spending large amounts of time (and money) outsourcing these distribution and supply duties, Hippo decided to turn to his followers on Twitter – while also acknowledging that In India, almost 94 percent of the retail environment is unorganized.

Hippo asked his followers to tweet and inform him about locations and even specific stores where Hippo packs were unavailable.

Hippo set up a core cell at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Bombay, which monitored these tweets, collected this information and passed it on immediately to teams of distributors in the respective areas. This system proved to be extremely efficient. Within 48 hours of locations being identified, teams of distributors had already replenished stocks.

As people began to see that their tweets actually succeeded in making Hippo available at their neighbourhood store, word of mouth and social media took over and Hippo became a rage. Soon, tweets were pouring in 24/7, from over 45 cities.

The sales force instantly dispatched stock to locations with empty shelves. All this, with barely a quarter of the staff required to solve supply and distribution problems in India by conventional means.

Hippo also updated its followers meticulously and rewarded the most active Hippo followers on Twitter with personalized ‘anti hunger’ Hippo Hampers.

Result:  When this initiative was taken up there were 800 people on Twitter were already on following Hippo. Shortly after launching this activity, the number of people tracking the inventory equalled 50 percent of the sales and distribution network itself and at zero cost. And the sales were upped by 76 percent.

Hippo thus managed to blur the lines between the marketing department, consumers and the distribution force. Hippo used social media and provided real-time solutions to distribution and availability issues. Describe the results in as much detail as possible. Hippo gauge demand, and

Hippo upped his sales by 76 percent. For consumers, the knowledge that a mere tweet could restock their neighbourhood store with their favourite snack was highly fulfilling. Hippo could also measure the return on investment per tweet. Plan-T is now a case study taught at leading B-schools, featured in various books on online marketing. Even TWTRCON, San Francisco acknowledged the innovative manner in which Plan-T solved such a technical problem. Plan-T has found a permanent place in the brand’s sales and distribution system. And, all this at almost no cost.

Learnings:  Apart from being recognized in India for its uniqueness and effectiveness, the campaign was presented as a case study in the Twitter Conference which looks at showcasing innovative business use of real-time web. Raj joined the list of TWTRCON speakers comprising the likes of Scott Monty (Head, Social Media – Ford Motors), Othman Laraki, (Director, Twitter), Steve Rubel (Senior vice president – Edelman Digital), Avinash Kaushik, (Analytics evangelist, Google).

Awards and accolades:  In Creative Abby the campaign won Gold in Interactive category for Creative use of social media. In Media Abby the campaign won two Golds in Best use of media – social media and Best use of Never before Media. We also won three Golds in Campaign India Digital Media Awards presented by BBC for  Best Loyalty Campaign, Media Innovation and Best Social Media strategy for Plan-T – Tracking Inventory through Twitter.

The campaign was also highly appreciated by creative minds like Charlie Crowe and Robin Wight, at the Goafest 2011.

Analysis:  By setting an example, Hippo may have found some first answers to the following:

Can social media be employed to plug the gaps between sales and distribution?

Can social media get consumers to voluntary work on the most  technical aspects of the brand?

Can Brands set up alternate sales and distribution network?

Competition’s Response: This activity and Hippo’s popularity was even closely observed by one of the biggest players in the country. The competitor even tried aping Hippo’s technique by setting up a Twitter account and even started following Hippo’s followers.


Source: Creativeland Asia

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