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How Hellmann’s Tapped Into WhatsApp To Engage With Its Audience

How Hellmann’s Tapped Into WhatsApp To Engage With Its Audience

Hellmann's has been feeding hungry consumers in Brazil for more than five decades. And by successfully tapping their appetite for digital experiences, the brand is learning how to help its brand loyalists enjoy mayonnaise in new ways.

Thana Uchino, digital marketing manager/Brazil for Unilever – the brand's parent – reported that the product is essentially a domestic staple for most of the country's shoppers. "Hellman's is the market leader in Brazil, with 70% market share," she said. "And we have high penetration of mayonnaise in Brazil, so almost every household in Brazil has Hellman's."

Alongside substantial penetration, Hellmann's has been on store shelves in the South American nation since 1962, meaning it has established enviable levels of equity. "It's a really traditional product with credibility. Our consumer trusts the brand," Uchino told delegates at the SM2 Innovation Summit, an event convened by the Mobile Marketing Association.

But a long history and category dominance does not mean Hellmann's – and its São Paulo-based agency, CUBOCC – are immune from the growth imperative facing any brand. And its primary "business challenge", Uchino suggested, involved driving incremental usage occasions. "In Brazil, when people think about mayonnaise, they think about sandwiches.

"We had to inspire [them] to use mayonnaise in other types of dishes, not just sandwiches. So we had to build something that could go further … We had to go beyond, and try to do something that … would be closer to our consumers, getting a real relationship with them and – in the end – inspire them to use mayonnaise in other types of dishes."

The planning process began by analysing the customer's typical daily routine, and the role of food within it. "We noticed that actually people face, every day, a real dilemma," said Uchino. Specifically, there was widespread uncertainty regarding what to cook with ingredients left in their fridge, doubts often supplemented by a lack of the necessary skills to whip up an appealing meal.

"When you arrive home, you are starving, you are tired, and you have to think about, 'What's for dinner?', or, 'What do my children want to eat?', or, maybe, 'I don't know how to cook, but I don't want to order pizza today'," Uchino said in defining the problem. "And we started to think how we as a brand could take advantage of this dilemma, of this moment, to be the solution."

Delving deeper into this subject uncovered several common ways of tackling this obstacle, like searching Google, phoning mom or grandma, and texting a friend for advice. It also steered Hellmann's towards its own recipe for success. "We could help people [by] being there and answering their questions," Uchina reasoned.

Many food marketers, she observed, have recipes on their websites and Facebook pages. But that wasn't enough for Unilever's mayonnaise. "We were thinking about how to go further, and go beyond these regular digital activities in the more active way – not just answering this dilemma, but actually offering something at the exact moment people were needing it.

"And, actually, the answer was already in people's hands."

That answer was WhatsApp, the mobile-messaging app. It met Hellmann's requirements when it came to engaging one-to-one with customers, and promised to achieve sufficient scale, given it is used by 79% of Brazil's smartphone population – or approximately 32 million people. "That was the perfect platform for us to … build this relationship," said Uchina.

Its resultant "Whatscook" platform ran for ten days, and was premised on the idea of "one-to-one real-time conversation between real chefs and real consumers." Web users were able to register by entering their name and phone number on a website. A couple of minutes later, a chef contacted them via WhatsApp to discuss their culinary needs. "It was really simple to participate," Uchino said.

To begin, shoppers usually sent photos of the food in their pantry and refrigerator via WhatsApp, from which a chef concocted a recipe – always ensuring to include Hellmann's mayonnaise. They then scheduled a convenient time, be it instantaneous or at a future date, when the chef could talk consumers through the making the dish on the app.

Image source: TrndMonitor

In doing so, the chefs leveraged a mix of text, photographs, videos and – on occasion – hand-drawn images; they even reminded users when to remove food from the oven. To demystify the journey to the perfect meal, the tone of these interactions was light-hearted and informal, thus ensuring it felt "really human" to consumers.

While the emphasis was on real-time engagement, Hellmann's – like any good cook – had prepared a few ingredients in advance. "We had a bunch of videos that we shot some weeks before based on top searches in Google with the main questions about cooking processes and styles: for example, how to chop onions and fry onions, how to make tasty rice," said Uchino.

Whatscook was launched on Hellmann's social channels and backed by only $900 in paid media, yet 8,000 people signed up in the campaign period. "We had to stop [using paid] media on the second day, because our capability was not matching the volume because of all the buzz around it [and] all the organic shares," said Uchino. "At the same time, it shows us the potential of the activity."

Numerous additional metrics lent extra weight to this statement. Roughly 500 meals were cooked and shared overall, with four million consumers ultimately being impacted by this initiative, be it directly, through social sharing or thanks to the $150,000-worth of earned media coverage generated by WhatsCook.

Perhaps the most important measure, though, related to the individuals who personally took part in the program. On average, Uchino revealed, they spent 65 minutes interacting with Hellmann's using the mobile-messaging service. "You can say, of course, the cooking process is a long process," she conceded.

"But, in the end, [it was] good for Hellmann's because it was more than one hour talking to consumers, giving them tips, variations of recipes and maybe breaking [new] needs around mayonnaise."

Employing a real-time communications tool also let Hellmann's gain rapid feedback. And 99.5% of participants in the campaign agreed it was a positive experience. At the qualitative level, the photographs these users submitted of their finished meals proved the usage occasions went well beyond the simple sandwich, and included everything from rice and pasta to beef and chicken.

According to Uchino, it was the combination of real-time engagement and genuine utility which effectively "unlocked the magic" for Hellmann's. "It was really useful – a real service, and a relevant service, for our consumers, different from anything that was happening in the food/digital scenario," she said.

"The main learning was that it's not about just advertising; it's about creating a relevant service; it's about creating real conversations, real connections with consumers; and answering a real need in the exact moment that they are needing your help."

As a reflection of this, the campaign is also being rolled out in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Back in Brazil, the next step was to create an automated solution on Twitter, where members of the microblog could post a list of ingredients and the hashtag "PreparaPraMim". Hellmann's system then searched the Recepedia online database presented them with meal options.


In one day, this platform yielded 82,500 interactions and over 22 million impressions, on Twitter. And the service, Uchino asserted, let Hellmann's expand on the momentum gained with WhatsApp, while aiding consumers in a less labour-intensive fashion for the brand. "It was a more mechanical way to make it more always on," she said.

Source: Warc, Stephen Whiteside

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