Nestle's Peter Blackshaw Delivers Ad:tech Keynote on Nestle's Digital Transformation

NEW YORK—Social media and mobile marketing were in the spotlight at this year's ad:tech conference as speakers delivered insight into ongoing changes in the digital marketing field and shared how companies are moving forward. Global Head of Digital and Social Media at Nestle Peter Blackshaw kicked off the conference by discussing his experience immediately after joining the company.

When he came on board in 2011, Nestle was facing a marketing disaster. Environmental activists were claiming that it was using palm oil from companies that were trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of locals, and pushing native species toward extinction. With its reputation suddenly at stake, the company had to learn to accept what Blackshaw called "a huge shift in power in the marketing landscape." With the rise of social media, the power shifted into the hands of consumers, who had gotten the power to make or break a brand.

Today, Nestle is a different company when it comes to social media, Blackshaw reflected. "Nestle sells 1.2 billion products every day across the globe, and a growing percentage of our brands are supported by digital initiatives, such as QR for greater detail about the product," he said. "We produce about 1,500 pieces of original content a day on Facebook alone, and 50 percent of our Nespresso capsules are sold online. Our brands have a total of 180 million fans on Facebook, and that's growing 5 to 7 percent per month."

The foundation of Nestle's digital marketing and social outreach operations rests on three pillars: listening, engaging, and inspiring, which are central to basic brand building, according to Blackshaw. Nestle's approach, however, goes a few steps further—the company has a six-point strategy, which includes inspiring with brand vision and essence, delighting customers with product experience, knowing the customer, winning with shoppers, creating engaging brand experiences, and innovating. To execute the strategy, Nestle relies largely on the company's Digital Acceleration Team, which Blackshaw created shortly after joining Nestle.

The Digital Acceleration Team, or DAT, serves two purposes: to train Nestle employees on the digital aspects of their jobs and to serve as Nestle's digital test lab, where it experiments with new and emerging technologies. The team of 12 also works with start-ups and technology companies on digital innovation, and is responsible for vetting potential advertising technologies, Blackshaw explained.

Recently, the team helped the company take advantage of a unique opportunity to raise its social standing by working with Google to cobrand the latest version of its Android operating system. That partnership resulted in Android Kit Kat, a name and a collaboration that created a viral wave for Nestle online—a video about the campaign posted on KitKat's branded YouTube channel was a major hit, Blackshaw recalled.

Despite the success of some of its new endeavors and strategies, Blackshaw admits that Nestle still has more to learn about social media marketing. "We don't have it all figured out yet," Blackshaw said. "But we are trying to walk the walk. And the only way to do that is to bring digital into our daily lives. We've made great progress so far."

While social media marketing dominated much of the discussions at ad:tech today, changes in mobile marketing also generated a significant amount of buzz among speakers and attendees. EMarketer's chairman, Geoff Ramsey, discussed recent study findings, revealing that by 2017, mobile is projected to make up 51 percent of spending on digital advertising. By as early as 2014, mobile is expected to overtake the desktop display market. "Mobile is growing so, so fast," Ramsey said. "Desktop display will be trailing far behind very soon."

With the industry growing, companies must become aware of how users interact with mobile to leverage its full potential and evaluate insight to determine how to best reach consumers, the day's speakers agreed.

Rumble, a mobile-first platform for publishers, revealed the results from its recent study, shedding a light on customers' behavior on mobile devices. Android users are two to three times more likely to share articles with friends than iOS users, the study revealed.

The study also showed that push notifications are among the key tools for user re-engagement, with rates as high as 70 percent, and found that iPhone users tend to be power users, with three times more engagement in opening, reading, and sharing articles than iPad users.

As companies continue to undergo digital transitions and brace for changes in both social and mobile marketing, Blackshaw urged brands to put themselves in customers' shoes. When all else fails, "trust your inner consumer," he said.

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