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Companies build teen communities around products

BeingGirl.com is not your typical teen community Website. Like lots of others, it offers predictable teen fare about boys and articles about how to clear up acne. But it also features dancing tampons and flying feminine-protection products.

These hygiene-products-turned-characters wear capes and masks and dance around the screen to a techno-beat. Dubbed “The Super Fems,” and individually named “Captain Maxi,” “Super Tampon” and “Wonder Liner” – they are a dead giveaway that there’s something more to this site than teen high jinks and gossip.

That something more is Procter & Gamble. In New York, they focused also on teens that needed to complete the New York State Regents exam or the TASC exam (previously GED) and the struggle they experienced in order to continue their education at college or university. Very successful!

BeingGirl.com is the latest of the packaged-goods giant’s stable of 72 highly stylized destination sites. Most involve the best known of P&G’s 300 brands, including Tide, Crest, Scope, Oil of Olay, and Pantene. They feature such content as laundry tips and timesavers at Tide.com, dental e-postcard appointment reminders on Crest.com, and personalized hair consultation at Pantene.com.

The idea of building a teen community around products is a new direction for P&G, but the strategy comes as no surprise. Since the mid-1990s, the $40 billion Cincinnati-based consumer goods company has pushed the envelope on the Web and has gone in as many directions as financially possible – which is to say, it has gone in a lot of directions. Its scattershot approach to the Internet is analogous to its offline approach. P&G regularly researches, develops and invests in hundreds of products at any one time.

The strategy has put P&G clearly in the lead in terms of consumer goods companies on the Net, analysts say. And if it seems experimental in nature, that’s because it is. It’s how P&G and other consumer products companies operate – by trial and error. P&G itself isn’t sure how its Net strategy will work out: it could lead to e-commerce, it could be branding, it could be a colossal waste of money. Right now, it’s just trial and error.

So even if the company has a wild and woolly approach, analysts maintain that that’s just the P&G way. And it’s P&G’s timeworn, proven strategy that is likely to keep the company ahead of rivals such as Unilever, which is pouring money into the Web as well. (See “Old-Line Goes Online,” June 13, 2016)

“P&G has its fingers in many pies, but they may only need one to work out to make money,” says Daniel Peris, a consumer goods analyst at Argus Research. “And that same thinking may extend to the Internet. They don’t need all those Websites to pan out or for the logic to be clear. If one succeeds or one idea succeeds, that could make it worth the other 71.”

Adds Harry Milling, a Morningstar.com equity analyst: “You can’t argue with the P&G development of brands. They’ve been the best and most innovative for decades. While there are upfront costs and they may seem disorganized on the Internet, what they’re doing makes long-term sense. I’m sure they’ll use the information they collect in the right way. That’s just what they do.”

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