Kingsford Charcoal is Always in Season

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Kingsford Charcoal is Always in Season

By Alarice Rajagopal & Jamie Grill-Goodman - 05/09/2016
When Henry Ford learned of a process for turning wood scraps from the production of Model T’s into charcoal briquettes, he built a charcoal plant — and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast-forward to today and Kingsford (now a division of The Clorox Company) has dominant market share of the charcoal category, with private label being its largest competitor.
 
Historically, when it came to advertising seasonal products like charcoal, brands used to have to wait for peak months for their ads to be successful. However, as Kingsford quickly found out, with the right technology and data sources, seasonal products can sell successfully year round.
 
“We’re a seasonal brand. We’re tied to the traditional barbecue season (May through Labor Day and key holidays), but about six years ago we began to make an effort to extend the season,” says Chris Neel, group manager media for Kingsford.

The definition of good grilling weather differs across the United States. For example, 50 degrees and partly cloudy in Chicago could be considered good grilling weather, whereas in Florida that same weather is probably a negative.
 
Neel adds, “Because weather conditions vary dramatically market by market, we knew we couldn’t just develop a single trigger that said when the weather hits a certain temperature, let’s deliver our message. We realized we needed customized weather triggers.”
 
While many weather partners out there deliver customized weather triggers all the way down at a zip code level, in March 2014 Kingsford partnered with MaxPoint to execute and trigger at that level, but also with dynamic messaging.
 
“We needed to be able to serve dynamic messaging as well, so we needed somebody that could not only be able to target with in a certain market, in a certain condition, but also work with a dynamically created advertisement,” says Neel.
 
Working with weather partners such as Weather.com and WeatherAlpha, they provide the backend data (real-time weather) that gets built into a dynamic ad through Pointroll, and served through MaxPoint.
 
For example, in a certain market when the weather has been in a certain kind of range, over a particular date, Kingsford can see a correlation of sales in that region. That gives the company a broad understanding of the market, but they don’t just rely solely on that data.
 
“On a more real-time basis it’s keeping in mind historical triggers, but also current market trends. And, since it’s real-time it doesn’t have to be set up in advance,” says Neel.
 
In addition to just zip code data and localization, Kingsford also includes other demographics to better target its ads.
 
Neel says, “For anything that we do digitally, we have very specific behavioral and purchase-based insights that identify our targets as an initial filter, and then the weather triggering is just another filter on that. So, we identify who we want to reach, but if that person is in a market with poor weather the ads aren’t going to be served to them.”
 
Through a two-pronged strategy, MaxPoint proposed to 1. Serve weather-responsive rich media ads to targeted neighborhoods when local temperatures exceed 70°F. The digital ads would highlight the upcoming warm weather and entice consumers to stock up on charcoal for their cookouts, and 2. Test two landing page offers — one that would give users recipes for cookout dishes, and another that would give shoppers a coupon.
 
Using this digital advertising strategy, Kingsford was able to achieve better engagement — the extremely targeted and timely ads helped the brand achieve a click-through rate that was more than three times the industry average.
 
Another added benefit is that the best practices are also spilling into other brands at Clorox. For instance, its Burt’s Bees brand is starting to look at weather-based ads during the winter — based on certain weather-related criteria — that creates better conditions for people to buy lip balm. Another example is looking at the cold and flu season for disinfecting wipes.
 
When it comes to best practices, Neel reveals that the company has now learned how to better pace itself when it comes to investing in advertising. A certain amount of budget is allocated at the beginning of a campaign season. Even though on any one weekend, there is good weather in some part of the country, on the flip side, there can be prolonged bad weather at times. Pacing ad dollars needs to be a balancing act of not running anything, while making sure the company has a base-level amount of messaging out there.

“We do a lot of working with retailers and encouraging retailers to get out and display our products. So, if they’re going to have our products out for display, we want to make sure we can support it even if the weather is poor. That’s where the balancing is key,” says Neel.
 
In the end, leveraging this new weather-responsive strategy helps Kingsford Charcoal to sell the right product to the right customer in the right location at exactly the right time.