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Hippo fights hunger with Twitter
Hippo fights hunger with Twitter
By: iMedia News Bureau

We often go in search of our favorite brand of cola or snack. There are times when we are left disappointed when we do not get the brand of our choice and there are times when we have to satisfy our ego with a substitute. But then there is just once in a lifetime where you get not one but many chances to help your favorite brand to resurrect the empty shelves and restore its packs in any shop. This is what Creativeland Asia did for Hippo Backed Munchies with its award winning Plan-t Campaign where the consumers became inventory trackers. Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder and Creative Chairman of Creativeland Asia Pvt. Ltd. shared his inputs about the entire activity till date.    

The Big Launch – 
Parle Agro launched into the snack food segment sometime in the second quarter of 2009 with Hippo Backed Munchies. 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. 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:
The Main Problem – 
Hippo Baked Munchies, a new entrant in the billion dollar Indian snack market was launched in 400,000 stores in India. In the market, Hippo exceeded everyone’s expectations and the packs sold like hotcakes leaving the shelves across 200,000 stores empty. This unexpected sale put pressure on Hippo’s nascent yet efficient sales & distribution network. Stocks were drying up in stores by the hour and they found it challenging to track and re-stock the empty stores quickly, especially as more than 90% of the Indian snack market is still unrecognized retail. 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. Parle also thought about taking the campaign off air for sometime because of the overwhelming response.
Now the main challenge was to track empty stores quickly and plug the lag in supply and help Hippo cope with this super demand.
Traditional Route – 
Where taking stock meant appointing sales officers to visit store by store in areas allotted to them and waiting for three days for restocking and filling the empty shelves. This meant that the consumers looking for substitutes or rather be disappointed. Hippo did not want this to work in favor of the competition and neither did it want to disappoint its consumers.
A Modern Thought – 
Since it was Hippo’s popularity that created a huge demand for it, Hippo used the same to fix its supply. Instead of spending large amount of time and money outsourcing these distribution and supply duties, Hippo decided to turn to its followers on Twitter while also acknowledging that In India, almost 94% of retail environment is unorganized. 
The Solution which turned into a cult, into an epic of sorts – 
Hippo used Twitter to do something that it has never been expected to do before. To act as an inventory tracking interface. 
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 Mumbai, India 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 neighborhood 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. 
“The first tweet came from Ahmedabad within an hour or two after the launch. With this idea, the stocks were replaced and the empty shelves filled within a matter of a few hours,” exclaimed Kurup.
If that’s not all, Hippo also updated its followers meticulously and reciprocated by rewarding the most active Hippo followers on Twitter with personalized ‘anti-hunger’ Hippo Hampers.
Customers tweeted about scarcity of Hippo in their area thus making an inventory
The Result – In Sales: - 
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 equaled to 50% of the sales & distribution network itself and that too at zero cost. The sales went up by a staggering 76% in the first few months of its launch.
The Result – In Branding: - 
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. It has set a trend for itself that will help it in identifying and gauging demand and prioritizing its high potential new markets. 
From just a campaign to a cult, to an innovation – 
Kurup explains, “It started as a small experiment but has now certainly become a standard part of the organization’s inventory system with super huge success. Currently, every 15 days, the tweets are audited, monitored and checked for replenishment of stocks.”    
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.
Laurels 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. 
The campaign won three Golds in Campaign India Digital Media Awards presented by BBC for Best Loyalty Campaign, Media Innovation and Best Social Media strategy. 
When quizzed about the future, Sajan Raj Kurup says, “The manufacturer is using Twitter and will continue doing so and further develop its tracking inventory. Now we plan to do something on Facebook which will be disclosed very soon in the media. We have recently launched the ‘Meri Maa’ commercial of Hippo and are soon going to work on video viral and Facebook.” 
A still from Hippo\'s Fight Hunger TV Commercial
Who says innovations and out-of-the-box ideas are not successful? An idea like the Plan-t fight hunger campaign on Twitter is being studied across the globe by the masterminds of management and advertising and it will probably result into something even better. Till then, let’s fight hunger with Hippo!
Tags – hippo, creative, twitter, social media, abby, BBC, brand, inventory, fight hunger, parle, creativeland asia, innovation