Tupperware Parties for Brands

Discussion
Feb 16, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Much like Tupperware parties of yore, brands
such as Microsoft, Kraft Foods, Ford, Verizon, Nestlé and S.C. Johnson
are recruiting consumers to host house parties. The more relaxed, informal
settings are proving to be a better way to introduce consumers to brands.

“People are more jaded than they’ve been
before about marketing and advertising,” Microsoft’s Kathleen Hall, general
manager of consumer marketing, worldwide campaigns and product marketing
for Windows, told Adweek. “This kind of lets you prove [a product’s
value] in a firsthand, experiential way. And the role of friends and influencers
— friends who are in the know — is pretty significant in the purchase
decision for a lot of things now.”

For Microsoft, the scale of the effort is noteworthy. The company held a
14-country house party event in October for Windows 7, involving nearly 60,000
hosts and reaching an estimated seven million people (including participants
and people they told about it.)

A few weeks before the consumer-run parties,
Microsoft execs held their own trial-run parties with friends and neighbors.
The execs found was that “people were not overly sensitized to feeling
sold to or it being commercial,” Ms. Hall said. “They thanked us. It was
almost like it was a customer service that they appreciated. And the fact
that we have that Big Blue, big Microsoft perception made the reality of
us wanting to come into people’s homes and just talk to them about the
product and let them talk about it such a refreshing change.”

Consumer hosts received a package that featured
a Steve Ballmer-autographed edition of the operating system, as well as
tote bags, a deck of cards and other party favors. Some parties lasted
a few hours while others lasted longer. Some hosts tied the parties to
charitable causes.

Microsoft director of marketing John Dougherty
said that the Windows 7 parties resulted in a “significant migration towards
sales among those who participated.”

Dan Hanover, editor of Event Marketer magazine,
said demand for brand parties is “exploding.” Consumer interest comes in
part from them being the first to try new products, as well as being able
to shape consumer opinion.

Costs range from several millions for an
event such as Microsoft to a couple hundred thousand for smaller ones,
according to the article. Verizon held Super Bowl parties hosted by 1,000
Fios customers. But Kitty Holding, CEO of House Party, which orchestrated
the Microsoft parties, said scale is key, noting there need to be “thousands
and thousands [of participants] before it starts to make sense” for marketers.

Discussion Questions:
What are the advantages and disadvantages of house parties for brands
as a marketing tool? What must marketers gain to justify the investment?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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15 Comments on "Tupperware Parties for Brands"


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Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 3 months ago

It is no surprise that House Parties are gaining momentum. It is the next level of social media; face to face marketing, having influencers talk to friends. It is like social media on steroids; it takes the experience from the computer screen into real life, and into the homes where the products are consumed and used.

There is a reason why Warren Buffett purchased Pampered Chef a few years ago. The concept of having people introduce products to their friends, while in the relaxed atmosphere of their home, in a non-pressured setting, listening to someone that they trust, well, it is gold. Add to that the opportunity to gain feedback on the products themselves, and now you have the marketer’s holy grail.

This is a strategy that will continue to grow in popularity.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 3 months ago

This is certainly out-of-the-box thinking and could be very successful if executed well. I can see non-competing brands collaborating and it being a tremendous success. If not house parties, community parties where the community is invited and they try new products, taste testing, etc. The keys to success will be volume and execution.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Some brands have been using house parties for years. They started growing 5 years ago as brands targeting female teens and young adults realized that they could generate significant word of mouth.

In order to have an impact, there do not need to be thousands of parties. A few house parties can provide marketers with valuable feedback regarding their brands and future parties and their actual and potential ROI.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 3 months ago
The approach clearly works. Just look at Avon, Tupperware and a dozen other successes as examples. The approach could be used as an alternative trial/educational program (essentially that is what Microsoft was doing). I could see a companies like P&G, J&J or SC Johnson that have large brand portfolios using this approach not just for trial, but as an additional sales channel. What would be really interesting is if you incorporated a web site for direct sales to the party program. This way party hosts could see additional revenue even after the party is over. They would also be incentivized to remind their guests to purchase again online. Why the party works:1) People tend to want to support and buy from friends and people they know and trust.2) Very inexpensive approach compared to traditional trial programs or sales channels since you only pay for performance. 3) This approach is a great way to get closer to the consumer. 4) Great inexpensive way to solicit feedback from consumers or potential consumers in a relaxed setting rather… Read more »
Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

House parties can be very effective for brands with higher margins, but are fairly cost prohibitive for many CPG brands with super slim margin structures. They are indeed a good way to introduce more complex products to clusters of consumers, particularly if the cluster is seeded correctly with consumers who participate in social media and can effectively amplify the messages that are crucial to influence shopping and buying behavior.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 3 months ago

I was just looking at my wife’s calendar and have noticed a huge increase in her attendance to these things. I’ve counted no less than 4 events this month alone. I can understand. We are running dangerously low on Pampered Chef lemon rinders and Discovery Toys Count ‘n Stack Cups. Could this be a better way to sell? I don’t know but there is usually food associated with these things and it’s a night off from the kids so more power to Cindy.

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

The success of these house parties proves up yet again that people have a desire to connect with brands face to face and in a meaningful way. The article quotes the Microsoft exec observation that “It was almost like it was a customer service that they appreciated.” Customer service is personal! Retailers believe that they must spend a lot of money attempting to connect with customers in a high tech way. There is nothing high tech about a Tupperware-type party; as a matter of fact, it’s essentially no-tech and very old school. Will we spend every night at our neighbor’s homes buying the products we use on a daily basis? No. But, the lesson here is that personal connections result in significant sales increases and drive loyalty. Retailers in every channel need to make sure that while they install the latest and greatest in high tech experiences they make sure that these systems and gadgets increase the personal connectedness the customer has with their brand and not drive wedges between them.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 3 months ago

House parties for brands make a lot of sense. Nothing like hands-on experience and discussion to open new doors:
– Shoppers are in the moment, they want to be there;
– They trust their friends and neighbors opinions more than ads;
– Tremendous possibilities for feedback about perceived value of product, package and use experience;
– Great chance for incentives to purchase other Brand items;
– Good way to explore potential new concepts, etc.

But…
– Worthwhile only if large pool of interested clients to touch;
– Must be well executed – word travels fast.

Another opportunity to deliver Brand value to loyal shoppers!

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

What’s old is what’s new again. Trusting your friends’ recommendations on products is, and always has been among the most effective ways to build brand loyalty. Sure, many brands have utilized house parties for decades; however, with companies venturing into this arena for the first time, the power of face-to-face marketing, now tied with the reach of social media can lead to both intense brand loyalty (for those products that perform well) and widespread brand avoidance (for the poor performing products in the marketplace).

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
11 years 3 months ago

I’m not a believer. I’ve been to more house parties than I care to count. From Avon to Tupperware, Silpada, Longaberger, Pampered Chef, pajamas, Amway, pots and pans, etc., etc.

Every woman I know dreads getting these invitations in the mail because they know they will either have to make up an excuse not to go or be guilted into buying over-priced items they don’t really need.

I can believe that Microsoft saw some initial activity because I agree that people want to be a part of something new. But I doubt the long term success of this strategy for any low ticket household items. I also doubt long term success for high ticket items after the newness of feeling like you’re part of a special “test group” wears off. Although companies like Avon have seen increases in sales, those are due predominantly to their online internet sales.

Dave Wendland
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I think the concept will resonate with many (not all!). One ingredient to success must be a common thread that brings the group together (think “Pampered Chef” and a common bond in cooking; or Wine Tastings that draw together those with a shared interest). I would venture to say that soon-to-be-moms would be a great audience or perhaps family caregivers caring for a specific condition (e.g., Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, etc.). This is indeed social media to a very personal level.

Michele Dalpini
Guest
Michele Dalpini
11 years 3 months ago

Some of you are missing the point…The article is referring to a new type of “house party.” The company House Party is a new concept. There is nothing to buy at these parties. Groups just get together to try new products or product lines. They are given coupons and other items to take home, in hopes that they will buy the product the next time they are out in the stores.

Basically, it is a sampling demo on steroids. Only in this case, the host usually provides most of the food/drinks, etc. And the sponsor provides specific items, such as pizza, bread, side dishes and on and on. There are even parties for storage products, feminine products…the type of party is limited only to the manufacturer’s ideas.

No one dreads going to the House Party because they are being fed for free, and can enjoy an evening out, and not worry about having to buy some item that they really don’t need.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

How’s this for cynicism? High levels of unemployment and the need to earn money. Doing it at home? For/with/to friends? How tough can it be with no overhead and nada to lose? Marketers may have to spend a fair bit on recruiting but I doubt that will be an excessively onerous task. Potential hosts have a great incentive and are likely to be highly motivated. Susan’s suggestion about non-competing brands also makes sense–nothing to stop a single host from selling all sorts of products–although I see it more as a logical progression than out of the box thinking. There could be a whole new future to sales and marketing on the horizon even for the type of house party ggshop describes where people look at and try out a product while enjoying themselves and not being pressured to buy. No pressure could produce far more sales.

Carlos Arambula
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

It’s a very interesting idea and I can see the value of it when applied to “involved” categories and applied with other marketing tools in order to make it cost effective.

Vincent Young
Guest
Vincent Young
11 years 3 months ago
I think the concept is relevant within the context of a general societal trend whereby consumers are now more willing than ever to share/listen to colleague tips that enable a more efficient lifestyle. Wouldn’t it be interesting if complimentary brands partnered together to host “themed” house party events as a way of showcasing new items or solutions available at a given retailer? For example, imagine if a few brands partnered together to sponsor a series of “Thanksgiving Meal Planning” house parties to showcase key products available at Retailer X. This approach would create more interesting house party themes, reduce the financial burden from an individual brand, and represent a way for a national brand to be seen as different from private label (potentially). Tying these types of activities to a national retailer would position the participating vendor brands as very additive to the “solution-provider” brand positioning that most retailers seek to message today. Lastly, by sharing program costs and driving party participants to a national retailer could potentially generate a higher return on the marketing… Read more »
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