For Procter & Gamble Co., digital isn’t an afterthought. It’s increasingly the first phrase of a multimedia marketing campaign.

This story first appeared in the February 28, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We like to call our approach digital-back, meaning we start in the digital world and we bring our way back to the rest of the marketing,” said Rick Hasselbeck, vice president of marketing for P&G’s Cover Girl brand. “This is an approach that’s building our brand equities, our sales and our profits.”

But he was quick to emphasize that despite the proliferation of digital tools available to marketers, a successful campaign hinges on a big idea.

“Today great ideas matter more than they ever have,” he said. “With so many digital tools at our disposal, we have the opportunity to be wildly successful with a great idea, but also the opportunity to fail miserably with a bad idea. That’s because the user is now in charge.”

The trick, he said, is identifying a big idea. In Hasselbeck’s view, first, great ideas come from human insights, which unlock creativity; second, they are self explanatory and begin with an understanding of the brand’s equity, business challenges, consumer insight and a bit of inspiration, and third, they are easy to execute, meaning the brand team readily gets behind them.

He cited a recent campaign for Koleston, a hair color brand in P&G’s Wella portfolio, as an example where digital kicked off a campaign in Latin America with Mexican entertainer Paulina Rubio.

The effort began in August with a video confessional taped by Rubio — a lifelong blonde — that she was getting ready for a transformation. She posted the video on her social media channels, creating speculation across the online universe and traditional news outlets. Koleston introduced the idea of transformation on its Facebook page, inviting fans to share their own personal stories of transformation. More than 100,000 women participated. The two story lines converged when Rubio revealed her newly dyed red hair at a press conference. The red shade, number 7744, went from being the 10th most sold shade to the third in three weeks, and sales of the color rose 30 percent.

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