How Propel Keeps Its Brand Motivated In A Modern Marketing Landscape

PepsiCo’s fitness water brand Propel wants its digital messaging to reach consumers while they’re working out, so it's focused its media investments around music and mobile.

Propel has a deep relationship with Pandora as well as Under Armour’s fitness tracker app, Map My Fitness.

“Propel as a brand has centered itself around uniting fitness tribes and culture," said Laura Barnett, Propel’s brand director.

To further refine that strategy, Propel is building up its first-party data assets and learning how to target consumers smartly while setting a clear vision for its eight agency partners.

Barnett spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: How do you connect with consumers through music and mobile?

LAURA BARNETT: This year we did an awards challenge on Map My Fitness where you could sign up for Under Armour challenges. When you reach a certain tier for miles ran or calories burned, you receive gifts and rewards from Propel.

Pandora helped us to build relationships with fitness instructors and studio and gym owners by creating stations [that represent their] unique sounds. They were also helpful in bringing DJs to our experiential platform, Co:Labs, which brings together innovative fitness instructors and industry thought leaders to have workouts together to music.

What’s your data and CRM strategy?

First-party data is new for Propel. Our goal is to strengthen one-on-one communication and deliver stronger content through our collection of first-party data. We’ve been leaning into partnerships like Map My Fitness [to collect first-party data].

Now we’re trying to define what to do with it. Our goal is to be thoughtful about loyalty and to bring content, experiences and products tailored to the passionate exerciser. We’ll use our CRM database to do that. [WPP-owned marketing agency] VML has been helping us craft that strategy?

How important is programmatic to your overall budget? Who are your partners? 

It’s very important. We believe this type of media buy directly delivers volume to the brand on a short-term basis.

We work closely with OMD for programmatic. They help us think through buying behaviors to find targets on mobile and desktop.

How do you coordinate work between your agency partners? 

It’s key to establish the swim lanes. When agencies know what they’re responsible for, they deliver above and beyond. Our job is to set the vision and make it clear.

We ask our agencies to connect the dots among themselves. So many tentacles of our activation plan impact so many different agencies. OMD is a huge player in digital, but so is VML. We expect they can schedule meetings with each other and bring the best solution to us.

But there’s always a member of the brand team available to make sure the work is happening. There’s a direct line to our team if any questions arise.

On Propel it operates fairly fluidly and everyone is rowing in the same direction, but we have to set that direction. Any time you outsource strategy as a brand, I’m not sure you’d be happy with the result. The strategic vision sits on the brand team’s shoulders.

How are you rethinking your marketing strategy in an environment of cost-cutting for CPGs? 

We’re always being asked to do more with less. Every brand is likely experiencing the same thing.

PepsiCo has gotten very savvy on media ROI and training for marketing employees. We’re trying to be very thoughtful about each investment having a justified ROI and making sure year over year we can refine media plans to reach the same CPMs with potentially less money.

Some CPGs are looking to their agency roster as a place to cut costs. Are you?  

We haven’t applied that line of thinking to our agency roster quite yet.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


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