How to get your feet wet in online marketing coming from a traditional FMCG background (Part 1)

Moving from traditional marketing to digital marketing was tough for me. I was used to the world of TARPs/GRPs, 3+ frequencies, equity measures, and HHP data. Now that a new distribution channel has emerged, which is the internet, I had to deal with a new whole set of jargon. New terms like PPC, CRO, SEO, A/B Testing, LTV, and Chun started overwhelming my head. For a FMCG marketer who’s used to a supposedly “time-tested” marketing model, I felt that I have become obsolete. I’ve tried testing out some of these new “growth hacking” strategies and yet I’m still left behind.

It took me some time but I’ve finally found out how to organize it all. I’ve been using the same framework to help me organize the “100 ways to growth hack” tactics that are prevalent online. By then, I was able to leverage my time-tested corporate marketing approach to properly strategize and plan my digital marketing efforts.

I’ve also figured out what works and what doesn’t work, which has allowed me to start with a good ground. But I’ve also accepted the experimental approach that’s popular in online marketing, and I’ve built it in my day-to-day marketing planning.

Let’s go through all of these.

How to Structure & Measure Your Online Marketing Strategy

In the FMCG world, we’re familiar with the “Awareness – Relevance – Trial – Repeat” model, where awareness & relevance is tracked through equity measurement models and trial & repeat rates are tracked through Household Panel Data (HHP).

In online marketing, the model is different. The generally accepted framework here is “Acquisition – Activation – Retention – Revenue – Referral” (AARRR), which is coined by Dave McClure, the Founder of 500Startups (seed-stage VC firm).

Here are the definitions and measures:


To note, the measures here are not set in stone. It is up to your judgment (and testing) to determine what is the right metric for your business. Twitter, for example, doesn’t consider their user fully activated unless s/he follows 7 or more users. They’ve discovered through experimentation that if a user has followed 7 or more users, retention rate is far higher than a user who has followed less than 6 followers. So if you try to sign up for Twitter today and not follow more than 6 people, you’ll notice a big wave of notifications and emails from Twitter to get you to follow more people. After you’ve done that, you’ll notice that it will subside.

What Works and What Doesn’t Work

Given the large scope of AARRR, I’ll focus on the first two challenges marketers have: acquisition and activation.

But before I dive into those, as a FMCG marketer, I expect that you have three basic assets as part of your digital marketing efforts:
1. A company site with a page that includes your full product portfolio
2. A link below each product that redirects to a checkout page or to a partner eCommerce site (like Walmart or Costco).
3. A pool of banner ads that you place where you consumer hangs out

Driving Acquisition

Since FMCG marketers are already quite familiar with linking consumer psychographics with the right websites, I will skip that. I think the main question that you have in mind is “what kinds of banner ads work?”

You may have seen or heard multiple studies that contend that “improving contrast” or “simplifying the color scheme” drive click through rates (CTR). They’re wrong. What you need to focus on is nailing the headline.

Traditionally, FMCG marketers craft the headline in terms of the benefit proposition. While this works in the retail context, you need to remind yourself that the banner ad is NOT in the same context. Thus the same model does not apply. Most likely, your consumer is just casually browsing through Facebook or any news site and has little-to-zero tolerance for fancy claims.

Instead, what you need to do is to stir up their current casual mindset by leveraging what we call the “curiosity gap”.

Here are some examples:

“An old couple celebrate their 80-year anniversary in unique fashion!”
“How do smart kids REALLY solve math questions?”
“See how Aimee Song does her day make-up!”

Again, the mindset of people while browsing online is that of curiosity: they stalk other people’s profiles, they slide through pictures in Business Insider, and they just “like” & “share”.

In an FMCG context, how might that look like? It could be:

“Scientists discover a common home item that can cause hairfall! Discover more. (re: Pantene on copper-filled shower heads)”
“Moms: it’s clinically proven that most soaps can only protect 1 out of 3 types of germs! Learn More.(re: Safeguard protecting 3 types of germs vs 1)”

Once you’ve nailed the right headline for your brand, you will disproportionately turn those impressions into click throughs.

Driving Activation

Once the user arrives at your site, the next objective is to drive the user to some sort of action. If your educational headline is linked to an educational article, get them to opt-in to your mailing list. If your promo headline is linked to a “buy now” landing page, then the objective is obviously for them to buy.

Now how should it look like?

Here are the best practices for education-linked headlines:
– Large Pictures
– Write up of 200 words or less
– Slideshow format (ideally)
– An opt-in at the end

Here’s how it’s executed:

Snappy write up with a large picture


Slideshow (yep, big pictures again)


A sample pop up


Here are the best practices for “buy now” pages:
– Anchoring
– Scarcity
– Urgency

I’ve talked about this in detail here.

That’s it for now. I hope you got the basics of acquisition and activation down pat. If not, shoot me a mail at In part 2 of this article, I’ll be talking about how to A/B Test your headlines at a cost optimal way! No coding needed :)

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