Kimberly-Clark doubles down on consumer-centric experiences

The biggest topic in marketing in the past year has been data deprecation and its impact on knowing your consumers in a digital context. But there have been other forces at play for some time—changing privacy regulations, walled gardens restrictions and consumer-driven privacy control—culminating in one conclusion for nearly every marketer: They need to double-down on first-party data.

Like many brands, Kimberly-Clark recognized it didn’t yet have the tools to cross the data divide ahead. The global CPG company has leveraged first-party data for years, but they needed to build a capability to align first-party data internally, and—most importantly—build the best version of their consumer experience across brands. But this is no small task when you’re talking about a company that’s been in business for nearly 150 years and has brands sold in 175 countries globally.

“There were a number of factors driving this need from consumer behavior changes to an outgrown mar-tech ecosystem and the upcoming third-party cookie deprecation,” says Wendy Rosploch, VP of digital technology at Kimberly-Clark North America. “We realized we had two problems at hand, first we could not create relevant consumer experiences using the data and tech we had, and second, we would not be able to achieve the scale required to meet our brand and business objectives.”

So, the Kimberly-Clark team set out to find a solution that allowed them to connect online and offline interactions, link disparate data sources and—most importantly—double-down on their first-party data strategy as a means to build meaningful consumer engagements across brands.

Starting with a vision

When Rosploch joined Kimberly-Clark in 2018, her work started with reviewing a number of upcoming annual plans across the organization’s mar-tech stack. “In those conversations, we recognized our ability to personalize or target consumers with relevant content would be nearly impossible in future scenarios with our current capabilities,” Rosploch says. “The amount of third-party data we were leveraging for media and what few activations we had planned for first-party data made us realize we needed to change the way we think about the ‘how’ of marketing activations.”

Kimberly-Clark needed a marketing-optimized view of their consumers that was trustworthy and actionable. To help solve this, Epsilon PeopleCloud Customer (an enterprise-ready CDP) helped Kimberly-Clark put greater emphasis on first-party data aggregation, organization and alignment—building a single view of their customers—for marketing activation and use across its brand portfolio.

But what does an enterprise CDP do? Epsilon PeopleCloud Customer consolidates a brand’s data across all systems, channels and external sources, bringing records together and matching them across the platform. With this simplified view, brands can create a trusted customer file, anchored by offline and online consumer identity, that links disparate data sources and federates those profiles throughout a brand’s (or multiple brands’) ecosystem. Epsilon’s Customer solution also leverages our proprietary data assets to cleanse and enrich a brand’s first-party data and store it in the client’s secure platform ensuring the data is secure.

That repository is then actionable to support marketing activities across a huge organization like Kimberly-Clark.

Going ‘all in’ across the organization

Determining which platform was best for Kimberly-Clark was just the first step. Anyone that’s embarked on a large, cross-functional project like this knows it’s a long road ahead. But the team took the time to view it for what it really was: marketing transformation.

“This was a real opportunity for marketing to drive digital disruption for Kimberly-Clark as a business,” says Rajeev Kapur, VP of global commercial transformation at Kimberly-Clark. “We had to invest in this—both with time and education—to develop a ‘product mindset’ and get engagement and buy-in with partners to support that framework.”

A project of this scale requires a cross-functional team, and an “all in” mentality across marketing, agencies and IT, with three pillars as the priority. First, incorporating a privacy-first approach. Second, expanding practical experience with more “hands on keyboards” to learn and use the new capability. And lastly, enabling a new way of working across technology, marketing, agency and solution partners.

“The diversity of thought showed up almost instantly from the questions being asked to the stories and learnings from different projects being shared,” Rosploch says. “That openness is what’s been most exciting to work on this project and has made it really special.”

Scaling growth by focusing on the consumer experience

Kimberly-Clark’s CDP platform now houses our consumer profiles. Epsilon helped complete profiles using Epsilon Data and the Contact Complete process, which helps Kimberly-Clark manage data from several partners both internally and externally, orchestrating dozens of inbound and outbound feeds for Kimberly-Clark. As a result of this process, Kimberly-Clark can deliver on a number of fronts that were previously unattainable or siloed across their organization:

  • Optimized consumer experience: With privacy and data control baked into their CDP platform, Kimberly-Clark can confidently deliver relevant and personalized communications across channels, creating a unified experience for every consumer.
  • Cookieless awareness and acquisition: Their team can leverage first-party data and AI to better define targeted audiences for acquisition using a scalable approach that doesn’t rely on third-party cookies for targeting or measurement.
  • Engage consumers: With personalized journeys across channels with known consumers or lookalike audiences, their teams can measure each person’s lifetime value incremental lift, ROI and engagement.
  • Next-level shopper marketing: When working with retail partners, Kimberly-Clark can ensure secure, privacy-safe sharing of consumer data while also measuring the effectiveness of retail programs—all while enriching their knowledge of the consumers who actually buy (i.e., continuing to build their own first-party data).

“We now have a clear line of sight into the platform products and an understanding of the right technologies,” Kapur says. “Having a clear focus enabled prioritization and connection across the products that are then right-sized for each market.”

Already seeing success in North America markets with its first-party data alignment, Kimberly-Clark’s next goal is to expand and scale the use of the platform to global markets over time.

“Navigating the importance, and fully respecting the magnitude, of how and where to leverage consumer data is a core principle of our ‘privacy by design’approach,” Kapur says. “We start with building for a lead market and then assess how and where the solution can scale. And we always have tight alignment with our compliance and cyber teams to ensure we’re current on that region’s requirements and regulations.”

Kimberly-Clark is still early in its use of Epsilon’s Customer platform; as the CDP continues to aggregate and build more data over time, it will only get smarter and work better to extend Kimberly-Clark’s relationship and interactions with consumers and minimize the tech costs required to power these experiences.

**This article was originally published on Adweek, July 2021.