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Access Only!! Sunsilk Gang Of Girls

There are places in the webosphere like the dumb jock paradise Axeland, where the guys supposedly go to exercise their goofy fantasies about (what else but) girls. Then there are the places where the girls hang out… lining up for makeovers, landing themselves in great jobs, showcasing their talents, winning fantastic prizes and even able to freely voice their opinions on any issue under the sun! This is no utopian planet inhabited by women but Sunsilk's new all girl online community 'Gang Of Girls'.

Sunsilkgangofgirls.com homepage

Launched on 17 June 2006, the membership on sunsilkgangofgirls.com is growing by leaps and bounds and currently boasts over 100,000 members in a time span of 36 days. The content on the site goes beyond hair care and styling information to blogs, job offers, games and contests. It has all the qualities of a very girlie fun filled space for online interaction, thus catering to the average young urban female.

What's interesting is that it attempts to propagate its brand proposition through a community building exercise among its target group. Among several brands in India that are now opting to go viral through interactive brand portals, Sunsilk has leaped ahead of the rest to create a really involved community.

Commenting on the ideation that went into this project, HLL category head Vipul Chawla said, "This initiative comes from an effort by Sunsilk to develop a greater understanding and connect between the consumer and the brand by building another interface with them. The brand stands for togetherness, fun and expertise and that's what the site seeks to propagate."

A brand tie up with job site Monster.com enables members to paste their CV's online. Girls can even showcase their talents to win a hefty prize, currently iPod Shuffles are up for grabs. Beyond beauty, fitness, fashion, relationships, astrology and expert advice from celebrity hair stylist Jawed Habib, the gang blogs and message boards entertain discussions ranging from names for your baby to patriotic themes saluting the 'Spirit of Mumbai.'

'Gang Of Girls' had its roots in the previously launched product site Sunsilknaturals.com with 100,000 registered users. This too offered hair suggestions and had an active message board where members took discussions beyond hair care. The activity of these members gave an impetus to the brand to take the bold step of establishing a community led website.

B C Web Wise, the creative team behind Sunsilkgangofgirls.com, supported the proposition of an online community, with a background of research via a test site targeting the existing members of the Sunsilk Naturals website. In addition, offline consumer research spread across multiple centres was conducted on the brand front.

B C Web Wise CEO & MD Chaya Brian Carvalho said, "We have tried and tested tools that work online, and are constantly researching consumer behaviour online, trends that are catching up, popularity of various offerings etc. Backed by these learnings, we also conducted focus group research amongst the TG to find out what would get them all kicked up. Every idea that has been expressed online (Gang Wars, Makeover machine, etc.) are based on what we felt would work, and the feedback we got from our research."

In its attempts to restrict the membership to "the ladies", the site has a separate section for "Desperate Guys". Still, these so-called desperadoes are also making their presence felt with a growing membership that currently stands at around 4,000. The site also claims to have basic and content filters that can be automatically or manually operated for security purposes to block out personal information like phone numbers and email ID's and censor foul language that appears to be a common feature.

With proliferation of media, here's a classic example of a brand that has been willing to experiment with a non-traditional medium and the reach of the internet has allowed Sunsilk to interact with each 'girl' on a personal basis. However, in stating that it is an 'all girl' product, it does in fact isolate that segment of male consumers that pay a good deal of attention to their tresses.

The brand has adopted a 360 degree approach to take this huge Gang Of Girls forward through various on air and on ground activities. With a 30 second commercial aired specifically on news and English entertainment channels, the campaign has also been profiled and supported with an interview by HLL's Chawla which has been featured on the channels including CNBC's Ad of the Day, NDTV 24x7 Your Day Today, NDTV Profit's All About Ads and Awaaz's Storyboard.

Radio promotion was also carried out through Radio Mirchi's programme Khubsurat which had singer Mehnaz come on air with two of her oldest friends promoting the website and the innovative concept of having an online gang.

Mehnaz was also featured in DNA, not to endorse the brand but to spread the campaign. The TVC and print campaigns were handled by JWT. In addition, online promotions were also rolled out on Rediff, Yahoo! and MSN.

But that's not all, the brand still has great plans in the pipeline with a calendar of activities for 2007. More immediately however, they plan to add new features to the website, including new tools like gang scopes (horoscopes), new hair styles to the makeover machine and content updates. They also plan to roll out a game show called Crack the Code, road shows and more locally to partake in college activities by setting up kiosks at college festivals like St Xavier's 'Malhar' in Mumbai.

Taking online advertising to another dimension, the Gang Of Girls URL is finding its way as forwards in many-a-girl's inbox, thus illustrating the magnitude its seems to have acquired. "Community-building as opposed to plain info about brands is catching on. A lot of brand sites blatantly push their products even in a designated 'fun zone' or space on the web, which puts off the youth of today. Community-building attempts to reach out to this audience by appealing to what they like most and entwining it with their brand communication," adds Carvalho.

Besides facilitating the collection of data through registrations from users and instant feedback, the extensive participation in the campaign Carvalho suggests has "set global benchmarks for online marketing."

The brand hopes to strengthen its proposition through this initiative and a natural outcome of which could possibly be reflected in higher sales. However, Chawla opines, "Too early to say… We have a long term perspective for this and are not looking for any short term gains."

Either ways, the responses it has been able to garner speaks for itself and indeed marketers across the country could well follow suite exploring the varied options "non-traditional" mediums have to offer.

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