Penguin Random House UK is launching Flipper, an online book recommendation engine, as part of a Christmas campaign to help customers choose the right Christmas present for loved ones.
Penguin Flipper allows visitors to use filters - such as the age and personality of their loved ones, or the genre or setting of book - to help them whittle down PRH's range of adult, young adult and children’s books to the right choices.
The tool went live today (25th October) at penguinflipper.co.uk. Designed to be "a simple and fun" way to help shoppers, it also has the benefit of helping PRH to ensure its authors reach wide and targeted audiences and in generating further data that the publisher an use in the future.
PRH said Flipper was a response to the demand it saw for personal book recommendations through its weekly #AskPenguin Twitter feature; readers have so far requested almost 2,000 personal recommendations online from the publisher since #AskPenguin launched in August.
Fully mobile optimised, its launch is being accompanied by a digital ad campaign starting in November, which will include supporting video content, in a bid to gain cut-through during the notoriously busy time of year. It will also be complemented by physical pop-ups during December at a small number of shopping centres across the country to give shoppers the opportunity to "flip" in person to discover authors and books.
PRH plans to further expand its functionality with continued testing with consumers to make it even "more comprehensive", and may revamp it for campaigns beyond Christmas. It was originally developed from idea to prototype over the course of five days with insight from consumer testing, part of what PRH is calling a "sprint-based approach to digital innovation”.
Albert Hogan, director of group marketing and audiences, who was headhunted by PRH from Universal Pictures earlier this year, is leading the Flipper project. He said it was his hope to get the company "obsessed with audience mind-set". "Ultimately, if we're not useful and helping them, we're never going to progress in terms of how we really connect with consumers in a meaningful way," he said.
Having already weathered the disruptive process of digital transformation in the music industry, starting out at Disney's record label and moving on to EMI Records during the advent of the iPod, Hogan also said it was encouraging to see publishing embracing digital "as an opportunity as opposed to a disruptor".
While conceding music and film industries were "a little bit further along the digital maturity curve", he emphasised he saw "a real shared purpose" across the industry, as well as at PRH, to better understand how it can evolve the business in that space.
Of PRH's approach to consumer brand campaigns, he said: "It's about using the awareness and trust of the Penguin brand as a way in for readers to access a wide variety of content and brilliant authors, through really, really well curated and run consumer channels. Whether that's social or web or email, we want to make sure that wherever you have a touch point with Penguin it's a great experience."
"The days of talking to customers and readers and telling them what they're reading, that's gone," he added. "It's more about surfacing ideas and trends and responding to those."
Another example where PRH has used consumer insight to birth a campaign was Penguin Pride, launched in June to celebrate the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) author community, derived as a response to insight that younger readers wanted to talk about issues that were important to them.
"Coming from the film indusry where budgets are substantially larger than in publishing, there was often a tendency to spend you way out of a specific issue or problem," Hogan said. "What I love about publishing is that people are really creative and inventive about ways of reaching consumers, it's not just a massive advertising campaign. Marketing and publicity, they're so aligned; there's a proper end-to-end view of a campaign."