This piece is dedicated to Molly and Stacy. Molly is eleven years old. Stacy is a devoted mother of three youngsters and an active participant in important community affairs in the small town where I live. What they have in common is gluten intolerance.

That’s where web based marketing comes in. General Mills has been rolling out its product line to meet the needs of this population segment for over a year. On July 2, they announced that they would promote it without relying on their mainstay advertising campaign based on broadcast and the like.

Gluten intolerance affects a small portion of population, so this will not be a mass market line. But, sufferers will seek answers somewhere. And these days most of us use the web as a primary destination for health research. If you’re like me, at the first hint of pain or fever, you rush to and search on the symptoms.

So, General Mills sees the value in using non-traditional channels to build a following and then provide information. Will a community of interest grow around this, with all the elements – forums, targeted offerings, advice and all sorts of multi-directional conversations? Will it provide General Mills with the major market share in this niche line, and with a loyal customer segment? How much penetration of the market will they achieve, over what period of time, and at what cost for marketing and promotion? I am sure marketing and communications professionals will watch how this turns out. Let’s see what other CPG companies do in the way of focused, high impact digital programs.

For Molly, Stacy and many others, the chance to live unhindered by this malady will be welcome. Maybe that will be the best metric of all.

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