Month: January 2011

How to really piss off your “fans” -about time Facebook invented a “Dislike” button

Just saw this news piece from CNN

The quick summary is that Facebook will be allowing advertisers to use status updates that mention their brand as part of a “sponsored story” to any friends of the person who posted the update.

I’m half hoping that that is a spoof news story, because if it is true it is slightly horrifying, and a major shot in the foot by Facebook. It smacks of greed and desperation as Facebook continue to try to monetise their huge audience but without thinking about how their cash cow might react.

You can imagine the kind of discussion that led to this initiative

“Word of mouth is the single biggest influence on consumer brand preference isn’t it?”
“Yeah, so what brands want is to get as many advocates as possible right?”
“Right, so how about we allow brands to hijack positive user attitudes and stick a badge on it, surely that will work?”
“Yeah and we can charge them shit loads for the priviledge”
“Right… so will our users get upset that we are making money out of their status updates?”
“Who gives a fuck, it’s our site, if they don’t like it they can use MySpace!”
“Ho Ho Ho!”

It’s just wrong on so many levels

1) The power of WOM is that it is natural and spontaneous – If people have already bothered to include a brand in their status then a lot of their friends will already have seen it in a natural organic way and it has done it’s job. Taking that status out of context and treating it as a “sponsored story” can’t really add anything to the intial impact and instead makes it forced and unnatural and defeats the power of WOM

2) Consumers consider themselves to be the owners of any content they put on Facebook (or any other social network for that matter). To highlight to them in such a blatant way that as far as Facebook is concerned they own all content on the site is highly dangerous.

3) Who knows what the consumer response might be a) They might stop using any brand mentions because they don’t want to be associated with the advertising, b) They might start actively putting up negative brand mentions in the hope that they are accidentally paid for by the brand that has been mentioned, c) It might become the final straw for some people who are sick of the invasion of privacy and they’ll just leave Facebook

I’ve got more thoughts than time on this, I’ll have to come back to it later, but I do think that Facebook need to be incredibly careful here. You get the sense that they think they are invincible and untouchable, which is incredible considering their swift rise to prominence at the expense of other networks. No-one is indispensible in the digital world – just ask Lycos, AltaVista, IBM, Friendster, MySpace, MTV, AOL, Teletext – please feel free to add many more examples.

Shame on you Facebook

Marketing Assumptions – making an ass of you and mption.

I was involved in a discussion today about a client of mine that shall remain nameless, but has caused me to think about some of the basic assumptions that we tend to make in the marketing and particularly advertising industries and whether or not they are still (or were ever) true.

I was told today in a fairly categorical way that there are 3 basic things that every brand needs to do

1) It needs to make itself visible
2) It needs to make itself findable
3) It needs to stand for something

The assertion was that if a brand was not delivering on one of these areas then it would be fundamentally failing. This point was particularly being used to push home point 3) i.e. that we needed to do some Brand led advertising to establish the “positioning” of our brand in the category.

Initially it was quite easy just to go along with this as it supports pretty much all of the campaigns I have ever worked on, but then I started to ask the simple question “Why?”

Once I started to do that I realised that there were very successful and growing brands that “failed” on one, two or even all three counts.

I considered the energy category in the UK (I happen to work on one of the leading brands) and realised that the number 2 brand which has come out of nowhere in the past 5 years is Scottish and Southern. Scottish and Southern have virtually no brand advertising, well certainly none that I’ve ever seen, they don’t sponsor anything that I’m aware of either. And they don’t “stand for” anything that is differentiated in any way, their product is identical to everyone elses, Yet by simply focusing on getting their costs down and taking advantage of the online brokers, they have managed to steal a huge amount of market share. So of the 3 “must-do’s” they actually only do one and are very successful in doing so.

I then thought of a brand that actually has managed to be incredibly successful without making any effort to succeed at any of the 3. You all wear it and Bloomberg rated it as one of the top 30 most influential companies in the world a couple of years ago, you’ve even seen it on this page, yet there is a significant chance that you’ve never heard of it – YKK (stands for Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha) are the initials that adorn most of the zippers in the world, but as far as I’m aware, they’ve never had a brand advertising campaign, they don’t have a brand positioning and I can’t even see a search strategy when I type zippers into Google, but I believe that they are one of the most prolific brands in the world.

And before you say “they aren’t a brand, they are just a product” then why are they now facing a counterfeiting problem with people making fake YKK zips.

Now you could argue that YKK stands for quality and Scottish and Southern stand for cheapness, but that could be just our marketing heads trying to force these brands into the models that we understand. I’m pretty sure that YKK never sat down and created a brand “onion” or compared themselves to a famous personality, they just got on with making good zips and getting clothing companies to put them on their products (Oh and a bit of illegal price fixing along the way leading to a €150million fine from the European courts!)

Anyway, the point is that we so quickly jump to answers in our industry that we simply don’t stop and ask “Why?” enough. Sometimes it is because we think that the client doesn’t know the answer and sometimes it is because we know that they do and we won’t like it. I don’t think that’s good enough. If we really want to make a difference for our clients and the brands we work on we have to start to challenge the fundamental assumptions sometimes and it just takes one word.

It’s Easy!