Social Media & Cutting the Digital Mustard

Kara Swisher in the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D Blog discusses the fact that the big swinging brands and ad buyers on Madison Avenue are not finding social media as endearing as users.

It’s a good read, though I would have liked a bit more depth and thought.  Its a bit too puffy, not much to it.  Her premise is basically saying that yes there’s a lot of user promise in Social Media (Facebook, My Space, and a host of other social media apps), these eyeballs and the user engagement are not yet delivering angles for big packaged goods brands to engage and extend their brands.   Given the newness of these services, it’s a pretty obvious statement without much thought or exploration on potentially insightful examples or possibilities.  That’s too bad, so here I’ll try to add a few thoughts. 

First, my business hypothesis: social media will only grow and expand, and advertisers will figure out how to adjust.  Social media networks will continue to grow, as it’s more personalized, never stale, and ultimately technology merged with talking.  The idea that somehow people would stop sharing information or kibbitzing or whatever is to me pretty far-fetched. Whether social media drives the valuations that are currently being seen is not clear, but there will be social media.

Advertisers, while they may think that according to Swisher, ‘no one wants a relationship with their mustard,’ will need to do some innovation.  I tend to agree with Swisher that not as much innovation has occurred here as needed, but I also tend to think that there’s more that’s occurred here than she’s given them credit for.

For example, I thought the TeaPartay by Smirnoff Ice was pretty strong.  It certainly got plenty of play on YouTube and is pretty prominently distributed via key social media networks like Facebook.  When you consider the youthful demographics of social media network and the impact this campaign had, I’d argue it was a highlight in terms of using this new media to establish economically and intelligently a new branding position. 

As to how the canonical mustard (and other brands) might someday embrace and use social media to build and extend their brand building, here are some ideas.

  • Locally oriented promos / advertising.  Social media is going to have a big impact on locally-oriented conversations.  (What’s happening in town around church, politics, friends, etc.)  This is a new type of conversation, there will be opportunities here.  Particularly for local brands–for those of us from Western Pennsylvania, Iron City Beer has opportunities on Facebook groups dedicated to the Steelers, for example.  Rinse and repeat broadly.
  • Micro-Sponsorships.  Imagine I buy 2 gallons of mayo at Costco, and at checkout they ask whether I want to get that at 99 cents in return for advertising my purchase on Facebook.  I’d take that kind of action in a second.  I ring up my purchase and poof on FBK a little note goes up, and the first 10 who click on my sponsorships will get the same deal.  I’d expect that’d help.
  • Fun.   One of the cool things on social media networks is that they’re fun.  Where these brands can conceive of not being so serious and can find fun ways to inject themselves in the conversation, then this could work.  The Elf thing from Office Max was pretty good around this.
  • Amazement.  For something like a Snicker’s Bar, it’s hard to imagine sharing a story on the product is going to amaze anyone.  At the same time, there are plenty of very exciting new consumer products that can amaze.  The Swifter, the Dyson, a variety of cosmetic products—when they deliver breakthrough experiences–have the opportunity to drive very positive WOM advertising via these networks.  I get Kara’s point that if you’re talking about mustard and there’s not much new, then this tactic isn’t going to do much.    

My personal view is that we are heading into what will be a great transformation in media consumption with the rise of social media.  How ads and promotions are built, delivered, consumed, and measured is likely going to change dramatically.  It should be a great ride!

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2 Comments

Filed under business, entrepreneurship, internet, tech, technology

2 responses to “Social Media & Cutting the Digital Mustard

  1. Pingback: Glassdoor’s Conundrum : Making Clear the Ad Revenue Model Challenge « leaving the flock

  2. Pingback: Don’t Be Surprised: Coca-Cola Builds Social Media Widget « leaving the flock

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