Dec 162010

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur has some interesting (if sometimes contradictory) observations, tips and advice for businesses and individuals  in this post: Things Not to Do on Social Media Sites UPDATE: Since this post was written, the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur site stopped publishing. The ten social media mistakes remain social media mistakes, but are now on this site.

Dec 102010

It was just a matter of time before the kinds of people who vandalized brands at world economic summits resorted to brand cyber-vandalism. The Wikileaks hacktivists recognize brands as political symbols, targeting global brands like Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, Amazon, Twitter and Shell.


Gone are the days when a brand was a simple guarantee of product quality. Brands today play a greater political, social, and economic role. Brand power extends far beyond products and companies to symbolize more powerful companies and larger issues.


Because of their symbolic power, brands are regularly co-opted to attract attention and dramatize political issues. That is how The Gap has become a symbol for sweatshops, McDonalds for the obesity epidemic, Walmart for labor violations, Disney for cultural imperialism, Barbie for sexism and on and on. Many brands are more powerful than sovereign nations. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations, not nations. This is exactly what has gotten Shell into trouble with the Wikileak revelations that the company is more powerful than the Nigerian government.

Brands as Political Symbols

Brands make abstract concepts simple and personal. Brands are in our homes, on our backs, and in our bodies. They are an accessible and satisfying target. Taking on armies and governments is daunting. Torching a Citibank or breaking the windows at a KFC is easy.


Ready or not, leaders of powerful brands must recognize that their roles and responsibilities have expanded. Symbolic use of brands in political, social, and economic debates is part of the new reality.

Dec 012010

mashable interviewToday on, customer engagement expert Matthew Latkiewicz writes about new social web online marketing trends. He notes that early marketing efforts in new media were really attempts to apply broadcast and print advertising techniques to this new world. But new thinkers are exploring new ways to communicate. This article, which quotes Merriam Associates, reviews what is working and what isn’t on the social web.


Nov 192010

Firefly Millward Brown’s New Rules for Brand Engagement study discusses the trouble brands are having effectively using social media. As we have discussed in previous posts, many marketers come across as insincere, pandering, or boring. The relationship/conversation thing seems to still stump many, many marketers. Consider the different Twitter approaches of the worlds’ leading car brands:

Toyota Social Media Use: Real People Tweeting Real Things

Toyota’s Twitter presence prominently introduces the people who are doing the tweeting:


Each of these people have their own pages as well:


And they are real people, not a marketing personae created to give the illusion of being genuine:


During the Toyota recall crisis of last winter, the Toyota Twitter page was full of genuine conversation. The Toyota tweeters didn’t rush in and defend. They did interject occasional facts and direction, but mostly let the social media conversation roar.

Chevrolet Social Media Use: Robots Tweeting Promotional Messages

By contrast, who knows who’s tweeting for Chevrolet. Their Twitter presence is visually attractive, but there is nothing social (i.e. relationship or conversation-oriented) about it.


chevrolet_twitterWhomever is the Chevy tweeter, they are clearly a PR machine, spewing out blather like:  “Introducing our new ad — this is how America gets work done.

Can you imagine someone at a cocktail party coming up to say that to you? Chevrolet violates many of the Firefly Millward Brown rules below, but mostly # 7. If you wouldn’t say it to a stranger at a party, think twice before tweeting it.

Ten Rules of Social Media

Be sure to download the full report from Millward Brown, but here is a recap of the 10 rules of social media:

      1. Don’t recreate your home page in social media: don’t rehash the same information people can get elsewhere.
      2. Listen first, then talk: create a dialogue
      3. Build trust by being open and honest: transparency is key.
      4. Give your brand a face: give consumers someone or something accountable for the brand.
      5. Offer something of value: give without wanting something in return.
      6. Be relevant: don’t be invasive without purpose.
      7. Talk like a friend, not a corporate entity: speak in simple, casual language.
      8. Give consumers some control: be comfortable with the fact that you can’t dictate the message any more.
      9. Let consumers find you/come to you: brands that seek consumers too fervently will be seen as intrusive and interruptive.
    10. Let consumers talk for you: people will advocate for brands they care about.

More on social media on this blog:
Ziploc: Boring Doesn’t Work as a Social Media Engagement Strategy
BP’s Social Media Slip Up: BP Can’t Tweet
Viral Marketing Can Make Your Brand Sick
Crash Branding–Brand Communication in a Crisis
And more

Nov 142010

Facebook’s launch of a new email client runs smack-dab into brand problems:

1) The Facebook brand lacks consumer trust:
It seems like every week, Facebook faces charges of releasing unauthorized user data or of making sneaky changes to user settings to exploit information on users without permission. How many people will trust Facebook with their email contact lists?

2) Facebook’s brand is about wasting time, not productivity:
All Facebook, the authoritative blog about Facebook strategy, functions, uses, points out that “Facebook would be suddenly moving into the world of productivity, something which until now has been the antithesis of Facebook.” Time wasting on Facebook is such that over 3000 people like Ziploc and connect to get tips on using plastic bags!
3) Facebook has a product that doesn’t address a need:
You can already send messages to people on Facebook. You already have a choice of hundreds of perfectly good email clients. What is the need is not already being addressed? People complain of being “too connected”–having to check voicemail, text messages, Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, email, etc. Is there a burning need to swap one of these out or add to them?

Facebook’s brand doesn’t include trust or productivity, so it lacks permission to extend to offering an email client. The lack of product purpose further un-clinches the deal.

Check out the comment thread on the Huffington Post. Get past the bashing of Jeffrey Zuckerberg, and the response is overwhelmingly negative for Facebook in the trust department.

Nov 132010

While I was taking out the recycling, this little brochure fluttered from my empty Ziploc package:


Wow! With a tagline of “Get more out of it!” I expect more out of Ziploc.

Maybe this major brand thought they needed to “do something” in social media, but couldn’t figure out what that something might be. It is hard to imagine anyone having so much free time that they would go to Facebook to get tips on using plastic bags. I checked up on and was shocked to find 3,723 people are indeed looking for Ziploc recipes and ideas. Though thousands more than I expected, that level of social engagement can’t possibly be worth the cost to print the flier.

Social engagement by big brands is becoming more sophisticated and effective every day. You don’t have to look too far to find ideas that work. Consider the fully integrated and interactive program behind the Mountain Dewmocracy campaign, or strategies that offer an attractive value, such as the Marshall’s Shopping Spree campaign, or the Visa campaign to promote their Visa Business Network connecting small businesses with one another. Another innovative winner is The Victoria’s Secret Facebook page that is rich with activities, including sneak previews, exclusive sale items, event notices, and even the PINK Undercover Fashion Challenge, where fans can create their own personal style collages and win money and “exposure”. This late in the game, marketers have no excuse to use Facebook to offer a few tips and recipes and call it a social engagement strategy.

Ziploc needs to rethink their Facebook effort. Boring is never a good, especially in social media. With some creative thinking Ziploc could turn their paltry 3, 723 likes into numbers approaching those of Victoria’s Secret nearing 7 million.

Nov 092010

Levia® launched a crowdsourcing video contest in September with much fanfare only to watch the entire effort fizzle. Called “Lights, Camera, Healing,” the program asked people to create and submit original videos extolling the virtues of the “healing power of light.” The Crowdsourcing idea famously worked for Doritos® in creating memorable (and cheap!) Super Bowl ads. The “Crash the Super Bowl” video crowdsource campaign garnered Doritos® tons of press and kudos. Yet, the same idea to crowdsource video for Levia® failed miserably.

Here are the three biggest reasons why:

1) You can’t crowdsource if you don’t have a crowd.

Doritos is a mega-brand will millions and millions of passionate consumers. And Levia®? You probably never heard of it. Levia® is a device that uses light to treat psoriasis. The set of people who suffer from psoriasis and who have heard of Levia® and who have the technical know-how to produce video and who care enough to come up with winning concepts about light’s power to heal is an infinitesimally small set of people–certainly not a crowd. Crowds are a necessary prerequisite for crowdsourcing.

<h2) You won’t attract attention without adequate bait.

Doritos fan-created video contest offers a $25,000 cash prize, a trip to the Super Bowl, a private party for the winner at the Super Bowl, plus the unimaginable fame of having your work broadcast during the SuperBowl. Producing a witty 5 minute video for Levia® takes a lot of work and creativity. And the prize was only $1000 for a video almost no one would ever see. If you don’t make it worth it, no one will make an effort.

3) If you make it too much work, it won’t work.

Coming up with a great idea for a video is hard work. Writing video scripts takes tremendous talent. That is why ad agencies get paid the big bucks. Producing video has gotten a lot easier, but producing video good enough for corporate use or for broadcast requires significant technical know how and experience. How to frame shots, how to light subjects, how to get great sound, how to edit effectively, and how to encode are all pretty heavy lifting. For most people, the effort is simply too great.

Take a crowdsourcing lesson from Levia®:
1) Make sure you really have a crowd
2) Create a campaign adequate to attracting enthusiastic participation
3) Make it as easy and fun as possible.

Oct 212010

Viral Marketing Can Make Your Brand Sick” was a post here from two years ago. Since that time, marketing executives have learned some key lessons. Take the current Mountain Dew Dewmocracy campaign. Here are the five key ingredients of its successful use of social media:

1) Social Media Needs to Be On Brand:

The campaign fits with the Mountain Dew brand positioning and targeting. The Dewmocracy campaign targets young, active, adventure seeking consumers who seek caffeine to keep going. Failed social media campaigns (like Motrin’s disdain for mothers who “wear” their children) are disconnected from the target consumer and hit the wrong notes (like Target which denigrated charming homemade Halloween costumes).

2) Social Media Takes Planning and Investment:

Pepsico, the owner of the Mountain Dew brand, fully committed to the campaign. Failed social media campaigns tend to be off-the-cuff ideas that lack the planning and investment needed for success , like the Dr. Pepper campaign (covered in the same Viral Marketing post). Dr. Pepper couldn’t keep up with demand and went back on their promise of a free can of soda to people who bought the new Guns N Roses album.

3) Social Media Is About the Conversation:

Give and take is built into the structure of the Dewmocracy campaign. Failed campaigns consist of companies just blasting away at the public with no conversation. Witness BP using Twitter to blare press release headlines, never actually engaging in conversation with people making comments or asking questions.

4) Social Media Is Integrated with Other Marketing Communications:

The Dewmocracy campaign was much, much more than a social media campaign. Social media was one integrated element in a program that included trucks bringing cans of product to events, online design tools, advertising (traditional and online), as well as a top-to-bottom PR campaign (get the details here). The failed Skittles “bold move” campaign was nothing but a Twitter feed that ended up dissing the brand.

5) Social Media Requires Being Genuine:

Dewmocracy created a real conversation about a real project of the company and led to the creation of a real new product. The “Starbucks My Idea” campaign comes across as “do something with social media” rather than a way to really interact with consumers to create real product innovation.

Social media can be a powerful marketing tool. Because it is new, fast and inexpensive, companies haven’t always taken its power seriously. But like any marketing tool, it takes solid thinking and considerable investment to make it work.

Oct 132010

Target’s mom-bashing ad makes you wonder: Don’t advertisers test their ads before broadcasting them–even in “broadcasting” is “just” YouTube and in-store media? This Target brand ad would never have passed the mom test:

While the outcry hasn’t reached the angry Motrin Mom level, Target has still made a mistake putting down a costume made by Mom to hawk cheap, store-bought, made-in-China costumes. Here is a smattering of the angry comments:

PixieRobot: “Target thinks your mom sucks.”

Fshfacegurl: “Homemade costume > storebought costume. No amount of money will buy a mom’s unconditional love. (Unless you’re Candy Spelling)”

Magog1138:Like “Seriously- That mom made him one hella BAD-ASS costume from stuff around the house. WTF, Target?”

Alex4T3Hwin: “First the gays, now moms. Who will Target alienate next? Shame on you Target. I’d rather have a light velcroed to my chest by mom who loves me than 20 dollars worth of ugly.”

And that’s just the YouTube commentary. The mommy blogs are lit up disgusted. Says one, “NOT Latina Mom Approved.”

Communicators for the Target brand just because an ad is “only” for the Web or “just” viral doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be put through the same rigorous approval process used for broadcast ads. In fact, ads on YouTube need MORE screening. You can always “pull” a broadcast ad, but once your communication is on the Web, it is “out there” forever.

May 032010

bp-social-mediaBP can’t seem to tweet. BP social media efforts hurt the brand

BP Doubles Down on Damage

My previous post discussed how the oil spill killed BP’s environmental brand positioning. BP’s response to the spill has done even more damage. While the company is focused on the disaster, surely their marketing people aren’t out personally mucking out the marshes (if so, that is a story worth telling). What are they doing now that they aren’t producing commercials in corn fields about biofuels?

No BP “Human Energy” in Social Media

While the accident is beyond the control of BP’s marketing department, the public response is not. For a company spending millions crowing about being about “human energy” and immodestly boasting of being “progressive, responsive and innovative”, their behavior has been anything but. Focusing just on BP’s performance in social media alone, the company fails across the board:

YouTube: How come some kid can instantly produce a video that appears in the top 20 YouTube search results (hoxvlog), and as of now, some 17 days after the disaster, BP’s resource-rich marketing team can’t produce one single video?

LinkedIn: BP’s LinkedIn profile makes zero mention of the disaster. In fact, the company’s only recent post is for a job opening in Libya. No employees of BP seem authorized to even so much as express condolences to families who lost loved ones.

Facebook: BP’s Facebook page has no activity, just a general corporate description taken from Wikipedia—in fact it looks like the BP presence is Wikipedia’s! Worse, our own Merriam Associates posts with the new “Crude BP” logo dominate the page.

Twitter: The corporate BP plc Twitter account is entirely empty—not even a logo or company description. The BP_America Twitter account is only marginally better. Still it took BP seven days to get out their first tweet. Since then, they have used Twitter solely to promote old-fashioned press releases. There is no “human energy”, human emotion, or evidence of human beings at BP at all. Their CEO should be out there offering condolences, expressing gratitude to people helping with the clean up, posting news, insights or human-interest information.

Live the Brand in Social Media

We live in an age where media never sleeps. BP, instead of being the progressive, responsive innovator their marketing claims, is old-fashioned, guarded, cold, and aloof. Many companies are caught off-guard with no social media strategy when disaster strikes (see my previous post on Crash Branding). But not all companies have made such a big show of being better and more innovative.

Twitter Assistance: Help BP Tweet

With the money, manpower and effort BP is throwing into dealing with this disaster, surely BP has something worthwhile, even positive, to say. Maybe they just need some help from savvy marketers and people who understand Twitter. Suggest some tweets for BP and we will post the best ones here and on Twitter @BP_TweetHelp. No BP bashing, please.

© 2014 Lisa Merriam