Monthly Archives: October 2009

1-800-Flowers.com Facebook Fanpage: A Review

1-800-Flowers recently began a new social media campaign on Facebook to interact with their customers. The beauty of this campaign is that it not only “brings the shopping experience to where the customers already are,” but it also allows customers to interact with one another by providing them with ability to send flowers to friends on their birthdays.

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First, members of the fan page receive a 20% off discount code on purchases, and the convenience of shopping directly from facebook without having to leave the site.  Then, in a campaign called “Birthday Shoutout,” fanpage members get the chance to win free flowers for their friends by entering friends’ birthdays in the database.

Members are also eligible to win prizes in weekly drawings in a campaign called the “floral ambush,” where 10 winners are surprised with a floral bouquet each week. The site also sends out newsfeeds updates congratulating the winners, and alerting fans to new contests and products.

Unfortunately, while searching for “1-800-Flowers” facebook fan page, the first page that comes up is a club called “1-800-Flowers Sucks.” The actual 1-800-Flowers fanpage is listed under 1-800-Flower.com. In a previous post I mentioned how negative brand buzz is so easily perpetuated on social networking sites. As easily as someone can be a brand advocate, they can be a brand “hater.” The positive buzz generated from the 1-800-Flowers.com fanpage will probably drown out the negative buzz from the “1-800-Flowers Sucks” site (especially since the brand’s site has over 7,000 members, while “Sucks” has only 124).

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Despite negative buzz from the “Sucks” page, I find the new 1-800-Flowers social networking campaign ingenious because it directly connects the brand with its consumers, and then encourages those consumers to connect with one another. In the very act of giving someone flowers, the brand message spreads from mouth to mouth through the social media platform.

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Can Social Media Be Bad for Brands?

As someone who is interested in the intersection between branding and social media, I am also an advocate of social media as a marketing tool. There is a whole world of cutting edge techniques out there that can help brands connect with their consumers. Interacting with the consumer, updating them on news, offers, promotions, generating buzz – these are all things brands want to do. Right?

But when, if ever, is it not necessary or not appropriate to utilize social media as a brand building technique? Is it ever unnecessary? Can it actually even be damaging?

In some instances, it may not make sense for certain companies and/or brands to use social media. It may be superfluous if it’s not the most effective way to reach their target market. I’m thinking of very small businesses with walk-in clientele in high foot traffic areas. Out of the company’s marketing budget, the most cost-effective way to drive business and generate buzz may be to hand out fliers, distribute price menus or advertise special promotions/offers/coupons on paper. While it is always important to have a website for prospective customers to find out more about your brand, if taking the time to generate buzz via social media is simply not the most effective way to reach your consumers, and the time it takes to craft this kind of marketing campaign may be an unnecessary expense.

But when can social media actually be damaging to a brand?

If the campaign is not thought through and executed by the brand’s marketing team, the results can be negative, and even generate unfavorable buzz for the brand. Bombarding the consumer with constant annoying reminders with too much information, propagating annoying and pointless updates, and over-sharing (the dreaded “TMI”) can create a negative brand perception. Brands should craft their message to reflect their core values, and always speak in their own carefully constructed tone of voice. Updates should always consist of relevant, useful, surprising or exciting information, and over-sharing should be avoided, lest the brand’s target customer get irritated and unsubscribe from the newsfeed… or even worse, start generating bad buzz for the brand.

That leads us to a possible negative consequence of branding and social media. If a brand’s product, service, etc. is not up to consumer’s standards, the consumer is going to be disappointed. Sometimes they may even be angry. And bad buzz can spread just as quickly as good buzz. Think of the Jetblue debacle in 2007. After a storm caused cancellations and delays of hundreds of flights,  rather than put their passengers in hotels for the night, Jetblue kept them on runways, for over 10 hours in some cases. While consumers weren’t surprised that an airline would do this sort of thing, they were surprised that the airline in question was Jetblue, a brand built primarily on customer service. So Jetblue had a major PR crisis on their hands, and they needed to act quickly to undo the major damage done to their brand image. They to sincerely apologized to consumers and promptly revamped their Consumer Bill of Rights. And now, they closely monitoring social networking sites for anything that’s being said about their brand.

Jetblue, whose Twitter account has over a million followers, also has a small team of marketers who manage the brand’s presence on Twitter. This October a woman tweeted from Seattle’s airport that Jetblue’s birthday present to her was that they forgot to bring her a wheelchair. Within minutes, Jetblue tweeted their apology, and notified the flight’s crew to quickly right the situation.

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Social media is a forum for brand buzz in general, and companies need to closely monitor these networks to keep an eye on what’s being said about their brand. Brands need make sure their own messaging and campaigns are relevant, exciting, and actually newsworthy. Companies also need to keep a close eye on what consumers are saying about their brand. By being aware of the message, the brand can head off negative brand buzz, or even listen to what consumers are saying and make necessary changes to their product or service.

So we see that while sometimes social media may not be necessary for all types of businesses to build brand their brand, the buzz generated by social media needs to be closely monitored, lest a company’s service or offering generate negative perceptions in the marketplace.

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Why Social Media? It’s All In The Numbers

The thing that we often forget about social media marketing campaigns is that these new approaches are accomplishing even more than traditional advertising, but at a fraction of the cost. The bottom line is that these campaigns are cheaper and more effective! What’s not to love?!

Consumers don’t want to be bombarded with ads – that model has lost credibility. There’s too much to weed through, consumers can easily tune out ad messaging, and no one believes advertising anyway.  Furthermore, word of mouth messaging is much more influential when consumers are making decisions about what they buy. According to Justin Kirby and Paul Marsden in their book Connected Marketing, 92% of Americans prefer to get their product information by word of mouth, and 76% say that word of mouth is the number one factor in making purchasing decisions.

Check out these statistics regarding ROI in advertising – you’ll see why companies have turned to a cheaper, more effective method of generating buzz about their products.

  • 18%: Proportion of TV advertising campaigns generating positive ROI
  • 54 cents: Average return in sales for every $1 spent on advertising
  • 256%: The increase in TV advertising costs (CPM) in the past decade
  • 84%: Proportion of B2B marketing campaigns resulting in falling campaigns
  • 100%: The increase needed in advertising spent to add 1 – 2% in sales
  • 14%: Proportion of people who tryst advertising information
  • 90%: Proportion of people who can skip TV ads who do skip TV ads
  • 80%: Market share of video recorders with ad skipping technology in 2008
  • 95%: The failure rate of new product introductions
  • 117: The number of prime TV spots in 2002 needed to reach 80% of the adult population – up from just 3 in 1965
  • 3000: Number of advertising messages people are exposed to per day
  • 56%: Proportion of people who avoid buying products from companies who they think advertise too much
  • 65%: Proportion of people who believe that they are constantly bombarded with too much advertising
  • 69%: Proportion of people interested in technology or devices that would enable them to skip or block advertising*

These numbers say only one thing: companies with products to promote needed to find new solutions to their marketing problems. Advertising just isn’t accomplishing its goals as effectively as even ten years ago. While the repercussions of this shift in the marketing/advertising model have absolutely turned the ad agency industry on its head, it has indeed forced companies and agencies alike to be more creative and resourceful in their solutions. These new solutions both save companies money on marketing budgets, and more buzz and more sales. So, while companies need to adapt their approach to marketing, agencies need to adapt as well, in order to provide marketing solutions that utilize new media to its fullest extent.

* source: Justin Kirby and Paul Marsden, Connected Marketing: Viral, and Word Mouth Revolution (Oxford: Elsevier, 2006), xix

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VS Pink’s Social Media Marketing: A Review

Along the same lines of Tostitos using college spirit as a vehicle for engaging their consumers, Victoria’s Secret Pink is using social media to tap into their target market. VS Pink is an entire line of clothing with a collegiate look and feel, geared toward the university crowd with blocky lettering on sweats (“University of Pink!”) and youthful design for underwear and  jeans.

The facebook group, Pink Nation, seems to exist primarily to direct fans to the Pink website. The fan page immediately provides a link to VSPink.com and saying only, “Become a PINK Nation member at https://secure.vspink.com/pink_nation.jsp and receive TONS of exclusive offers, coupons and other awesome deals courtesy of PINK by Victoria’s Secret.” That’s all. No further info on these exclusive offers, deals, etc. However, the recent news section does tell fans about the Pink Back To School party, and directs fans to their website to vote on the host city/college. Neato. Although the group does have over 2,000 members, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of interaction on the site with only one discussion group, no photos, and only 8 comments on the wall.

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I’ve clicked on the provided link, and am back at the Pink Nation website. Here I’m encouraged to vote for a school to become part of the VS Pink Class of 2009. Once my school of choice has garnered enough votes, VS Pink will begin producing sweats and other gear with that school’s colors, mascot, etc, to be sold at stores in the region around the college or university. This seems like a solid campaign, something I can imagine the target market would actually want, since I’m sure Victorias Secret makes more comfortable sweats than the selection available at a college bookstore. However, none of this information is available on the Pink Nation Facebook page. You’d think VS Pink would want to get buzz going on the space frequented by their target consumers…! Where are the updates? Discussion topics? Newsfeeds? In the spirit of the college grading system, I give this site a B.  It’s nice that you have a presence, but the Facebook page itself is not providing fans with anything exclusive or new.

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On the Pink Nation page on Twitter, TeamVSPink has over 5,000 followers, 200+ tweets, and updates their feed fairly regularly. Their tweets range from trivia about VS models, updates on Pink promotions, college events news, etc. Twitter is primarily a place to update followers on activities, so I think VSPink is doing a good job of staying on top of their followers newsfeed. I don’t know how they reach out to generate new followers, but this site seems to be pretty active in keeping followers informed. I give TeamVSPink an A for utilizing this social medium to its fullest potential.

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My overall thoughts on VS Pink’s success in stirring up buzz via social media are that they have an interesting campaign and concept. By allowing fans to participate in the company, voting on cities where parties are hosted, what college should have Pink gear produced with their colors, they are engaging their target. Generating buzz about these promotions seems to be more successful on Twitter than on Facebook.  I give the whole thing an B+… I think the concept is better than the promotions, which is what we’re really looking at. If VS Pink beefs up their Facebook presence and activity,  maybe I’ll consider upping this grade to an A-.

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Platform for Individuality: How Can Brands Tap In?

Social media (facebook, twitter, etc) has found success because it has provided another space for users to proclaim their individuality. It’s a place where participants can assert their identities, a place to chose what and who they align themselves with, to chose what they pay attention to. At the same time it is a platform to engage in a dialogue with others. What does the network know about that is unique and cool? What are they dismissing as a fad?

An important part of self expression is brand alignment. What brands the consumer buys, uses, displays, and wears is a form self expression, both internal and external.  Brands should therefore be looking to social media as another opportunity to allow consumers to express themselves via the brand. They can do this in two ways: by creating another platform for discussion, e.g. Kellogg’s Special K and their forum for weight loss discussion on their facebook page (for more info: http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/esearch/e3i2a5df3fecd0d178335b5a67c873c849c), or by providing updates about contests, news, new collections, products, services, etc through a newsfeed. Simply allowing consumers/social media users to become “brand fans” isn’t enough – brands need to give their consumers something to talk about, to engage them in conversation, or better yet, provide them with a place to have those conversations.

Simply slapping an advertisement on the right hand side of a facebook page isn’t necessarily enough for a consumer – they see through it like they see through fads. Being relevant, and constantly keeping the consumer aware of the brand’s status, is what keeps them talking, forming opinions, asserting their values. Because social media allows users a place to express what they believe to be cool by engaging in a dialogue, brands can capitalize on this by doing the same: coming up with new ways to express their core values, and telling their consumer about it, and allowing them to answer back.

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Even My “Favorite Brand” Does Social Networking

Once during an interview for a project management position at a branding agency, I was asked by the president of the company, “What is your favorite brand?” Dumbly, I the first thing out of my mouth was “Tostitos!”
I think I even surprised myself with this response. I had blurted Tostitos, a corn chip that I don’t even keep in the house anymore, I now I had to rationalize why I said it was my favorite brand – why I chose to say this over say, Butterfield Market, my favorite place to get gourmet groceries and coffee in a beautiful and unique to-go cup, Fredrick Fekkai, my favorite line of hair products that magically makes every day a good hair day, or Fragonard, my favorite French perfume, whose factory I visited on a romantic vacation on the South of France. These are brands that I could easily gush over, brands I’ve established a strong emotional connection with. But now I’d said Tostitos, and I had to defend it.

I quickly scrambled, rationalizing that to me, this was a nostalgic brand, something my mother has kept around the house since childhood. I said I loved their recent innovation with the bowl shaped chip (TOSTITOS® SCOOPS!® to be exact) ideal for dipping. When you open a fresh bag of chips, you always know what you are going to get – that fresh-bag-of-chips-smell, the perfectly formed unbroken ones on the top of the bag, the gratifying salty crunch when eaten plain, made even better when mingled with the picante sweetness of mango salsa or better still: a glob of guacamole.

Ok, ok, I’ve got to admit that eating Tostitos, makes for a pretty good “total brand experience.” While they’re no Target, Starbucks, or Mac in the branding department, they can still make my mouth water.
Since apparently they’re my “favorite brand,” my first instinct was to check out what Tostitos is doing by way of social network marketing as the topic for my first blog entry. What I found was kind of cool.

Last year Frito-Lay created a competition called “Race to the Bowl,” a marketing campaign that was tied to the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. Students from the competing teams, University of Texas and the Ohio State, submitted essays about why they were their school’s “ultimate fan, ” and Tostitos selected the 6 best from each school. The chosen competitors then raced from New York City to Glendale, Arizona, site of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, for a shot at a $200,000 scholarship. A series of challenges (including a contest of which team could paint the most people’s faces in their school’s colors) were documented on Facebook. Fans could follow the team’s progress, and the event culminated the night before the big game, with winners announced at halftime.

Through their Race to the Bowl campaign, Tostitos effectively utilized social media to create an emotional tie to their consumers. Tostitos are a fantastic football game snack. Championship games are hugely emotional events. “Ultimate fans” are hugely emotional about their teams. College aged kids invented the phenomenon that is Facebook. Tostitos linked all of these, created another layer of competition, and presto – the brand is utilizing social networking as a marketing campaign to create an emotional connection with their target.

So, while maybe at the time, “Tostitos” didn’t seem like the best answer to “what is your favorite brand,” they certainly seem to be utilizing social networking in their branding and marketing efforts.

To read more about the competition, check out: http://promomagazine.com/games/tostitosruns/
http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS38347+06-Jan-2009+PRN20090106
http://www.facebook.com/tostitosracetothebowl
http://www.fritolay.com/about-us/press-release-20090105.html

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