Tag Archives: branding

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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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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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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