Time and again, studies show that people’s trust in advertising is going down while word of mouth goes up. Digital is accelerating that. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, we can easily get recommendations from friends and networks. That’s great.
Where does that leave our advertiser friends? Well, if their product and service is wonderful, it’s great. People get to tell others about it – and it’s free. OK, so let’s talk about everyone else. Well, ads in Facebook do OK – better than a lot of what you read would make you think – but they’re clearly not enough. Twitter is full of advertising, only its mostly social media gurus, ninjas and black belts pimping their services or regular users marketing themselves. That’s where charities come in.
See, marketers have to get us to do the marketing for them. But that sounds a little too Amway for most people. After all, if I offered you $10 to send some marketing message to a bunch of friends, you probably wouldn’t do it. Ah, but what if I asked you to add a Facebook app and invite 10 friends to do the same? That works. This is what was going on last night at the P&G Digital Hack Night, when P&G got a bunch of agency types, media execs and others to troop to Cincy to perform for it. The idea: use social media to get people to buy Tide t-shirts –- some of the proceeds going to Feed America -- with an emphasis on "use." It was cooked up as a marketing exercise for the CPG giant’s army of brand managers to see the true power of social media.
It was really the corporate version of the #daniela cause David Armano took up last month. What quickly ensued can only be described as a social media telethon. People were encouraged to retweet the message, leading to a mess of Twitter activity around Tide. There were offers from popular bloggers and Twitterers to give links to those who bought t-shirts. Jerry Lewis, meet Twitter. It was all captured with a hashtag for bright-eyed brand managers to contemplate how to get their CPG marketing done through Twitter. I’m sure the gerbils in their head were working overtime on the treadmill calculating the “earned media” value. I'm not sure if the use of Twitter qualifies as a success. The AdAge summarizes the lessons this way:
Fewer than 150 media and marketing people leaning heavily on their social-media friends and followers, resorting to big-name incentives and spending a total of about $4,000 on digital media can sell more than 2,000 T-shirts at $20 a pop for charity and hit the top 10 trending topics on Twitter in the process.
This was a marketing exercise, nothing more, yet I wonder if it’s going in the wrong direction. The optimistic view of all this is it’s a win-win-win for users, charities and marketers. After all, users get to feel like they’re doing some good, charities get some needed cash and marketers get some nice buzz. Awesome. The problem is charities are being used to get people over the ickiness of marketing for gigantic corporations. As was pointed out yesterday, if people really want to help Feed America, they can donate to it directly. Why is P&G needed? (Only about $6 of the $20 for the t-shirt went to the charity, according to the Q&A on Logic + Emotion.) What's more, even as a marketing exercise, the lessons it is teaching the world's largest advertiser is social media is a great place to broadcast stuff, even if it's untargeted by going to people who couldn't buy the t-shirts outside the U.S. Using charities as a guise for people to do marketing for enormous corporations gives me the creeps. Even among the tenuous relationship in Twitter, what happens when we commercialize those bonds? Do any of us want an avalanche of application requests and corporate-sponsored retweets? I take a dim view of these attempts to prey on people’s do-gooder instincts for some marketing exercise. Am I too cynical?