bff with a brand

Yesterday’s New York Times article entitled, “Do You Want to ‘Friend’ a Detergent?” provides a vivid description of what’s wrong with marketing these days.  It discusses the attempts by brands like Tide and Crest to employ “social advertising” and points out the limitations of such efforts.

The article reports on Procter & Gamble’s 11-month old campaign for “2X Ultra Tide” featuring a page on Facebook that invites members to post “their favorite places to enjoy stain-making moments” (not sure what those are — Italian restaurants??).  Apparently the page has received only 18 submissions including two from the Company, two from someone at The Onion, and several one-word posts like “Tide-alicious.”

It seems the marketers behind this failed campaign are misguided — they are putting the desire to engage their target audience in a culturally relevant manner ahead of applying simple logic to their marketing approach.  I say this because they are engaging a program that seems disconnected from the marketing objective.

FaceBook may be a great way to spark a cultural phenomenon for your brand (I’ll let others debate that point) but I suspect the objective of the 2X Ultra Tide campaign and many others like it is simply to prompt product trial.  So, why not engage marketing tactics that actually facilitate trial?  Sharing stories about stain-making moments seems pretty far removed from activating trial.

Back when I worked as an account planner for the advertising agencies for brands like Burger King and Land Rover among others, my primary role was identifying, describing, and framing the advertising task — “why are we advertising?” Grounded by this insight, creative directors and media planners would then identify the appropriate tactics.  I fear this discipline lost out to the desire to jump on the social media bandwagon.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for marketing innovation — it must be grounded in specific marketing objectives.  After all, marketing is not an end unto itself, right?

In the article Ted McConnell, the interactive marketing manager at P&G, explains, “All brands want consumers to be their ‘friends,'” but he himself reluctantly admits this really doesn’t make sense — “It’s just stuff.”  I find his comment quite revealing.

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