The truth and nothing but the truth

7 05 2009

pinnochioIn the world of social media, you cannot be lying to your customers.

In the age of Wikipedia, user generated content, a searchable history on Google – it is near impossible to lie without being found out.

Audiences are now media savvy, wary customers – no longer believing unconditionally what brands and companies tell them.

Now I have spoken about my feelings on the now infamous Witchery Man debacle on Community Girl previously, but I did have the opportunity to hear from the agency responsible for the campaign at the recent Social Media Club Sydney.

Adam Ferrier spoke of successful figures, an extremely satisfied client and brand awareness beyond anyone’s expectations, but unfortunately also spoke about lying to your consumers for the sake of a campaign being acceptable in some situations.

While I definitely give recognition to Adam’s upfront honesty, his willingness to talk about the campaign with a public audience, and his acknowledgment of mistakes that his agency made – I still believe that “honesty is the best policy” (pardon the cliche).

Lying to consumers for the sake of a viral campaign or awareness only further damages the brand when the lies are discovered. Audiences are already suspicious enough, you only have to read the discussion on Mumbrella’s recent post “Agency’s cereal intruder”. People are already calling foul on the story, claiming it must be the beginnings of a albeit creative, Uncle Toby’s campaign.

Apart from the Witchery Man, and Best Job in the World incidents, there are numerous examples of campaigns that have taken a turn for the worst, when their true motives have been uncovered:

Just to name a few…

Paull Young has a fantastic post on the impact of similar campaigns on brands trust and reputation – in “Worshipping at the False Church of Viral”
Do you think it s ever reasonable to deceive your customers for the sake of a campaign?

Do you think a campaign is ever successful when it has initially lied to it’s audience?

Do these campaigns subsequently damage the reputations of brands, or does it damage our industry?

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Should I meet you here or there?

6 04 2009

communityI have had a lot of discussions of late about the validity of “destination” communities. In Australia, most social media campaigns utilise pre-existing social networking platforms like Facebook, to engage with their audience.

My line of work deals predominantly with destination communities, that is online-communites which are built specifically for a brand or a topic. These sites will typically include functions ranging from a blog, a discussion board, surveys, member profiles, to an idea exchange, and voting.

At the recent Ad:Tech several speakers talked about social media being all about “going to where your consumers are”. So if your target market is 16 – 21 year old males, then setting up shop in youtube, Facebook and Myspace is where you need to consider.

But I don’t think that this is necessarily the case. How many brands have arrived at Facebook just to set up an unseen and unvisited group/profile, or created an application that quickly became hidden amongst the other millions of applications that exist on Facebook?

The US has numerous (hundreds and hundreds) examples of successful destination communities, that engage a large audience, have a high percentage of return visitors, and exist completely removed from any of the well established social networking platforms.

For most in agency land I can imagine that setting up a campaign in a pre-populated network makes a lot of sense, takes less time/money/effort to set up, and when the campaign finishes, users are left to communicate on the site.

Destination communities are set up for the long term – used to establish relationships and loyalty with their customers.

Which do you think works better in today’s digital age?

Is it a good idea for companies to be entering people’s social networking space to try and involve them in a brand – or do consumers feel like these sites should be left solely for interaction with their friends and family?

Should they be used to complement each other?

Examples of these destination online-communities:

And the list goes on…