News “broke” yesterday of a very smart social media marketing campaign by Mattel – Ken, the apparently “ex” boyfriend doll of Barbie, the iconic doll that’s a staple of American culture, is courting her via various online and social activities, trying to win her back. So far the campaign appears to be centered on Facebook, where it’s largely focused on tapping into Barbie’s nearly 1.7 million fans (poor Ken rates only 27K).
Character-based profiles on social media sites aren’t new, though their success can vary. It largely depends on how committed the brand is to staying true to the character voice, if they stick with the effort beyond a short-lived campaign, and how well they capture the elements of the character that appeal most to fans.
Mattel seems to be hitting well on each of those elements with Barbie, and it’s a smart move to turn Barbie’s attention to her on-again, off-again significant other Ken in order to create a bit of online drama that her fans can eagerly connect with (after all, this effort might be all about building the Ken brand anew, but it will the strength of Barbie’s fan base that makes it happen).
It’s apparently a useful vehicle for Mattel to work in partner promotions, as evidenced by the recent posts promoting Match.com and The Magnolia Bakery. I’d also be interested to see how and if this campaign gets tied into the “Genuine Ken” reality show.
As this campaign extends out over Twitter and Foursquare, to compliment the current Facebook and video/TV efforts, it’s shaping up to be a fun example of a solid multi-network social media campaign.
Roughly 48 hours ago Cooks Source Magazine was a fairly obscure print publication “for food lovers in Western New England.”
Today it’s Case Study #1 for how fast a social media firestorm can move. The case itself is bad enough for any number of reasons, an almost ridiculous example of (alleged, to keep the lawyers happy) copyright violation on a grand scale, and one that keeps getting grander as the day goes on and more people get involved. For a great overview of the issue, go read Edward Champion’s take: “The Cooks Source Scandal: How a Magazine Profits on Theft.” Time has a nice summary as well.
For those who don’t have time, the short version:
- Writer discovers her apple pie recipe has appeared in an obscure print magazine without her permission;
- Writer repeatedly attempts to contact the magazin’e editor to resolve the issue;
- Magazine editor at last replies with an insanely condescending email that essentially claims all content on the Internet is public domain, and in fact they writer should pay *her* for the great editing work she did (it’s an instant ‘Net classic, a must read);
- The rest of the Web piles on. And on. And on. Oh my. Oh wait…and on (Facebook).
- In the process, writers and editors from other major cooking publications discover that all sorts of their content has apparently been used without permission by the magazine. Hundreds of people crowdsource evidence and post to various Facebook groups.
- Two new memes launch: #buthonestlymonica Twitter hashtag, and the idea of blaming Cooks Source for all the ills of the world (from Windows Vista to Obama’s birth certificate to peeing on The Dude’s rug).
There’s more, and I admit it’s one enormously captivating train wreck to watch unfold live and online. The editor’s replies are a text book example of how *not* to respond to critics (and bloggers), and a simple and genuine mea culpa up front likely would have meant none of us would be reading about Cooks Source today (or ever).
However the key lesson to my eye is the speed at which this tiny scandal blew up into a big one, and how fast an obscure but otherwise functioning brand has been completely destroyed.
How Social Media Can Kill a Brand
From what I can tell, when the story first broke Cooks Source had less than a couple hundred Facebook fans. This morning that number was nearly 2,000. As I’m typing this a few hours later it’s broken past 4,000 with no signs of stopping. The brand even claimed that page was “hacked” and set up a new one a few hours ago, which also is gaining “fans” at a brisk rate (700+ so far). Hundreds of people are commenting on each post. Needless to say, these aren’t friendly posts nor are those making them anything close to the classic definition of “fans” and the situation is no better over on Twitter or across the blogosphere. From an SEO level, it’s fair to say they’re toast as well.
It’s a pile on the likes of which we haven’t seen since Nestle ripped on their fans on Facebook, or Southwest temporarily imploded on Twitter.
At this point it’s fair to ask whether Cooks Source is a dead brand and should be abandoned. Forgetting for the moment the clearly pretty serious legal issues that the publication seems to be facing, is it even remotely feasible that the brand itself has any chance of survival in the court of social media?
I’d say no. Time to re-roll even assuming they can dig themselves out of the massive legal hole they now seem to be in. The brand is like a flame to moths on Facebook and across the social media landscape: no matter where it goes, it will attract a mass of negative commenters, sarcastic replies, and angry posts.
48 hours ago this was a non-story. One LiveJournal post and a few key blog pickups later, and Cooks Source as a brand is effectively toast.
In a recent post I talked about the virtue of keeping it simple with geo-location marketing campaigns. While researching that I came across another example – out of many similar ones – of a simple yet effective geo-location promotion, this one run by my alma mater the University of Oregon. What makes it particularly smart is they provide a printable game card (PDF) as an alternative for students who don’t have, or prefer not to use, Foursquare.
Foursquare is particularly useful for “guided tour” campaigns such as this, and it’s always nice to see my old school experimenting with newer technologies to make for a better freshman experience (especially as I recall being completely lost trying to get to my first class).
Found via About Foursquare
Been meaning to post this one for a while, but while last week I mentioned I am hosting a brief interview with Craig Newmark at ConvergeSouth 2010, I’ll also be moderated a really interesting panel called “What’s Next for the ‘Net? Unique Perspectives on Online Trends that could affect You and your Business.”
My goal with the panel is to bring together a diverse group of people, all who can share their take on the near future (think 1-5 years) of the ‘Net from a wide range of perspectives. I’m excited about the group who agreed to join us, including:
Will Carroll, an award winning author and journalist known as an expert on sports injuries;
Ernie Hsiung, founder of one of the largest online communities for Asians and a former developer evangelist for Ning;
Janna Anderson, Associate Professor and Director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University;
Sean Wilson, Chief Executive Optimist for Fullsteam, an extraordinarily successful example of small business using social marketing beyond expectations.
Sports, academics, online community, and beer. Hopefully a perfect combination to result in an interesting conversation. If you have any questions or topics we should cover, find me @kevinbriody or leave a comment below.
See you then!