I came across a banner ad today for "gum that tastes just like strawberry shortcake." Who wouldn't want that? So, with expectations high, I clicked, expecting to be taken to a colorful page bursting with strawberry shortcake excitement, maybe videos and ways to share my delicious-looking new find with my friends. Instead, I was whisked away to a home page that showed me posed, stock-looking photos with people holding other things made by that company. If I click on them, I am promised, I can learn things like how their brands are "woven into the fabric of everyday life." I don't want to know that. I want to know more about that amazing strawberry shortcake gum I clicked on!
Eagerly, I scan the rest of the page and find that I can put custom photos on a pack of gum -- or I can learn more about their new blah-blahTM packaging that saves the planet through environmentally responsible sustainability practices. Ugh. Sigh. Where's the gum I clicked on? Oh, there it is -- at the bottom, in the slider right next to "Careers."
So I click. There it is! A photo that looks like the photo in the banner ad! But instead of taking my online experience to the next level, I'm offered a history of the brand, complete with a timeline dating back to 1984. I think we're going backwards. A bright social media light! I see a Facebook icon and, curiously, an iTunes icon. Ominously, the text reads "Join Us."
The iTunes link goes to a pedometer app I can download for my iPhone, and the Facebook link takes me to more information on how I can put custom photos on my environmentally responsible packaging. They really like that idea. In all fairness, the Facebook page profile pic has my strawberry shortcake gum on a plate, behind a woman's photo on a box of gum. Her restrained smile tells me she knows she shouldn't be there.
Then I see a link to another website I can visit. This must be it! This is where I'll learn more about the gum I clicked on two hours ago. So I go there. Well, just as I'm deciding whether I want to "create," "browse," "learn," "join the club," "watch a tutorial" or "order mine today," I'm hit with a pop-up that wants me to take a survey. It tells me I was randomly selected. Skipping the survey I click on "order yours today," even though I don't see my strawberry shortcake as one of the choices. Doesn't matter. I want some gum. But alas, it's only the pricing policy, rather than a way to actually order mine today.
Defeated, I click on a Twitter icon to see what's happening there. But instead of being taken to the company's Twitter profile where I can join in on the latest strawberry shortcake buzz, I'm required to sign into my own Twitter profile and asked to "share a link with my followers." Can you guess what the gum company wants me to share? A link to how my friends can make their own packs of gum with their custom photos.
After some final, frantic digging, I did find a fun microsite dedicated to all the gum flavors, which even had a video. But again, the Twitter icon was just for sharing a bland, pre-populated message. There was no follow option, Facebook required me to sign in, and there was no YouTube at all.
Over the years that my digital creative agency has been working in the integrated marketing space, there are a few things I've learned:
1. CPG consumers are inherently selfish and don't have time for you. Consumers don't go online to share your product or brand, and they're not going to work very hard to make that happen for you. Consumers usually don't even go online as consumers. People go online to learn, be entertained, interact with each other and share experiences. Educate them, entertain them, be consistent in your messaging, and, above all, don't take them down rabbit holes that lead to things they weren't looking for. Meet or exceed their expectations and maybe they'll return the favor and spread the word. Oh, and incentives, contests and giveaways work, too. Who doesn't like free stuff?
2. Integrated social media success requires investment, commitment and consistency. Social media marketing is more than just writing "Like Us On Facebook" on your TV ads. It's more than just running banner ads that go to a homepage with a Twitter button. It's more than just making Facebook updates, tweeting and posting your TV ads on YouTube. These are symptoms of a broadcast mentality that assumes fans are either anxiously awaiting your next update or will be somehow forced to view it. They're not and they won't be. They're doing other things, living their lives, looking at other products, interacting elsewhere. You have to work hard to earn their attention and loyalty, and that requires an investment of time, strategy and manpower.
For every update, tweet and video you post, you'll get comments, @ replies, retweets and video responses. Is a team in place to react to that? Work with an outside agency, or invest in the manpower and strategy necessary to commit not only to consistent engagement, but also to reactive engagement. That's what will keep the conversation moving forward and ultimately drive sales.
3. Give your consumers what they want -- not what you want.
You wouldn't introduce a new soda or snack food without knowing what your customers have a taste for, so why launch social media marketing initiatives that don't absolutely meet or exceed their expectations? If you're banking your campaign on the notion that they'll not only be interested, but be so in love that they'll share it with everyone, you'd better be prepared to put as much thought, research, energy and excitement into your marketing as you put into your products. Still, this sort of disconnect is common as we go from broadcast "push" to social "pull" marketing strategies. The reasons I see for this type of disconnect are:
Lack of communication between departments
· Lack of understanding of which social media channels and tools work best
· Old-school thinking
· A justifiable fear of trying something new
· Laziness, or simply going with what has worked in the past
Video and social media marketing integration has to happen on two levels. The first is external, including integration across online advertising, TV, radio, print, mobile, out of home, video and social. The second is internal, between brand and product marketing, sales, PR, web and social media teams. The CPG brands that bring all of these together the best will be the ones that succeed the fastest.