Jun 29, 2009

Field of Dreams Redux

Many of you are familiar with my Prom King Brand theory, which states that a handful of brands have so much social currency (e.g. “cool”) going on, that all they have to do is show up and people will start interacting with them.

How that plays out in the real world sometimes seems to get lost in translation, so I wanted to give some concrete examples of what I’ve been seeing:

John Smith, CEO of Acme Widgets has heard that social media is the next big thing. He knows that Oprah Twitters and people have told him that not only is Social Media the next big thing, but it’s free. So Smith talks to his people and they decide to build an Acme Widgets fan page on Facebook and to launch a blog and a Twitter account. His marketing department has pointed out to him how brands like Apple, the New York Yankees and several HBO shows put up Facebook fan pages and, voila!, within days they had hundreds of thousands of fans signed up who were doing all the work for them. How easy is this social media stuff?

What they forgot though is that Apple, the Yankees and Entourage all have lots of social currency. People think it’s cool to be a fan. They don’t think it’s cool to be a fan of Acme. So Acme’s got to do something to bring the fans in.

The good news is there’s a whole lot of something Acme can do:

(a) Entertainment, e.g. something their audience would watch even if it didn’t have an association with the brand.

(b) Access or Information, e.g. everything from behind-the-scenes footage of a popular show Acme has a sponsorship agreement with to links to relevant and useful articles about widgets.

(c) Utility, e.g. something that the consumer can actually get some value out of when they use it.

(d) Value, e.g. a coupon, discount or other financial incentive.

(360i’s recent Social Media Playbook does a great job of explaining how all this works in context.)

So it’s not that non-Prom King brands can’t play in social media. It’s just that they can’t show up in social media and expect to be instantly popular.

Just like the real world, they’ve got to work at it.

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