Tag Archives: consumer response

Do online campaigns promote all talk and no action?

Many brands have succeeded in connecting with consumers online, but some in the ad industry doubt if these connections actually translate into real profit and/or growth for the company. Sources have argued each side, some saying online buzz is powerful sales tool while others say that digital chatter doesn’t always translate into results. One of the most highly discussed campaigns of 2010, the Old Spice Guy, shows how online brand communications can drive real action in consumer segments. Wieden + Kennedy released the following case study video highlighting the results of the campaign:

According to Nielsen data, overall sales for the body-wash products are up 11 percent over the last year. They went up by 55 percent in the last quarter. And following “The Response Campaign” sales are up 107 percent.

To find out more about how Old Spice effected consumer attitudes and behavior, I interviewed a group of 18-24 year olds. Reactions to the campaign were overwhelmingly positive in both male and female consumers. “I just felt like its one of the only campaigns in a long time that was real. They didn’t pretend to be some high-class product that they weren’t. They weren’t afraid to make fun of themselves a little bit,” said one male participant.

Females appreciated the humor too, “I really liked that they incorporated me even though it’s a guy’s product. A lot of the things they said just made fun of stereotypical relationship issues and interactions within couples – which I found really entertaining. I’ve probably watched the commercial on YouTube over 20 times.”

But did it really translate into new customers for Old Spice? For some yes, for others no. “I definitely have bought Old Spice a few times since the commercial and before I didn’t even really think about it. I think all guys products are pretty much the same, so I usually buy whatever I think of first. Sometimes its Old Spice, sometimes its not,” commented one male participant. A female participant jumped in saying, “My boyfriend loved the commercials, but I know he hasn’t bought Old Spice since it came out. I think when you go the entertainment route, you risk people viewing it as just a funny video instead of something to do with the product.”

Although opinion and involvement may vary, the statistics make an undeniable case that the campaign worked on some level. It used storytelling to present the audience with funny human truths, allowed them to interact with the character and stayed relevant by recognizing how consumers engage online. Only time will tell if the campaign was able to create long-term brand equity, but it has certainly positioned Old Spice in a new light for young consumers.

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It’s all fun and games until someone gets iced…

Although a number of high-profile companies have had success with user-generated content, it is not irrational to fear that these types of messages could damage brand equity. Inconsistencies in the way consumers portray the brand and how the company strives to portray the brand can create tension and ultimately degrade the company’s reputation in the market. Companies that invite users to create content can take steps to protect themselves to a certain extent, but what happens when consumers take it upon themselves to start the conversation?

Smirnoff faced this dilemma in the early summer of 2010 when it discovered a drinking game website based around its malt beverage, Smirnoff Ice. The game challenged ‘bros’ to punk their friends by presenting them a Smirnoff Ice, which they then had to chug while taking a knee. At first, consumers thought it was a clever marketing campaign gone viral – until the website mysteriously shut down, leaving its fans with the message ‘We had a good run bros.’

Smirnoff’s parent company, Diageo, eventually responded in an article to AdAge, saying “Diageo has taken measures to stop this misuse of its Smirnoff Ice brand and marks, and to make it clear that ‘icing’ does not comply with our marketing code, and was not created or promoted by Diageo, Smirnoff Ice, or anyone associated with Diageo.”

Consumers responded in droves, slamming Smirnoff Ice for shutting down the site and discouraging consumers from having fun with the product.  Besides expressing disappointment, most comments had a common thread; they thought Smirnoff had made a big mistake.

“I think it’s a bad move on Smirnoffs part to just take down the site. I understand they don’t want any liability associated with irresponsible drinking behavior, but honestly, this site created some sort of dialogue for Smirnoff within a group that probably wouldn’t have even touched the stuff prior to the site. Most of the guys I know have heard of the site, think its funny, have participated.”

“This is just stupid on Diageo’s part, both from a business standpoint and branding standpoint. The only people that drink Smirnoff Ice are younger consumers that have nothing but love for brosicingbros.com.

I went into a liquor store a week ago and bought a sixer to ice some bros on my kickball team. I asked how smirnoff ice sales were. The owner said they had skyrocketed.  Money is money. Smirnoff ice is a goofy brand to start. They have been trying to sell the stuff to guys from the start. This is a win-win.  Mike’s hard lemonade……here’s your window bros!”

This highlights a key issue in the user-generated content debate: should companies let consumers own the brand, even when it doesn’t go along with their strategy?  There’s no clear-cut answer to this, but in the next post I’ll discuss some guidelines that can help brands decide how to best address unexpected user-generated content, whether it results from a sponsored marketing campaign or a consumer’s spontaneous creativity.