posted by Search
There was an interesting article on ReadWriteWeb recently that talked about the hijacking of a Mountain Dew flavor naming campaign.
For those who may not have heard of this, please allow me to summarize. In the world of the Internet, there is one website where the faint-of-heart dare not tread. Where those easily offended will run screaming in horror. It’s a group of intelligent people with a rather distorted sense of humor. They are the group who got a man fired from a Cleveland-area Burger King because he posted a picture of himself standing in a bin of lettuce. It’s a group where most of the humor you find online originates and then distills down. This site is called 4Chan and should not be taken lightly. While some of us here are fans of it, we will typically advise that the rest of the company just walk away slowly.
That being said, when the 4chan community caught wind of a Mountain Dew campaign that allowed users to submit and vote for name ideas for the soda’s new apple flavor, they decided to have a little bit of fun with it. They stacked the vote in favor of some names that are not the kind any company will want to print on their labels. But this is just par for the course when you open yourself up to the Internet. This is what happens. We’ve come to expect this and plan for it. However, it’s the last sentence on the ReadWriteWeb article that caused some alarm in the hallowed halls of thunder::tech.
”Given how easy it is to appropriate crowd-sourced marketing campaigns, perhaps marketers would be smart to design their social media campaigns deliberately to be hijack-able.”
As the head of thunder::tech’s Optimization team, this flew in the face of conventional wisdom to me. PepsiCo was attempting to use this campaign to give users and customers an active role in the naming of its product and thereby bestow upon them a sense of empowerment and endearment to the product. They hoped this “I named that!” mentality would help increase sales.
While sales are not always the end result, more often than not, the result of any online campaign is some actionable item. It’s what we optimize for and it’s what we measure. I’ve always been of the mind that “awareness” is not a campaign because unless “awareness” leads to “action,” then all you’re doing is shooting off fireworks in a desert, which means you’re the only one who will “ooh” and “aah” at them. You become known as the company who let what could have been interesting and unique get taken over and run rampant with. You lose credibility, you lose value, and you lose brand equity. You go from being the company that knows what they’re doing to the company that got in way over its head.
You cannot have a campaign that is intended to be hijacked. To do so means that you will have to invest your time, capital and a lot of creative energy in something that will ultimately not drive valuable and relevant results.
The Lesson Learned
This could have been avoided and been a resounding success had PepsiCo put in proper procedure for the question “what happens if 4chan finds out?” In this modern culture, that’s a very real question. Not everyone wants to play by the same rules you do. You need to have a “worst-case scenario” plan set in place. This could be through heavy monitoring, through phrases that are automatically filtered or through whatever means you chose. The simple fact is that you must plan for things to go wrong.
You must also plan for the opposite. What if it goes over perfectly? What if it’s the perfect campaign? What then? What if it meets an astounding success only to putter out with a weak finale? Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Pepsi didn’t plan properly and for that, they suffered a poorly executed campaign.
I am however, more than open to hearing reasons where something as poorly maintained and utterly commandeered by the public as this was could actually be a resounding success.
About the author::
Joshua Mathe leads thunder::tech’s Optimization team and his infatuation with SEO and PPC began six years ago. He is a lifelong Clevelander with a love of all things #CLE. In the rare moments that he's not online, he’s spending time playing with his dogs, cooking, cheering for Cleveland sports and practicing kendo.
TAGS: thundertech, search, SEO, marketing, campaign, social, 4chan, mountain dew, optimization, planning, plan, social media, strategy
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