I deleted this post on Friday, five minutes after I published it, thinking it stupid, but of course, I forgot that the minute you hit the publish button, off it flies onto the top perch of the Google Reader, so there is no hiding it… ever.
The following post, as bad as it is, actually went through several re-writes, and took a long time, because I had no real point in writing it other than to vent about this Lunchables hashtag that was cluttering my Twitter feed that night. A whole group of women were involved in some sort of sponsored conversation, complete with a giveaway of a Flip Camera, the requirement for winning the camera being that you had to “retweet” some message about Lunchables, slamming the web with advertising.
Normally, whenever someone complains about this type of thing of commericalism, the retort is always: you can always unfollow the person or change the channel on the TV. Unfortunately, social media makes this difficult because companies are actually using our own friends to sell things to us. Social media professionals know that we aren’t going to “unfollow” our friends for trying to win a free Flip camera, so we are a captive audience for free advertising out of politeness and peer pressure. I don’t blame those who participate in this giveaway as much as the companies and PR companies who KNOW this and create these types of viral campaigns, cleverly sneaking their marketing onto my personal space. They know that if I unfollowed every person who used their Twitter account for this type of viral promotion, I would have very few friends on Twitter.
So, since I felt a bit cranky as I scanned over these annoying Lunchables tweets, much like I am tonight with these crazy tweets about the good work of Nestle’s “family” of products — http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23nestlefamily, I fought back in my own passive aggressive way. I tried to come up with a ridiculous version of this type of marketing campaign in the real world, as an example of how annoying this could be in a three dimensional world.
After I re-read the post and saw something profoundly wrong with it. Rather than it sounding sarcastic and satirical, it actually sounded like a decent idea, and I feared that someone would actually steal this idea and call it “The Neilochka Scheme,” much like Ponzi is forever be remembered for his infamous “Ponzi scheme.” And that would really suck. So, I deleted the post.
But since it is out there already — here is the last version that I posted on Friday.
Imagine there is a big Yankee – Red Sox game on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Coca-Cola takes out an advertisement in the Daily News saying, “Wear a Coke t-shirt to the Yankee game on Sunday, and one lucky winner will win a Mercedes Benz and free Coke for a year!” For the price of one ad in the newspaper, one car, and a couple hundred cases of Coke, the company could make a big splash — all for 1/1000th the cost of a commercial! Hundreds would show up wearing a Coke t-shirt in a customer-led marketing campaign, and the crowd would be a sea of Coke red. I’m not sure they would even need the permission of the Yankees to do this since they aren’t requiring any of their resources.
Why don’t companies ever do this? Wouldn’t this be the real life equivalent of how companies require bloggers to write a post about a product in order to enter a giveaway or to tweet the company’s product hundreds of times on Twitter like was done during tonight’s “Lunchables” promotion on Twitter before they can win a FlipCam or free tickets to Disney on Ice?
I find the potential of this idea somewhat scary, but I see how it could work.
There was more to the post, but I chopped it as much as that Sham-Wow guy does with his vegetables with that chopping gizmo on TV, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, which only made the post make less sense in the final version. Besides, I felt hypocritical. Wasn’t I asked to do the exact same thing when I wrote for that Brita “green lifestyle” blog, asking people to write a “earth day post” so they could get some prize?
And wouldn’t I use any marketing tool that I had at my disposal if I wanted to promote something of my own, or a book of a fellow blogger, like Kate’s new pirate book, or a friend’s new Etsy shop? Is there any real difference to doing shout-outs for a friend, and getting a whole group of people to promote some unnecessary corporate product by offering them a prize for helping you advertising a brand they don’t really care about? I guess the real question is, would anyone be shouting out good things about Lunchables if the initial brand enthusiast wasn’t getting freebies and the others weren’t in a drawing for a Flip cameras?
We all do a lot of promoting online, but I feel that it is more sincere when we pimp someone or something because we like the person or the project, or respect the person, or hell — want to get into that person’s pants! At least that is an honest emotion, even if a bit sleazy. But human. And potentially better tasting than Lunchables.
May this be proof that not every post ends up being good.