the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Marketing Idea


Prologue —

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 —, 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.


  1. Stimey

    I just learned that there is a button at the bottom of each tweetdeck column that lets you filter out tweets with specific hashtags. If you use tweetdeck, it’s the button that has an arrow pointing down into what looks like a pillow.

    I don’t like those things either. I want a Flip, but I am making my stand on hashtags.


  2. Only Aman

    lol – you know… one time I was tweeting for a band. I tweeted about 100 times. I had a few friends unfollow me temporarily. That is besides the point.

    It’s hard to draw lines when you find your self wrapped up in similar ones. Like if I were to only use one type of toilet paper, when i found myself stuck somewhere using cheap-o brand I would have to use theirs or suffer the consequences of not feeling clean, or maybe I bring my own for a while but it does not last.

    I am just saying while I want to escape other things, the way things are going we can choose to embrace it, capitalize on it or just get lost in the flow.

    idk why i said those things. I hope they were relevant.


  3. Jane Devin

    There have actually been a couple of promotions like this, as I recall from my lost decade in marketing. It’s an easy enough thing to pull off if the apparel is commonly sold, like sports hats, but it would be much harder with apparel that features other products. I think when the A’s did something like this 20+ years ago, a whole bunch of people got pissed because they didn’t have an A’s cap and didn’t want to spend $12 to get one to be considered for a “free” contest…and in many states it’s illegal to have a contest where one has to buy something in order to enter.

  4. Zoe Right

    I feel like I should apologize for what I am going to say next…it’s a good idea. *cringing*

    As far as the hawking of merchandise- can’t say anything- contest junkie= me.

  5. Angella

    Stimey’s comment just made. my. day.

  6. Christine

    Do people really BUY Lunchables because they noticed the brand name in a tweet? REALLY?

    We live in a strange world.

  7. Heather

    That’s pretty much why the mute feature on Brizzly rocks–no pain of unfollowing/following. I loathe hashtag “events” or “chats” on Twitter that are brand-sponsored.

  8. shana

    I would totally wear a Coke T-Shirt for a chance at a Mercedes. I would NOT tweet about Lunchables for a chance for a phones unless it were the following: Wow, my kids love Lunchables. Well, who wouldn’t love processed meat, slices of cheese product (not cheese, cheese product), stacked on transfat (I mean, crackers), washed down with artificially flavored sugar water, with SKITTLES for dessert? #Iamthelaziestfreakingmotherontheplanet

  9. Nat

    Along a similar line, I hate those fan pages in Facebook. Oh look. So-and-so just became a fan of Mountain Dew. Whoopee. Marketers are just so freaking good these days! And by good, I mean evil.

  10. Neil

    Nat, I don’t think people even know they are being used to market to their friends on Facebook. I think there is something you can uncheck to not allow them to do that.

  11. better safe than sorry

    that shamwow guy died and has been replaced by a woman. you just get sucked into everything, don’t you?

  12. Finn

    It’s a tough thing. I don’t mind when people promote a friend or something they really like or believe in, but seeing 4,000 of the same tweet over and over again is annoying.

    I’ve been known to tweet to win something, but I’m careful not to do it more than once. Which is why I never win anything!

  13. Burgh Baby

    I was recently offered $50 to tweet a marketing thing. $50. It was tempting, but the minute I saw someone else send their paid tweet, I knew I couldn’t do it. It’s not me. If I won’t tweet someone’s ad for $50, I sure as hell won’t do it for free. Unless I really, really, really want the prize, that is. 😉

  14. Dana

    Better Safe, the Shamwow guy is going to get even more airtime now that Billy “Oxyclean” Mays died. All this is the reason I do not tweet (or, as it was reported by someone contributing to Overheard in NY, “twatting”). Even when my kids were little, they ran away from Lunchables. No ad campaign on earth, insidious as it may be, can rescue that disgusting product, which is mostly fat and non-recyclable wrapping.

  15. MommyGeekology

    I just make heavy use of Twitter Snooze – you know that one? Helps a bit, and gives me a way to control what’s happening in my twitter stream, much as I can change the channel or the radio station when I’m unhappy or uninterested with what I’m seeing.

    Maybe we should all start a separate Twitter account just for the promotions 🙂

  16. Mom101

    Just unfollow people you think abuse twitter regularly. Peer approval may be more appealing than a chance at a free camera.

    I’m trying to learn to be less annoyed by compulsive markeying retweeters. I can’t change them – only my reaction to them.

  17. carma

    Hmmm…have you commented on my site to lure me to this post, as I’ll come clean: I was one of those tweeting the #lunchables tag on Friday…I’ll admit I got sucked in; these “parties” are every Friday night by the way. Sometimes for things even lamer than lunchables. Sometimes I particpate; other times I come to my senses and figure there are much better ways to spend an hour than hawking someone else’s goods, which you are correct, is exactly what we are doing.

    I’ve made a fine lemming lately!!

    If you unfollow me, I won’t be offended, because I recognize you do make quality tweets- unlike 90% of my tweets.

    I heard where there is a new program where people can backup their tweets. Like I’ve ever made a tweet worth backing up 😀

    Anyhoo. Great post. You’ve got me thinking. Perhaps I need to do what I’ve been contemplating – a separate account for contests – so that the contest tweets won’t interfere with the rest of my “gems” 😀

    P.S. Thanks for visiting my ‘lil ole site.

  18. Loukia

    I don’t like when people are aggressive with saying they hate a certain company – unless of course this company is completely in the wrong. Like the whole Nestle thing, I don’t get. It’s like if you’re bashing Nestle, you’re bashing all the women who chose to formula feed. I did both (breast and formula feed) so it annoys me to see this ‘hatred’ towards a company who actually helps woman and nourishes babies.
    I will retweet and ask for people to help other online friends win contests, or leave comments, etc. because that is harmless, really. I appreciate it when people help me out for contests, or when they re-tweet something for me. I think I’ve gotten off-topic here, as I usually do. I’m such a rambler…

  19. Mama Kat

    I love this! It’s so true…sometimes I read all the tweets just looking for one without any links. It can be a giant commercial…so many times I want to tweet back NO ONE CARES ABOUT #printer or #blogher or #lunchables so SHUT IT!

    But like you I remember my own participation in such campaigns and how I would use the same techniques if push came to shove, so I keep my mouth shut. Besides that no one wants a negative nelly tweeting away about how stupid the everyone else is for twittering about products and giveaways.

    I’ll leave the complaining to someone else and then cheer them on when they decide to post about their frustrations.

    Woooohoooo go Neil!!

    Stay tuned for my Flip camera giveaway in a couple weeks…I wish I were kidding.

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