I don’t often weigh in on big corporate issues, but there are some good lessons from two contrasting recent promotions. Fast Company is a well known forward-thinking business magazine. Conventional wisdom says they should have succeeded in a social campaign. P&G is the corporate behemoth behind the brand Old Spice. They should have had trouble with a social campaign. Turns out, that is exactly backwards.
The Influence Project
Fast Company Magazine launched The Influence Project, with much fanfare. It promised anyone a chance to get their photo in a future issue of the magazine by spreading a link to as many different people as possible. The more people who click on your link, the bigger your picture grows on the website. But that was the end of it. There was no other purpose than to spread the link. They could have implemented a charitable cause, awareness of an issue, delivered new content, or any other additional value, but they did not. So the project did drive lots of page views for Fast Company, and it will likely sell lots of magazines because people will want a copy of the issue with their picture in it, no matter how tiny it is.
Interestingly, many people I would consider true online influencers are NOT participating at all. As my husband observed, they are too busy doing their work. I saw a report that Mari Smith was “a leading contender” for most influential in this project. This surprises me not at all. I followed Mari on Twitter for over a year. This project is a popularity contest, and that is exactly the sort of thing I think Mari would enjoy and participate in.
My friend Amber Naslund wrote an excellent analysis of this, How Fast Company confused ego with influence.
Now let’s contrast this popularity contest with a successful participatory campaign.
Old Spice Personal Videos
Building on the success of the Old Spice “I’m on a horse” commercial, this week The Old Spice Guy arrived on Twitter (and other online channels) with a series of personal video replies to followers. They managed to do it with the same sense of humor, the same “we’re all in on this joke together” fun.
Immediately, people were willingly sharing these videos. Friends who clicked the link weren’t prodded into joining a pyramid scheme of popularity; they were just joining in on the fun.
The next wave was replies, responses and parodies made by followers. Eric Berto made a silly one with his pug dog. And @OhDoctah called out the Old Spice guy with an amazing response. (There are lots more replies out there, if you search for them.)
Then we got behind the scenes peeks, like this story from Read Write Web. Once again, we were part of the story, in on the joke. We got to see how Old Spice was working with small, non-Madiosn-Avenue marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and actor Isaiah Mustafa. They become “One of Us,” as Chris Brogan would say.
The end result is a landmark performance. Mashable calls it an archetype for a successful campaign.
But did it sell? Stephen Denny (who is new to me) points out that sales of the specific product featured (Red Zone After Hours Body Wash) are down 7% over the 52 weeks ending June 13, 2010. That’s a month ago. It will be interesting to compare sales numbers after the end of this week. I’m betting the ROI on this will beat any comparable dollar amount of billboard purchases or naming rights on arenas.
Let’s go back to my husband’s analysis. Instantly Old Spice has gone from something your dad wore way back when, to something you’d buy. What’s the ROI on that? Consider this tweet today by @arun4:
“Wearing @oldspice. Who said social media doesn’t work?”
Fast Company’s Influence Project was all about getting others to click links to increase the size of your own picture. The Old Spice campaign was about participating and laughing together.
Even though it looked like Fast Company’s project was about us, it turned out to be all about them. The opposite is true of the Old Spice videos. What looked like another corporate message, turned out to be all about us.
At the end of this week, I find I have a higher opinion of Old Spice, and a lower opinion of Fast Company. Sometimes the corporate giants get new things right, and sometimes the fashionably hip fall on their face.
For another comparison of these two campaigns, see the article by Dan Costa in PC Magazine.
And yet, influence is an artifact of the digital media industry, a mix of increasingly desperate marketers, consultants, bloggers, PR flacks, and media hacks. The majority of people just don’t care about it. My Dad runs a tissue processing plant—guess what he thinks of my 3,000 Twitter followers? Not much.