Thursday, July 06, 2006

Please use as directed, pretty please?

As a reader of this blog, you know that marketers are evil, myself being a prime example. Although evil, marketers are people too. That said, we do our jobs just like everyone else; with one eye closed and the other staring at the clock. We too succumb to the monotony of the day as we exploit third-worlds, sell sex & drugs to kids and puppies, make everyone fat and slowly kill individuality. In other words, we have our daily grind too.

So like you, we don't like it when a wrench gets thrown into things. We prefer things well-planned, you know, with at least a dozen meetings and half as man phone conferences logged. We prefer consumers to use our products as suggested, in vast quantities. When this does not happen, we are forced to make decisions and decisions are toughies. Let me give you a few examples:

Improper Use: A man, named Jose Avila, with a vision builds furniture out of FedEx boxes, proceeds to furnish house. Posts images up on his site.
Response: FedEx sues Jose.

Quoted in Wall Street Journal,"The FedEx brand is one of our most valuable assets," says Howard Clabo, a FedEx spokesman. "In this particular instance, we simply asked that the violator stop using our brand for their personal benefit."

Mr. Avila takes down site but brings back up when The Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society assists him with some butt-kicking letter writing (pdf).

Improper Use: Bored MIT college kid builds a raft out of empty Gatorade bottles. Then gets on raft and crosses the Charles River. Everything is posted on a site.
Response: Gatorade sends the kid two $2 coupons and 2 lanyards. They write,

"It sounds like you and your roommate are very ingenious. Making a raft out of Gatorade bottles and rowing it across the Charles River is certainly an accomplishment. Although we would not be able to use your pictures we would certainly love to see your work. You can send them to this email address as an attachment. Also, please respond with your complete mailing address sot that we can send both you and your roommate some coupons via US Mail."
The story breaks all over the Net. College kid posts picture of his coupons and lanyards, looks kinda sad. Via Adpulp.

Improper Use: Many bored consumers realize they can create a soda geyser by dropping lots of Mentos into Diet Coke. This has been around for ages but is boosted in popularity by posts on YouTube.
Response: In same WSJ article quoted earlier, "It's an entertaining phenomenon," said Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott. "We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it." Followed up with "the 'craziness with Mentos ... doesn't fit with the brand personality' of Diet Coke."

Improper Use: Same as above.
Response: Mentos says, "We are tickled pink by it," says Pete Healy, vice president of marketing for the company's U.S. division. They even want to work (so far sent them 3,000 Mentos) with two guys that did this trick with 101 bottles and 523 Mentos, you really have to see this (the image to your right is from their video). Reuters news story here.

But wait, there's more. They are so tickled, in fact, that they started A site to host a video contest for the trick (via RandomCulture).

So let's see here, which marketers do you think made the best decision? Let me summarize:
  • FedEx panicked and went crying to their lawyers... more than likely sending paperwork through UPS.
  • Gatorade was lukewarm and you all know lukewarm Gatorade is about as attractive as urine.
  • Coke is Coke, and as we've seen from one of my previous posts, their noses are way too high in the air to figure out this Internet nonsense.
  • Mentos, well Mentos, they get more than a bullet point...
These guys seem to be the only ones that get it. When your consumers are using your products in an exciting way it apparently does take rocket-scientist-level intelligence to know you should be excited too. It baffles me why these other brands just let these opportunities slip away.

It doesn't seem that difficult. You don't have to worry about your precious current campaigns. You don't need to do anything outrageous or shift your brand messaging. Mentos played it just right. Put up a site that facilitates all this fun. Give it some brand support, see where it can really go and sit back and enjoy like everyone else.

Consumers are going to do what they want with your product, you can't stop them. If they do something cool (cool as measured by a whole lot of people paying attention to it and it doesn't kill anyone) you better pay attention too. Better yet, you better look like you're having a good time along with them. Otherwise, you become a tired old brand that's still broadcasting your message rather than engaging with your actual consumers. That's right folks, it's the age of engagement, consumers have stopped listening for a while.

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