Monday, December 15, 2008

NYT Misses the Ball: Brand Advertising in SocNets

In yesterday's NYTimes, an article was published specifically about Procter & Gamble's use of Facebook advertising, but more generally about how traditional brand advertising is failing within social networking. Duh.

P & G is arguably one of the most sophisticated marketing operations out there, and yet their attempts thus far to advertise their brands within social networks are still rooted in traditional impression-based brand advertising.
And when they try to take advantage of new “social advertising,” extending their commercial message to a member’s friends, their ads will be noticed, all right, but not necessarily favorably. Members are understandably reluctant to become shills. IDC, the technology research firm, published a study last month that reported that just 3 percent of Internet users in the United States would willingly let publishers use their friends for advertising. The report described social advertising as “stillborn.”
The opportunity is not about "shilling", its about creating a relationship with the customer. In the previous world, attention could be attained by simply getting your logo in front of the user. Over the years, more channels were offered, but the strategy was still the same - the more impressions the more attention. However, as attention continues to fragment and channels proliferate, this "impression-based" approach is losing its effectiveness, especially within a social networking environment.

The opportunity of cultivating a brand within social networking lies in fostering an emotional relationship with your customer. This has long been a powerful yet overlooked strategy available to the average marketer. Creating an emotional bond is difficult, and can be costly given the few tactics available to drive such a strategy (prior to social networks). The power and effectiveness of impression-based advertising coupled with the high cost of generating this emotional bond pushed a relationship-based strategy off the budget. However, with the connected nature of social networks, such a strategy has become much less costly, once a chord is struck. Given the diminishing power of impression-based advertising, striving for an emotional relationship with the customer is how brands of the future must connect.

To illustrate this point, let's look at a couple brands that arguably have done a great job of creating an emotional bond with their customer, and what has happened specifically within their Facebook Page presence.
  • Apple has roughly 180,000+ fans throughout various Pages within Facebook, most of which appear to be fan-created (i.e. free to Apple, or rather a result of their other relationship-driven marketing tactics).
  • Five Guys Burgers, a Mid-Atlantic "fast casual" burger joint, the 300-location chain, garnered over 16,000 fans to date, presumably at no cost to the company.
Don't just show yourself to your customer, connect with them...

Update: It appears the Wall Street Journal made my argument in today's paper, albeit in a much more eloquent, in-depth manner...