Saturday, May 14, 2011

Don't Give Social Media All The Credit

As a kid, my grandmother would always tell me: "monkey see, monkey do." If you've never heard this before, the idiom is used to express that children behave and learn from their surroundings. Although, if adults aren't just as susceptible to this condition then I think someone should investigate if the marketing world is being run by monkey's now. For every enlightened social media marketing guru wanting to pitch people on the benefits of the next groundbreaking technology or why a soap brand should consider itself a "content" publisher, they're two marketers eager to listen. It's the new ideology of the day and it's easily packaged into a magical formula of clicks, likes, retweets and followers that's far less easy to explain. But that doesn't matter because a lot of really smart marketers are being sold long before any introductory handshakes are made. It doesn't hurt that this stuff sounds great and looks good on PowerPoint presentations given watched in conference rooms. It just doesn't add up when really put to task.

Dare to divert from the day's convention and you risk being deemed socially unacceptable by the crowds making the decisions on such matters. The choice becomes feed the beast or be eaten by it. Who is asking what happens if the crowd is wrong?

Consequently, there is not shortage of brands blindly pumping significant marketing resources into Facebook, Twitter and the next social network of the hour; following the formula written to solve the problem of generating awareness simply for awareness' sake. Who cares what their being made aware of because they say their fans. The like us and that's all that matters, right? Even if this only requires a minuscule and artificial commitment to the brand on their part.

Recently, I learned about a young, small group of entrepreneurs in Rochester, New York who, dissatisfied with the current selection of energy drinks, created their own. The drink is called Vital Energy and bares a striking resemblance to Vitamin Water, being billed as a blend of B vitamins, water and as much caffeine as a large coffee. Without question, barreling on into such a crowded category takes a lot of determination; however, I question how shrewd it is to fight their daily marketing battles with what they call "social experiments."

Their first creation was an entertaining web video where the entrepreneurs filmed themselves playing a prank. They filled their parents' entire house with energy drinks when they went on vacation. Although the video doesn't actually say much about the drink or the brand, it's popularity did help garner a bit of local and national press.

So the boys at Vital Energy went back to the lab and created an even bigger experiment. This time they are giving away $10,000 in a scavenger hunt game to contestants that sign up and receive clues through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Yet, I cannot figure out what this will experiment will prove other than tell them that lots of people like free cash and are willing to tolerate some annoying corporate messaging for a crack at ten grand. How does this tell the story of a drink or organize a tribe of its most ardent supporters? Perhaps that's the question that all these new marketing "experiments" should try to answer.

The reason they don't? Monkey see... monkey do.

This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's
Beneath the Brand blog.

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