Can Advertising Salvage a Bad Product?

Not surprisingly, politics and advertising are considered to be the two least trusted professions in the world.

Every 4 years or so, these two groups of professionals often team up to create misleading… errr… I mean awe-inspiring ads about how everything is hunky dory in the country.

You may have seen these politically-driven ads recently, which I assume are supposed to instill nationalistic pride and encourage us to support the status quo.

Shouting Man
Advertising a bad product can be a real pain

But more and more people now realise that what these ads are ‘selling’ aren’t that good, sometimes just plain bad.

That’s because the boom in alternative views from independent news sites and blogs often discredit efforts by the mainstream players. And of course social media helps spread alternative news very effectively.

William Bernbach – one of the pioneers of modern advertising – once said:

“A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad”.

It’s like watching an awesome movie trailer, where a combination of fast-paced editing, a stirring soundtrack and teasing dialogues is delivered in two minutes. And then you go watch the movie and realise you might as well been watching paint dry for the last two hours.

Sure enough, when any of your friends wants to watch the same movie, you’d probably not recommend it. This ripple of ‘thumbs-down’ will almost certainly make this movie a flop.

There are many ‘trailers’ on TV these days illustrating a progressive, modern and united Malaysia, provided our votes are cast to oppose change. While I’m not writing the creators of these ads off, I just hope I’m not forced to watch the actual drama for the next four years either.

Let the mud-slinging begin!

The Greatest Online Marketing Gimmick Ever?

Okay, maybe I’m slightly overstating the greatness, but I personally thought this was genius.

Watch it…

How visually captivating was that?!

Okay, bobble-head Obama wasn’t the first thing that was sent into space that way. Some dudes sent a beer can off to the final frontier about a year ago.

But originality aside, this was one of the most refreshing videos I’ve watched in recent years.

And with the presidential race heating up in the US, here’s why I think this was a brilliant idea from Obama’s camp:

  1. Voters get 3 full minutes watching Obama ascend up to space, and then bobble down to earth. More face time, means higher Top of Mind awareness
  2. The stirring, inspiring background score positions Obama as some sort of a savior. Intentional? Absolutely not.
  3. The bobble-head effect makes Obama seem light-hearted, warm and approachable. Voters are emotional beings you know?
  4. The video was done by grass-root supporters – definitely sanctioned by Obama’s campaign managers though – highlighting his popularity
  5. Depicts Obama as human, after all. Because what goes up, must come down
Up and away...
Calling all politicians...

Now, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could send some of our politicians into space, like, for good?

Ah well, just a silly thought.

Copywriters Can’t Write Everything

I could probably get my ass kicked by fellow copywriters. But it is a risk I am willing to take. Clients take notice, because this is very important – never hire a copywriter to manage your Facebook page.

Because contrary to popular belief, we copywriters can’t write everything.

Okay. Let me rephrase that, we can’t write everything as well as it can be. Like myself, I am predominantly a direct response copywriter; ask me for a press release and I will struggle with writer’s constipation.

Typewriter
Traditional copywriting techniques often don't work in social media...

When it comes to social media however; the problem becomes even more obvious. Copywriters are trained at marketing speak; and anything the even seems remotely ‘marketing’ will probably be rejected by social citizens.

Use of the words like ‘free’, ‘exclusive’, ‘now’ and other forms of sell-speak is definitely not welcomed in Facebook.

A socially untrained copywriter commenting on behalf of a brand in Facebook is like that insurance agent friend who always wants to sell you a policy.

We usually avoid any kind of marketing or selling in our social space; as in Facebook.

The kind of writer you want managing Facebook comments is someone who is comfortable in cyberspace. Someone who knows the web lingos, keeps up with online trends and engages online audiences regularly.

It has to be someone who can ‘talk’ to audiences in their language. And not in some Oxford dictionary approved English.

Which means, this writer has to be able to make himself make mistakes. Likes little grammatical errors, occassionnal typos and also dabble in txt spk.

Managing a Facebook page is all about being honest, friendly and more often than not; amateurish.

In other words –  now anyone can write copy! Errr… I take that back.

Fakebook

Okay, I think I’m finally tired of Facebook. No, not because of you my dear friends, it’s just this new ad-infested, apps-ridden and spam-inducing thing that’s disguising as Facebook.

Remember how exciting Facebook was? It was an amazing application that revolutionized the way we communicated. We vowed we could never live without it. We then continued our FB love by creating events, uploading our lives and adding total strangers as friends. Much love!

Fakebook
Ladies and gentlemen; Facebook has mutated... beware!

And in the rumble-tumble world of copywriting, Facebook provided inspiration for dull minds and the perfect respite from work.

Now Facebook is nothing but another chore to do in the mornings… and the rest of the day. It has turned into a dark, evil brother that invades our privacy, sends us unsolicited messages and forces suggests us to be friends with virtually everyone… virtually.

So I thought if I was the only one who felt this way. Apparently not, because according to ZDNetAsia, 31% of younger, more mobile and brand conscious consumers have indicated they are getting bored with their social network – leading to social fatigue.

Well, I’m not really that young, mobile or very brand-conscious; but the feeling towards Facebook is definitely mutual.

Ah yes, how can I forget the annoying little ads that appear in the right sidebar. From “cepat kaya” messages in broken Malay to those sexually suggestive ads for medieval role playing games; they are becoming increasingly ridiculous.

And just when I thought we couldn’t be more connected, some wise guys go and create Rock Melt – a web browser with built-in social tools. Basically you can do every social thing from your web browser, including being there for your grandfather’s birthday. I kid you not… watch the video:

Ready to turn off your PC and start a self-sustaining life in a farm? Call me; if you have my number that is. Hah!

P.S. I decided not to add the customary Facebook Share button in this post just to prove a point.

Everybody Likes Facebook?

The “Like” button, it’s everywhere these days. From news sites to blogs and even brand sites, the World Wide Web is littered with these things. Although it feels like these little sky blue buttons have been around for ages, they were actually only launched in April… yes, April 2010!

Even Facebook itself is infested with Likes. Back in the day (barely few months ago) you could only like someone’s status update or post. Now you can even Like comments on a particular post. I’m just waiting for the day they allow us to Like a Like on a comment. Or maybe they should introduce a Double Like button. You know? Like two thumbs up.

Like it or not, the word Like has become synonymous with Facebook. Nowadays, if you happen to Like something, you have to be specific. Is it a normal Like as in you find something enjoyable or interesting? Or is it a Facebook Like, which is an oh-by-the-way, yeah-sorta, it’s-kinda-funny, I-better-click-on-something-or-people-are-gonna-think-I’m-dead type?

Everybody likes Facebook? Not quite. As at post date that is.

Even for Brand Pages, where it once was “Become a Fan” has now been replaced with Like. Do you see a problem here? Say you’re pissed about a particular brand and want to give it a good piece of your mind. But remember, you have to Like the page/brand before you post anything juicy… what irony! Or you can click on the Unlike button that appears after you’ve liked a page… in your face sucker!

So what’s the most Liked thing on Facebook? Going by all the Like-fest from Facebook within Facebook and around the web, it seems natural that Facebook is the royal Like-ness. Not quite. That honour goes to Texas Hold’em Poker and only then followed by Facebook. And check out Michael in a close third!

Now can Texas Hold Em’ keep Facebook at bay? There’s nothing like some good ol’ competition… I like!

Share

Rough Facebook Brand Page Guidelines

You know, back in the day, friends used to ask “What the hell is Facebook?”. Now they ask “Are those all of your Facebook friends?”. How times have changed. Truth be told, I don’t have many Facebook friends. Reading all my 126 friends’ status updates is already a chore, even after blocking the feeds of quite a few (Sorry, I’m really not bothered about what you had for dinner last night).

Well not all of my Facebook friends are my actual friends. Out of the 126, I probably hang out with 5 and another 15 are my colleagues. So the remaining are acquaintances of acquaintances, long lost classmates, hi-bye pals and the like. So the term ‘Friend’ in Facebook is very vague indeed.

This is also true for Facebook Brand Pages. 1,000 ‘Likes’ or ‘Fans’ doesn’t mean that the brand is adored by 1,000 people. There will be many genuine fans, but there will also be the disgruntled, the avenger, the unhappy, the dissatisfied, the curious and the competitor’s spy. Hence, it’s very possible that a Facebook Brand page will be decorated by negative comments sooner or later.

A Facebook Brand Page can turn out to be hell for your brand
A Facebook Brand Page can turn out to be hell for your brand

And since I promised a guide of sorts in my previous post, here’s what I call the Rough Facebook Brand Page Guidelines or RFBPG in short:

1. How much power?

Right from the start, you have to decide how much power you want to put in the hands of your fans in terms of voicing their opinions. As a default, bar fans from making wall posts so that dissenting comments (if any) are less obvious. They will however be able to comment on your posts, but it will be buried within the particular post’s thread and not appear in the main wall.

2. It’s OK, let them post on the wall

If you feel barring people from making wall posts defeats the purpose of having a Facebook page, then go ahead. The pro of this is that positive wall posts by fans will be very obvious. But once the negative comments starts pouring in, you’d wish you never went with this option. However, once you allow fans to post on your wall, NEVER EVER bar them should the going get tough. The repercussions will be challenging.

3. I’ve got a negative comment, now what?

Well first of all… congrats! Not for the negative comment, but the fact that you’ve only got 1 negative comment. Now here’s where the real work begins. Negative comments are tricky and often unique to the person posting them. Find a solution and respond as soon as possible, remember to thank them for their valuable feedback. If it’s a comment you can’t handle – like a product defect – respond with the number of your customer service hotline.

4. Nah! I’ll just ignore, the comments will go away.

Do this at your own peril. Just one product complaint will – I REPEAT, WILL – attract other fans to join the upheaval. Negative comments must be nipped in the bud. Even if you can’t offer an immediate solution, engage the fans to show that you are listening. If a complaint has snowballed, contact the complainants in person and try to work out the problem. Never ignore negative comments, you’d be asking for trouble.

5. I thought Facebook Brand Pages are for fans to share brand experiences?

But your fans don’t know that. Disgruntled consumers think all brand channels are game to voice their opinions. Instead of bringing up the matter to customer service, Facebook allows for the ease and relative anonymity to make product complaints. So make it clear that the page is created for sharing product experience and that all product complaints should be directed to customer service. Remember to display customer service contact details up front. This may not eliminate negative comments altogether, but at least the majority of fans will think twice before posting brand-bashing comments.

The 5 steps above are just general guides, and I do not guarantee its effectiveness. The most important of all is to respond sensibly and fairly quickly, and please never leave negative comments unattended. Do remember to never sound accusatory or defensive when responding. After all, the consumer is always (supposed to be) right.

The Unwritten Rule of Social Media

Should social media management fall under the care of an advertising agency? You may think that since it’s all about communicating to online consumers, then it should be the responsibility of an ad agency. Or more appropriate, your friendly interactive agency. I’m not so sure about that.

Social media management essentially consists of all efforts that either initiates contact with prospects online or responds to online activities that reference your product or service. I’ve defined it rather simply because it is actually as simple as that. Anything that you do or the consumers are doing online with regards to your business must be monitored regularly by a dedicated team. Be it an internal team in your organisation or an agency that specialises in social media management, which I think is non-existent here in Malaysia.

Think about it. Let’s say you ask your existing ad agency to take care of social media management. Stuff like creating and updating Facebook/MySpace pages, publishing an informative, relevant and interesting blog and responding to comments about your product in third party blogs. This requires a concerted, calculated effort because of it’s never ending nature. As more and more consumers discover the wonders of going online, the more comments, approvals and criticisms there will be about your product or company.

And who do you think most likely be managing your company’s online presence in this ad agency of yours? Wait for it. Yes! It’s your overworked, multiple-account-handling and possibly clueless copywriter… and maybe a planner or strategist if you’re lucky. Would you really let the future of your brand’s online direction rest in the hands of one or two persons?

You may think a copywriter is suited to handle social media, true but not entirely. I’ll give you 2 reasons:

  1. Copywriters are trained to write marketing copy. Anything that smells like regular copy, especially words like “Buy”, “Free” and “Exclusive” are ignored by users. Social media is all about the influencing power of peers and not an advertising wordsmith.
  2. To make interesting blog posts and respond to comments or criticisms, the copywriter has to have an extensive knowledge of the product/service, brand and company. No, a powerpoint outlining company history, brand guidelines and product catalogue will not do. How many companies will allow a writer to be embedded with them for at least a month? Not many.

Social media is a different ballgame altogether. Relying solely on a copywriter is like asking a property lawyer handle your criminal case. While it’s possible, the risks are far to great. Your brand might just end up in the slammer.

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