Oct 22, 2009

Pepsi “Amp Up”: The Social Excuse Way & The Bad Buzz Strategy

Pepsi learns to “socially” apologize to women while playing it buzz macho.

Whether a difficult exercise or premeditated calculation, to promote its energy drinks Amp Energy, Pepsi took the initiative and developed an App for the Iphone entitled “Amp Up, Before you Score”, which involves “classifying” women into 24 different categories and obtaining “information” about these, as well as tips on how to seduce them.

They may be only stereotypes and caricatures, but, according to Pepsi, are in tune with Amp Energy’s male public.

Though it's not even certain that men identify with a simplistic vision of seduction, pretending to share common interests by using fitting responses provided by the application, which looks for them on Wikipedia or Twitter.

Would the public of Amp Energy be comparable to Pat Healy in the film There’s Something About Mary!?

Worse, this is the general overview of Amp Up Before You Score as it appears on the App store:
“Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify her type
    Got your eye on a girl, and aren’t sure how to get started?  Pick out her profile, flip the card, and study up quick with a cheat sheet on the stuff she’s into with lists, links and some surefire opening lines (surefire to what, we won’t say.)
  1. Keep a list
                Get lucky?  Add her to your Brag list.  You can include a name, date and                 whatever details you remember.
  1. Brag
    You got it?  Flaunt it.  Keep your buddies in the loop on email, Facebook or Twitter.”
Keeping with the "subtlety" of Amp Up, the App includes an "elegant" “After you Score”!  

In fact the App was not successful. Launched in mid-summer, Amp Up, Before you Score quickly topped out at 1400th according to Mőbclix, free Apps ranking .

This went on until “bad tweets” mainly from women started to appear little by little on Twitter provoking the release of very negative articles such as the one in the Wall Street Journal on Oct 13 entitled,
 “Looking for obnoxious chauvinism?  There’s an app for that.”

And so Pepsi found itself in the middle of a real brand image problem.

While Amp Up suddenly had a great public success by becoming, within two days, the 8th most popular free download, is this result positive for Amp Energy and Pepsi?

Some say yes, associating an energy drink with picking up women, male chauvinism, and seduction, is a well known strategy called “bad buzz”, adapted for this type of product.

However, the bad buzz strategy from now on, needs to take into account the existence of social networks and their capacity to impact a brands reputation.

For Seth Godin, known blogger and author of Tribes,

“Pepsi is learning a valuable lesson in social media marketing the hard way, for too long advertisers and marketers thought it was okay to treat women as objects to sell something.  The difference between now and then is [general public] now has a platform to complain about it.  This is a symptom of platform shifting.  Pepsi’s not the only brand that’s going to have to learn this lesson.”

This “citizen” change shows that the rules of “buzz marketing” have changed!  In the past, this was a way to help launch a product by creating a growing buzz, generated by communication actions, before or around the launching of a product.

However,  buzz were unregulated and shapeless by definition.  With the dawn of social networks, the buzz can no longer avoid taking the form of global conversations, nor can they avoid  the control that network users exert through these conversations concerning the value and authenticity of marketing campaigns.

Thus, if  Amp Energy could have been satisfied with this transgressive “bad buzz” toward its targeted audience and the growing success of the App on the Iphone, the brand now runs the risk of degrading its image and losing its footing to the playing field of this transgressive aspect.

This risk is high since Amp Energy largely associates itself with sports, including by promoting women.

Amp Energy is left with trying to repair the damage by presenting excuses.

Here the result is also catastrophic because Amp Energy apologizes but doesn't pull the App from the App store.
Once again this is a total lack of authenticity that does not go unnoticed in social network days.

Worse look at  the bottom of the excuse.  Amp Energy encourages Twitter users to send their comments using a specific hashtag called #pepsifail .

Behind the apparently good idea to open up a specific channel on Twitter, Amp Energy light-heartedly attaches the Pepsi brand, which is much more of a household name than Amp Energy.

The famous site Advertising Age very rapidly did the diagnostics of the situation,

“The Amp brand Twitter feed has only 1,000 followers, compared to about 15,000 for Pepsi, almost 18,000 for Mtn Dew and nearly 5,000 for PepsiCo
The tag, along with the re-tweets, seems to unnecessarily associate Pepsi and Mtn Dew, two of the company’s largest brands, with a heated and potentially damaging debate.  Ostensibly, those who have a problem with the app are not Amp’s core customers, after all.

But now that Pepsi, Mtn Dew, and Pepsi corporate have attached themselves to the debacle, the problem appears much larger, as those brands and, indeed, the entire company may appear insensitive to women.  For example, many of the tweets commenting on the app have bypassed the Amp brand entirely and are instead assigning the apology, the App and their distaste to Pepsi.”

Now New Fiction  a well known blog claims:
Bad buzz or social reputation?  It’s up to Pepsi to decide……

Oct 19, 2009

When Business Week Top 100 Best Brands go Social !

When social marketing impacts brand value!

WetPaint, a community site, and the Altimeter Group, a strategy consulting firm, conducted an extremely interesting (and downloadable) study using the online social media brand database Engagement db, which measures the online engagement of brands.

They created a ranking that takes into account the different brand intervention types, in social and community media.
Top 40 extracted from Engagement db

This ranking is taken from the “Best Global Brands 2008”, an annual list of the top 100 rated brands by BusinessWeek/Interbrand.

Media and social tools considered were:
  • Blogs
  • Social and community brand networks
  • External social networks (Facebook, Linked’in, MySpace….)
  • Twitter
  • Discussion forums
  • Photo and video community sites (Flickr, YouTube…..)
  • Wikis
  • Rating and tagging sites
 The ranking is done by taking into account the number of media used, as well as the level of media participation, by using criteria specific to each media.

This allows to identify 4 types of social media intervention:
  • The “Mavens” who rank among more than 6 types of highly influential social media.   Typical brands in this category are, notably, Starbucks, Google, Dell, even SAP and Accenture.  They dominate the list.
  • The “Butterflies” who also have a very diversified presence, but their implication is, at the moment, weaker, like American Express or Hyundai.
  • The “Selectives” such as H&M or Philips are very involved in a limited number of social media.
  • The “Wallflowers”, like McDonalds or BP, who are globally behind.
It is not surprising to find that Starbucks ranks number one on this list, figures at the top of Facebook brand fan pages, and has a high influence and presence on Twitter as well.  Starbucks, a real “living place” in the real world is also a social relation network on the Internet.

The study done by Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group is also very interesting in that it finds a correlation between the level of intervention in social marketing and the financial performance of the companies studied, as published by Yahoo Finance or Marketwatch.

The authors of the study, Ben Elowitz, CEO of Wetpaint and Charlene Li, partner of the Altimeter Group, indicate that:

“While much has been written questioning the value of social media, this landmark study has found that the most valuable brands in the world are experiencing a direct correlation between top financial performance and deep social media engagement.  The relationship is apparent and significant; socially engaged companies are in fact more financially successful”.

Even though no quantifying data exists to determine the cause and effect relationship between social media engagement and financial results, it is still possible for the authors of the study to explain this relationship:

“Social media engagement and financial success work together to perpetuate a healthy business cycle:  a customer oriented mindset stemming from deep social interaction allows a company to identify and meet customer needs in the marketplace, generating superior profits.  The financial success of the company, in turn, allows further investment in engagement to build even better customer knowledge, thereby creating even more profits – and the cycle continues”.

Social marketing, therefore, would be the new way of applying the proven concept of a business oriented towards its customers, or customer centric.

As social marketing becomes more and more important due to the growth of social media, the brands involved in these media should, in time, replace the brands that don’t get involved.

Is social media going to overturn the hierarchy of brands?  There is definitely indication of movement, as illustrated in the graph below made by Sherpad by relating the Engagement db ranking of the study with the BusinessWeek/InterbrandBest Global Brands 2008” list.

Shown above, the top 25 Engagement db (vertical yellow line), horizontal axis (growth or loss of position compared to the BusinessWeek list).

This section is dominated by technology companies. We even note the presence of B2B companies like SAP, Accenture, and Oracle, next to Google, Amazon, Ebay, Dell, and Blackberry.  However, Starbucks surpasses all of them. Toyota also still figures as the top brand in cars, even though it shows no progression.

Shown above, the top 26-50 Engagement db (vertical yellow line), horizontal axis (growth or loss of position compared to the BusinessWeek list)

This section regroups the consumer goods companies most engaged in social marketing; Nintendo for games, Panasonic for electronics, and Gucci for fashion.

Pizza Hut subscribes to the logic of Starbucks and as for cars, even with Lexus, Toyota is the most engaged.

Coca-Cola, top ranking brand on the BusinessWeek list moves down 49 places in the Engagement db ranking, despite an effort of Facebook and Twitter who will end up reversing this trend.

Shown above, the top 51-100 Engagement db (vertical yellow line), horizontal axis (growth or loss of position compared to the BusinessWeek list)

This last part of this list is divided into two sections:

Brands that show an increase: Several fall into the fashion category, Prada, Hermès, Rolex, Cartier, Armani, Tiffany.  This category is very much at the forefront on Facebook.  Equally present are wines and spirits, Moet & Chandon, Smirnoff, which illustrate the festive and social nature of….social networks!

Brands that show a decrease:  These are numerous, and with an economically weak year, the fact that they are banks is not surprising, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Merril Lynch, and JP Morgan.

German made cars, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, and VW show a negative spiral, the opposite of Japanese cars.

Among everyday goods and food items like Marlboro, Budweiser, Gillette, Kellogg’s, Heinz, Wrigley’s, and Dannon, these are still far from the positions of Nestlé, Nescafé, and Nivéa.

Finally, Louis Vuitton drops considerably, but, undoubtedly, turning radical, LV renewed himself  recently by organizing his Paris fashion show exclusively for his Facebook fans. 
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