User-Engagement Strategies Which Just Piss People Off

Creating campaigns that your audience will want to share with the world without you having to relentlessly push your message is any brands’ bread and butter. A sometimes achievable dream that marketers have realised nicely fits into that ‘don’t talk at them’ principle, the user-engagement strategy puts the power in the peoples’ hands, gives them the chance to make a real ‘difference’ and basically gives your brand a leg-up over those less thoughtful competitors.

That’s the theory anyway.

Unfortunately the user-engagement strategy isn’t always devoid of blatant style over substance motives and managing that balance between appreciating the consumers voice and fleecing them with mild guilt tactics is a very hit or miss affair. Coca-Cola’s personalised bottles were undoubtedly a winner, with users delighting in finding their name, merging it with their partners and making Coca-Cola their profile image. It was marketing gold, everyone was happy and the campaign carefully toed the line of genuinely user-pleasing.

Genuinely user-pleasing strategies don’t always work out though when you’re trying to squeeze money out of people and making your dastardly plan so very obvious. Want to get your customers interacting? Apparently, blackmail, half-hearted charity attempts and blurting out a post because you haven’t said anything in 60 seconds doesn’t really cut it.

The ‘For Show’ Do-gooders

Innocent Smoothies and their sickly, cutesy ingredient lists containing ‘double-decker buses’ is the ultimate example of a company establishing its very own quirky voice. The extreme friendliness might be somewhat of a sore point given the fact their range makes half a banana a luxury ingredient, but nevertheless their voice is probably one of the most recognisable on the supermarket shelves.

This year Innocent have once again rolled out the woolly hat campaign which allows socially responsible Innocent-ites to send in mountains of woolly hats so equally socially-conscious people can then buy a hat-adorned smoothie and have Innocent donate 25p of the proceeds to Age UK. The idea of getting the public involved is smart, the idea of putting sweet little bobble hats on smoothies is begrudgingly twee and the charity of choice is a fantastic gesture.

The annoyance factor lies in the fact more could be squeezed from this campaign to reap charitable funds, why not knit jumpers, blankets or full sized hats for people, not smoothies? It seems an equally user-engaging strategy to get the knitting army to knock out something useful, photograph themselves wearing it and then have Innocent use the image on their labelling.

A good idea from Innocent but arguably one more focused on going for the cute factor and less on the essence behind the campaign – keeping older people warm during the colder months. That said, Innocent do allow ‘virtual’ knits which donate 10p to Age UK when you share on social media, so at least it isn’t all physical wool going to miniature pointless hats.

The Black-Mail User-Engagers

Listening to your audience and responding to their wants is all well and good, but forcing them to interact or a kitten gets squashed is never going to be popular, as Kellogg’s found earlier this week when their “1 tweet=1 breakfast for a vulnerable child” campaign nose-dived.

What the Innocent Smoothies and Kellogg’s of the world don’t seem to grasp is that the general public would appreciate them dipping their hands into the giant money pot instead of placing all the onus on consumers and, ultimately, sales and user-generated advertising.

Kellogg’s were accused of ‘black-mail’ and ‘holding food to ransom’ in the Twitter hype that ensued and even when poor Kellogg’s tried to desperately reputation manage, the fire was only spread. The consensus was clear: give out of the goodness of your heart, not by measure of interaction.

The Pointless Retweet

The very opposite to practically forcing people to retweet for a good cause, the pointless retweet serves absolutely no purpose. It doesn’t really offend, it doesn’t inspire – it just annoys people with its fruitlessness. ‘Retweet if you like brownies’ was a particularly memorable one in the pointless retweet hall of fame.

In between all the responses to complaints, supermarkets don’t seem to have much in the way of social media strategy apart from constant reputation management, but that doesn’t mean clogging our feeds with inane questions about universally loved foods forms any sort of a marketing plan.

What do they expect, to be regaled with a tale from someone who once choked on a pecan? The only purpose the pointless tweet possibly has is to make people fancy a treat, which they may or may not buy from you. They probably won’t though, as you’ve annoyed them by clogging up their feed with your misguided corporate tweets.

So the public message to these clumsy brands is think. Do you have something to say before you hit send and can you justify a user-driven charitable campaign? With numerous charitable events taking place in the lead up to Christmas, expect to see more marketing clean-ups because someone thought ‘like this abandoned puppy image to donate’ was a good idea.

  • Written by on 18th November 2013 at 14:33
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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