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Incentivising the WoM model: possible?

Let’s be honest, promotion is a slog. Anyone who has tried to stay smiley for 10 hours whilst peddling their chosen set of goods to a load of disinterested shoppers will definitely agree that no matter how well thought out a promotional offer is, you need true blood, sweat and tears to get that desired uplift in sales.

So Dubit appear to have hit gold with their new spin on brand advocacy – get children to do it for you. Calling themselves a “youth research” agency, the company offers rewards for youngsters who are willing to push the brands that they believe in. Unsurprisingly this approach has been been met with extreme skepticism; David Mitchell satirised the scheme, referring to it as “investing in the future of British espionage” whilst the press team at Dubit have had to respond to allegations that they “pay people aged 12 to “say stuff online about sweets”. (www.dubitinsider.com)

Children’s loyalty is easily won – how much value does a child’s positive comment about barbie really count towards the overall marketing effort when the kid in question has just been thrown a barbie themed tea party? So I don’t see this type of research replacing traditional focus groups. Yet the logic behind the promotions arm of Dubit is interesting; is it now worth it for companies to pay for ordinary people to endorse their brands rather than creating an expensive headache for themselves by plumping for the more traditional celebrity endorsement deal (who wants to be the marketing manager at Gilette at the moment?)

Now that Joe Bloggs can literally blog, tweet or fill forums with his thoughts about his favourite brands or products it’s probably worth far more investing in gaining the loyalty of him and his friends than shelling out millions for a celebrity endorsement that may only end in front page press disasters.

So how do brands negotiate the fine line between incentivising endorsement and engaging in bribery? I don’t know if there is an adult version of Dubit but some brands are already beginning to use some clever strategies to generate endorsement online which I will look at later in this series. I think the challenge for this year is how do you generate tweets advertising your product without undermining their value? Is there a way of taking the online version of word of mouth forward without crushing the very attributes that give this medium its potential? Let me know what you think.


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