Friday, October 27, 2006

Vanilla marketing just won't do

Andrew Warmsley says that

Corporate blogs have come in for a lot of stick in recent weeks - the latest being the efforts of Wal-Mart to persuade us that they are a nice bunch of people by sponsoring two bloggers to drive a camper van around the US, staying nights in the company's car parks.

What caused this one to come unstuck was its disingenuous nature. The blog neither revealed the backing of the firm (via a body called Working Families for Wal-Mart), nor the professional status of the participants, and in doing so broke one of the basic rules of blogging: don't hide the truth.

This rule has emerged not because of the high ethical standards of bloggers, but because they have learned that given the vast resources of the collective blogosphere, readers are going to find you out. So it is ultimately pragmatism that keeps bloggers on the straight and narrow, and while you will find inaccurate statements in blogs, you will almost always find them challenged and hotly debated.

While the experiences of the Wal-Mart bloggers were real, its credibility was fatally compromised. Eventually, the PR agency behind it, Edelman, apologised publicly amid derision online.

Most corporate blogs do not attempt to fake it on such a scale - but they are strangely unappetising nevertheless. They are one of those strange beasts that emerge from the internet from time to time - generally giving neither the personal views of a commentator nor the official corporate statement.

They exist in an odd limbo between these states, and it is this perhaps that makes them thoroughly unsatisfying.

In the UK, the marketing team behind one popular beer has maintained a blog for just over a year, talking about the brand and the events it sponsors. Full marks for effort, but as it attracts hardly any comment from real consumers, you find yourself asking why they bother. As a drinker of its brand, I am supremely uninterested in the fact that the marketing manager has 'had his head in spreadsheets' for the last few weeks - and as a marketer it looks like a clumsy attempt to put a human face to the brand.
And, yes, he's right. It seems hard for people to think beyond scream marketing, the integrated consistent message across all channels for communication and vanilla marketing.
It is going to take a long time for the change to take place.
This is where PR has to play a part. We have to think in terms of conversations not messages - tough call I guess.

Andrew Walmsley on digital: Clumsy attempt at being compelling - BR Bulletin - Advertising, Marketin -