As a time-limited internet user, would you spend a moment of your spare time reading a cornflakes blog? Really, what if the cornflakes blog was really, really, good and included lots of great recipes or the latest cornflakes news?
For your sake, I hope the answer is no. Except for the novelty of such a pointless blog existing, you wouldn’t read it. You wouldn’t read it because you don’t really love cornflakes, not like you love BMW, Microsoft or Hilton. However, the decision of which corporate blogs we read is less about love and more about involvement.
Cornflakes is about as boring as a breakfast cereal can get (Shredded Wheat not withstanding). It’s a low involvement, repeat, purchase (about time my Uni education started paying off). Even if they targeted their blog in the “breakfast space” and participated on breakfast blogs across the land (I’m not too sure how that’s possible without showing the obvious motive) – I still can’t see a cornflakes blog being much of a success. Would any consumers/readers really begin spreading the word that cornflakes are a great breakfast cereal?
So is this true for all low involvement purchases? Should low-involvement products not have blogs?
With the exception of short-term or promotional blogs, which I believe will become more popular, I haven’t seen anything that’s convinced me that low-involvement products should have a blog, at least not one for consumers. Which is where I think the biggest gap in the market is.
Cornflakes can certainly have a blog, but perhaps one targeted more at suppliers, partners, staff and other stakeholders to whom the cereal represents a significant concern. Wouldn’t a cornflakes blog consisting of shipping, manufacturing, staffing, marketing news be a better option?
But, we live in the land o’ Long Tail don’t we? If you blog it they will come. I daresay that there are some cornflake devotees out there, 6am in the morning, bowl of cornflakes in one hand, mouse in the other, trying to find the latest news about their favourite processed corn. Prevalent theory suggests that these are the people you need to reach, the ones that will spread the good word and fight your good fight.
Is someone telling you to change your breakfast cereal to a very familiar brand that you’ve already tried really going to change your ways – especially your sacred breakfast routine. It’s just plain unrealistic. Cornflakes is one of many examples. Your local newsagent shouldn’t have a blog, nor should the manufacturers of your water taps, but the plumber who fitted them probably should.
I was originally going to use the Starbucks debate as the example, but I think they dodge the pitfalls of this logic by selling the ‘Third Space’ more than they do coffee, and the ‘Third Space’ is something that consumers are likely to have more of an interest in.
A few concluding thoughts to this ramble then:
- Most low-involvement products should focus on blogging for stakeholders other than their consumers, especially those with familiar brands with little new to say.
- If companies selling low-involvement products really do want to blog, perhaps they should first consider a short-term promotional blog.
- Is a readership really going to make a difference to your company?
I’m sure all my feed-readers enjoyed that misplaced post. Sadly these are the problems you encounter when you mix your pages with posts. The problem is feeds use your first post and, as far as I’m aware, you can’t change a feed once you’ve posted.
Anyhow, Sally sends word that she’s launched a Response Source-ish blog. Basically, her and fellow journo chums will send out requests for relevant cases on a media requests blog.
She’s also keen to let it be known her and five fellow journalists are presenting at the PRNewswire event next Wednesday. Tickets are still available. More importantly, not one of the 300 PRs attending the PR Newswire event next week have invited her and fellow journalists for a beer afterwards. Especially since the beers are on the journalists for once*.
Personally, I’ve always thought that Response Source would work better if journalists each had their own blog asking for requests, which PRs could subscribe to through RSS feeds. Well, not for Daryl Wilcox obviously. Give the Getting Ink Journos blog a read
* might not be true
In short, plucky 19-year-old, Max Gogarty is writing a blog about his travels to India and Thailand. The introduction casually notes that he writes scripts for Skins, which is interesting. As a stand alone blog post, the 450 comments agree it’s rather rubbish and well below the quality of the Guardian’s other travel writers. Naturally then, angry readers did a little digging and discovered that Max is the son of Paul Gogarty, a regular contributor to Guardian Travel.
But they have taken the wrong track. Yes, the "Who’s your daddy?" debate is getting the most attention after the Conway scandal, but what many missed is that the URL ends with Skins_blog.html. But really, his blog post is far too tedious, and Max far too similar to a Skins’ character, to exist (I’m not denying Max himself exists, just his online persona).
I really hate these sorts of marketing ideas. Any idea based upon deceiving people is a bad one. Worse, it makes all marketers look bad. I didn’t like these mysterious stones, nor Lonelygirl15 for this very same reason. No matter how much attention you get, when you lie to a lot of people (or even just 1), they’re going to be peeved. And the Guardian readers are furious.
The other problem with this campaign is that it’s awful. Really, why choose the Guardian instead of setting up a blog? With promotion from the Skins MySpace page this could have easily got a lot of attention. How about "Max goes to discover the India’s Skins"? And what were the Guardian thinking? Did they really let let such a promotion slide as ‘content’?
Surely the best Guerrilla marketing works when a company can deliver a great message, to the right audience in a refreshing way?
Update: A mysterious contributor points to today’s editor’s response.
"No one snuck Max through the backdoor. I called him purely on the strength of his track record. On the back of his writing at his comprehensive school, he was invited on to a young writers’ group at the Royal Court theatre, and since then he has worked as an occasional writer on the TV series Skins. I think that’s pretty impressive for a 19-year-old.
I can also see why you might think this was a promo for Skins. It says skins_blog in the url. This was put in as a working title, and we forgot to change it. My fault. No one from Skins approached me in order to get a bit of free publicity for the show."
I hope, for the Guardian’s sake, that’s the truth. It still hasn’t stopped the angry comments.
I would love to believe that a mass community of people impulsively got together to bring back the Wispa Bar. Then Cadbury’s spotted this demand, hired a PR agency, and relaunched it. But I’m becoming rather cynical in my Autumn years and can’t help suspecting that the whole campaign was a rather magnificent work of PR. Others have had their suspicions, though Borkowski claims it’s 100% genuine.
So, here’s a new Wispa story. A student finds a 4 year old Wispa Bar down the back of the sofa and auctions it on eBay (where she notes she remarkably has 2). Last I checked the auction had reached over £265.
Did Borkowski, or someone else spot this eBay sell through great monitoring of the online scene and then draw attention to it? Or has is both the story and bar purely manufacturer for hungry media?
Anyone got any opinions on this one?
What if over 150,000 people wanted to buy your product on May 15? Better, what if they planned to buy as much of your product on May 15 as shops were able to stock?
Brilliant eh? And the 150,000 figure is likely to double by May 15.
How would you take advantage of it? How would you take advantage of a HUGE online community forming around your product? How would you get involved with the thousands of people asking what to do with your product after they had bought it? How would you take advantage of people sharing photos of your product, and how would you capitalise upon the sudden media attention which came with it?
Well if you run the British Carrot Association, you issue a vaguely interested press snippet and go back to doing what you do best; talking about Beta-Carotene.
It’s one of these new Facebook-led stories. It began with a Facebook group titled "On May 15th 2008, everybody needs to go out and panic buy CARROTS" which had this mission statement:
"Basically, a few nights ago, when I was very very drunk, I came up with the idea that everybody should go out and panic buy a certain product on a specific day.
I’m not quite sure what the reason behind this is is, other than the fact that a global shortage of carrots would be quite a laugh. "
In short, this intriguing Facebook group has become popular with over 150,000 people (in less than a month – this is going to grow much higher) planning to go out and buy as many carrots as possible on May 15. They now even have a website and are generating a fair deal of mainstream media coverage.
It’s stupid, but we’ve all seen worse PR hits. However, as the group grew the attention turned to what to do with all the carrots after you’ve bought them? So the community began trading carrot-recipes and philanthropic ideas.
Now you can’t help noticing the carrot industry is missing a huge opportunity here. Or they’ve shocked everyone by engineering this entire social-media campaign from the beginning (Wispa style).
So New Woman and First, two popular women’s magazines featuring the usual Celebrity gossip and fashion/beauty/sex advice, have gone under. Well, they are “suspended pending a month-long consultation process”.
Now, if your client considered New Woman a key publication. What are you going to tell your client? How are you going to justify your fees now? What if you’ve previously invoiced for “relationship building” with journalists at New Woman? New Woman is just one example (just today’s example) of a magazine going under. And like others, it’s going to affect a fair few PR agencies out there.
This is where the battleground within communications is. When a client sees a key magazine going under, do they wonder what their PR agency can do for them now? Do SEO companies see it as an opportunity to pounce with an alternative? Or Direct marketing agencies? How about advertising agencies?
How are we fighting to keep clients which overrate print media? Is the switch to online PR so easy? How are you tracking where the New Woman readership goes next?
FeverBee is the blog and company created by Richard Millington.
Richard Millington is the Founder and Managing Director of FeverBee Limited, a community consultancy, and The Pillar Summit, an exclusive community management training course.
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Richard is also the author of the Online Community Manifesto, arguing for a change in our approach to building communities. In addition, Richard has also worked with Seth Godin (Squidoo founder, author of the world’s most popular marketing blog and twelve best-selling marketing books), on community projects.
Richard holds a First Class Honours Degree in Marketing, graduating top of his class from the University of Gloucestershire.
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Short-term blogs are blogs created for a specific function. Such as Seth’s separate, short-lived, blogs for his new books. Or Coca-Cola’s Blog Blast. Most commonly, these blogs help launch products or respond to a key issue. Cheltenham Borough Council established a short-term blog to respond to the 2007 floods.
However, for short-term blogs to work, a combination of the following points are essential.
- The blog must be heavily promoted to its intended audience
- The blog relates to a time-sensitive issue of high importance
- The author(s) has existing credibility
- It is highly optimised for search engines
- It has a measurable purpose
I think in part, it’s easier to sell in short-term blogs to clients. They don’t go on forever, the results can be measured, and all the necessary work/schedule can be planned in advance. A short-term blog can be rather contrary to the typical nature of blogging. Professional bloggers will cite the benefits of blogs as authenticity, long-term relationship building and two-way conversations between authors and customers. So why do short-term blogs seem to be increasingly common?
Lets not confuse the terms here, there is a big difference between short-term, function-orientated, blogs and blogs which are abandoned. The latter being harmful to the company (though realistically the most likely outcome of all blogs.
I can see short-term blogs working in many companies. New film releases perhaps, new product launches, in the run up to a major event, short-lived partnership projects. Anything time-specific might well benefit more from an intense short-lived push of a blog than the longer view presented by many professional bloggers.
Also read Rohit Bhargava’s post on short-term blogs.
I stole this from Stephen’s Twitter Feed a few minutes ago. Northern Rock is the best performing North-East Business last year. Strangely for the North East’s top business, they are keeping their celebrations and PR rather muted.
I don’t know how, and I don’t know why.
After a fair bit of motherly nagging, i’ve finally got around to answering Sarah’s questions for her PR in Perspective column. You can read the full interview here. Here’s a snippet:
Do you think Web 2.0 is having an impact on how PR is practiced?
Yes, but not at the speed most bloggers are predicting. Most bloggers, by nature, are usually tech-savvy and work either in technology or communications sectors. Working in Cheltenham on my placement year I learnt that a lot of companies aren’t ready to begin blogging yet. If your audience never goes online and relies on newspapers, as some of our clients did at apt marketing & PR, a blog isn’t going to be much help.
In other industries however it became more of a case of how best PR and social media fit together. In Autumn 06 I worked briefly with a company called Wiggly Wigglers, founded by Heather Gorringe. Heather’s quite well known in social media circles these days through her brilliant Wiggly Wigglers podcast. Yet whilst Heather really was a perfect client for our new Social Media division, we struggled (as many PR agencies are doing) with figuring out quite how our PR expertise and her existing Social Media success fit together. We’ve learnt a lot since then, but it’s a struggle many agencies are still experiencing.
Agencies outside the biggest cities are still lagging behind with clients who wont grasp the social media concept for a few more years yet.
After reading that interview i’ve decided to delve a little more into my career choices for my next post.
David Wilson at Social Media Optimization earlier this month wrote about the growth of niche social-networks.
The problem with Facebook, MySpace and most of the social networks we’ve heard about is they’re too big. There is no ‘social object’ which draws people to the site. These sites are popular for just that reason, because they are popular.
Much growth then is coming from niche social networking groups. Groups with a focus in mind. David cites Smooth.com for Wine Connoisseurs, Don’tStayIn.com for clubbers and Divorce360.com for divorcees. The benefits of these groups is getting the right people to speak to. He also noted in a seperate post the success of Redherring – a social network for restaurant ‘insiders’.
But how niche can niche social networks go? Will we start seeing groups divided by geographics? Here for example, a Cheltenham social networking group? The other issue, is that Facebook and other major social networks already offer users the ability to create their own interest sub-groups.
The challenge for marketers then is to pick a route and see it through. A Facebook group is the easier of the two to launch. Simply start the group, invite friends and watch the ripples spread. The problem is you have far less control of these Facebook groups. You can’t search for advertisers nor make any major changes to the format or structure of the group.
The alternative is to launch your own social network. The main challenge, of course, is creating one. Creating a new social social incurs the typical web-development barriers to entry. Once created, and presumably to a good standard – which itself is no easy feat – the challenge becomes getting people to register for it. This can prove especially tricky when many of the users you need are already registered on Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn.
The Niche social networking model also suffers from sustainability issues – there’s only so many niche social networks a single perhaps can actively follow. Facebook offers all the groups in one place, niche social networks (barring the rapid spread of the OpenSocial concept) do not. The flip side is that you might attract exactly the people you want, your most dedicated an evangelical followers.
It’s difficult to understand why a fashion "giant" like Lacoste would sue a Cheltenham dentist surgery for using a similar Crocodile logo. What can they win? It’s a David -vs- Goliath story, and the public will always support David. As luck would have it, the Cheltenham dentist surgery won and are allowed to keep their Crocodile logo (the one they picked due to the association with teeth).
Ironically, had Lacoste won the publicity might well have been worse. Nobody likes giants rolling over the honest guys, and practicising dentists are favoured against corporate giants. It is difficult to see what Lacoste were hoping to gain. Even if Cheltenham residents did (and even this logic is a stretch) associate the logo of the dentist practice with Lacoste – would the latter have really suffered?
I believe that Lacoste’s lawyers aggrevated a situation and racked up an impressive number of billable hours over a trivial issue. Regardless of the result, they could never have won.