Social Media Failure? Don't blame the tool. Blame the workman.

Last week a blog post popped up last week on the Ad Contrarian about the "massive failure" of the Pepsi "Refresh" campaign.  The author, Bob Hoffman of the redoubtable Hoffman/Lewis add agency, was claiming this proved that social media didn't  work.

Let's not point out that the advertising effort Pepsi was putting out before they tried social media wasn't helping them gain market share, which is the reason they went to a social media effort.  Because that would just prove that advertising doesn't work, using Bob's logic. Instead, let's take a page out of Bob's own book.

Bob says: 

1. Advertising is most productive when it is focused on changing behavior, not attitudes.

2. Advertising messages should be created for, and directed at, the heavy-using, high- yield customers in your category.

3. We don’t get them to try our product by convincing them to love our brand; we get them to love our brand by convincing them to try our product.

Now let's point out that all three of those points are also the effort of a good social media campaign.

Finally, let's point out that Pepsi's campaign did none of those things.

The Refresh Project asked Pepsi users to tell Pepsi what their favorite charities were and then vote for those charities in a contest to get some $20 million donated to those causes.  At the end of the project, Pepsi lost 5 percent of their market share.  How did that happen? All the people whose causes did not get picked got pissed off, that's how.  

When you have a product that is not ABSOLUTELY necessary to the everyday life of your customer, then you have to be careful what you say to them.  The Refresh Project did not tell Pepsi anything about the junk food/drink perception of any current or potential customer.  It did nothing to change attitudes of non-customers, nor how to keep current customers. It didn't target major outlets of soda pop distributors.  It was the result of a bunch of clueless people within Pepsi sitting around a table and making stuff up.

And it was primarily an outbound marketing effort... and social media is ALL about the inbound.

So it wasn't a failure of social media as a means to improve market share. It was the failure of Pepsi to use it properly.

Anyone getting this?