Bob Hoffman

Bob Hoffman and me. We're on the same page.

Bob Hoffman, the Ad Contrarian who 10 days ago posted on Pepsi's massive social media failure, and I have had a very civil exchange on the issue and have discovered we pretty much agree on everything: Pepsi, social media, advertising, brain-dead marketing, etc.  He posted again today on 4 Questions for the Digerterati, that make a lot of good points, although I still say that the claims of "digital advertising and social media" are completely valid IF YOU DO IT RIGHT.

The benefits of digital advertising are debatable.  A few months ago there was a lot of noise about how Facebook was driving more eyeballs to business websites than Google, but a few weeks ago, the drive through to revenue from Facebook advertising was pitiful calling into question the benefits of Facebook advertising.  That, however, supports one of my key contentions about advertising in the 21st century: Advertising doesn't convince someone to buy something as much as it reinforces their decision that has already been made.  Pepsi's efforts in social media served only to make people already drinking Pepsi feel good about their choice. It did nothing to convince non-Pepsi customers to switch. 

Using social media to push a message out, without creating a means for the audience to give more input than pressing a like button, is also a waste of time... because social media isn't advertising. It's market research.  That's where most social media failures occur.  If your social media program is put into the hands of those in charge of advertising or sales, you are screwed.  Those two groups are hardwired into outbound marketing.  Sit in a room with a bunch of creative types, make up stuff that sounds good to the group and start hammering the market with it until a small percentage of the market responds positively.

Social media, on the other hand... and if done right... can push that stuff out to the market and get almost immediate response from the market telling you if you got it right or if they think it's crap.  then you can adjust.  It's a focus group of 150 million participants.  I gives you a chance to really know what your market thinks, where it is and what they want.  And when you do soical media right, it makes your advertising effective, it makes your public relations relevant, it makes your website sticky and it builds the bottom line.

This is why I became an advocate of social media.  It isn't because everyone else was going after it.  I started focusing on it 10 years ago when I started seeing the collapse of media, the ineffectiveness of advertising and the devolution of public relations into mere publicity.  It doesn't replace standard marketing and promotion.  It just makes it work again.

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?